Four Cass Executive MBAs Start Their Own Cider Company

The Revenant Cider team had never met before the Cass EMBA. Now, they’re aiming to follow craft beer’s lead and take high-quality, local cider to the wider market

A team of four Executive MBA graduates from Cass Business School – Lawrence Jewkes, George Foster, Richard Williams, and Paul Gudonis – have come together to launch their own cider company.

Somewhere in between commercial ‘fizzy-pop’ cider and farmhouse brews, Revenant Cider aims to bring high-quality, good-tasting cider to the wider market.

It all started at Cass. Prior to the Cass Executive MBA, the four budding entrepreneurs hadn’t met. They formed a team for their very first group project at Cass, and used the safe environment of business school to develop their business plan and test their ideas.

Throughout Cass’ two-year, part-time Executive MBA program, they gained a holistic view of business and management – with core courses in operations management, data analytics, accounting, marketing, and innovation, and a host of entrepreneurship-focused electives.

During an international consultancy week in Vietnam, they worked on a consulting project for a state-owned brewery in Hanoi.

“When you do an MBA, it’s incredibly stimulating. Ideas are banded around constantly within the cohort – it’s a very entrepreneurial environment,” says Lawrence, who works full-time in investment management in London alongside his new business.

“Just one of the ideas that we banded about was the alcohol industry. Sitting in one of our lectures, we started to refine that into a proposition. Within about 15 minutes, we’d founded a company on company’s house!

“We felt that cider had a colossal upside,” he continues. “If you look at what’s happened in the craft beer market in the last five years – we’re now drinking cleverly-branded, local, high-quality product. We felt that hadn’t really kicked on in the cider space, and that there was a big opportunity.”

Towards end of their first year, the Revenant Cider team decided to put their EMBA learnings into practice and launch their business.

Now, they’re working with a distributor and, with the summer cider-drinking period in full swing, sales are picking up. At the recent Cass MBA London Symposium, a can of Revenant Cider was included in every speakers’ gift pack.

Going forward, the team – who completed the Cass EMBA program earlier this year – are looking to raise funds to launch an extended distribution model, increase their stock, and extend their product lines.

The Revenant Cider team reflects the diversity of the Cass EMBA cohort. Lawrence in finance; Richard a certified coffee taster working in the drinks industry; Paul an ex-army officer now president of Inmarsat Enterprise; and George, former head of marketing at Surrey County Cricket Club.

George got promoted to board level at the Oval – home to Surrey County Cricket Club – six months into his Executive MBA. He’s since transitioned into consulting, working for a leading data-driven sports agency. He juggles business with a busy family life and a one-year-old child.

“It’s hard, but one of things that an MBA teaches you is how to make more effective use of your time,” he says. “When working on the MBA, we managed to squeeze a lot into a day. I have that same mindset now.”

Why should an entrepreneur do an MBA? “The networking and the skills you learn working with diverse people is really important,” George continues. “We spoke to alumni that set up a wine company, and got put in touch with various people with a similar experience.

“Cass changed my career and gave me confidence that I could do stuff I didn’t think I could do before.”

Lawrence agrees. He chose Cass over Imperial for his EMBA. The Cass MBA is ranked second in Europe for entrepreneurship by the Financial Times.

“I wanted a broader approach,” he says. “Cass is brilliantly located from the city – 10 minutes from my office – and very well-regarded within financial services.

“As a small business owner, I need to be able to look at my company accounts, and my branding. I need to be able to do data analytics. I need to sell and present myself well.

“An MBA is perfect for an entrepreneur. You learn a little bit of everything which is exactly what an entrepreneur needs,” he continues.

“When I chose Cass, one of the attractions was that the cohort is very diverse and has an interesting flavor of competencies. That’s reflected in our cider company. We would never have met ordinarily. Now, most likely, we’ll be mates for life.”

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