Born of a conversation between mates in a front bar somewhere in Fitzroy, Noble Boy micro brewery is into its fifth month of operation.
RMIT graduate Vedran Sabic was inspired by a desire to contribute to the vibrant community he felt lucky to be a part of, in creating an accessible yet interesting beer that’s now on tap across Melbourne.
He tells the story of the birth of an “easy-going pale ale that wants to share itself with others”.
What course did you do?
I did a Bachelor of Business majoring in Entrepreneurship, returning to study at the age of 23. Prior to that, I worked at the Mushroom Group and at Flight Centre.
What are the benefits of the course?
The course structure is very progressive. You are learning about the newest theories in business, often reading passages from leading journals which are applicable immediately upon graduation.
The work-integrated learning program that RMIT offers is very advantageous for students. I had the opportunity to work at a property development group where I conducted a review and suggested improvements for their human resource function.
You did a semester abroad – how did that come about and did you enjoy it?
I went to West Virginia University on exchange in 2015, supported by a travel grant from RMIT which made it very affordable. I’d always loved travelling and also American college sports, so it was a no-brainer for me to take the chance to get to America and experience this for myself, while also completing a semester of study.
I would recommend to anyone to do a student exchange. I lived in the International House with students from 20 different countries, so now I have couches to stay on all around the world.
So what are you up to now?
I started a beer company called Noble Boy with a few friends after graduating. RMIT actually played a crucial part in Noble Boy being established. We had a random thought, like many others do, that we’d like to own our own beer, and we talked about it.
The next morning, I told a fellow Entrepreneurship student about what I thought was a throw-away idea, and as fate would have it her parents actually had a successful brewery in country Victoria. That’s when the research and learning really got going.
While I was trying to increase my knowledge of beer and the industry in general, I felt I had a fairly good grasp on some of business activities that needed to take place from here on in.
I was lucky enough to meet a brewer who was keen to work on this brew for us as a little side project, and he designed a recipe which was really accessible and that we could all honestly say we enjoyed. Thankfully, many others have enjoyed it too, and we’re currently on tap in eight venues in our fourth month of operation which is better than we ever imagined.
It’s been tough work and we keep learning every day, but I really believe that jumping in the deep end and making mistakes is the best way to learn.
What do people like about Noble Boy?
First and foremost, I think the product is really solid. Our brewers are very good at what they do, using the best ingredients and practices to make sure the beer is spot-on every time.
As a brand, I think the personalities of the people involved in the business can be seen through the product. We feel like we are very much in touch with our target market, which enables us to engage in a positive and refreshing way.
We set out to create something that was very accessible, and I think that’s been achieved. It’s a very fun industry to work in and allows us to get involved with other really cool businesses.
An example is our work with clothing label and social cause HoMie, who threw a laneway party in Fitzroy that we provided some kegs for. It was great to be able to support such an worthwhile business.
What have been the challenges to date?
When you are a small business, every dollar really counts. Big companies can spend large amounts of money on marketing campaigns and sack the campaign before it ever goes live.
We have to be very selective with our spending, because the implication of the dollar we spend in one place means we can’t spend it in another place. I guess that’s the fun of it though.
Working hard to ensure your decisions are well informed is important. This is also where using your networks and having a mentor is super-important, and asking people for help is nothing to be ashamed of.
What motivates you?
Part of me wants to justify going back to university as a “mature age” student, and I feel that if this business goes well, then that choice was a good one. But deep down I know that regardless of this business, the learning over the past three years has been invaluable.
The choices you make and the things you say are constantly being scrutinised, so you want to make sure they are sound and representative of the company’s values, especially since this business for me feels like a very close extension of the people behind it. If the messages happen to resonate with people, then you're on your way to having a successful operation.
Do you have any advice for those thinking of starting a business?
Do it! We are fortunate enough to live in a place where there is so much support around, from financial assistance to mentoring programs. I really believe in the power of networking. People are a lot more helpful than you might think.
We have found that by asking questions, we’ve accelerated our learning and made opportunities for ourselves. It never hurts to ask. And if one day someone asks you a question, make sure you do your best to answer it.
Story: Pauline Charleston