May's edition of Our Alumni features Frankie Kearns. In 2014, Frankie co-founded The Park Brewery with her husband and now runs the business full-time. She spoke to us about the challenges of running a small business through Covid, and shared some memories of her time in Fenwick.
When you were at Brighton College, what did you want to be when you ‘grew up’?
I was at BC from 1989 – 1991 in Fenwick House. I think my main objective was to have as much fun, for as long as possible. I did exceptionally well at that. I was a late starter in terms of growing up, which I’m still grappling with now.
Tell us about yourself now you've grown up.
I’m a mother of two teenage boys. My husband and I started our own business in 2014, which is all-consuming. We live in Kingston, we have a dog… and a brewery! Like everyone else I know, life is pretty full-on so there’s not much time for hobbies or socialising. I think it’s pay-back for that misspent youth!
What about your life now would most surprise your Brighton College teachers?
I think the majority of my teachers would be mildly amused by my current occupation, but not overly surprised.
What are your favourite memories of your time at school?
I have really fond memories. Mainly, hanging out with the girls in Fenwick. Chaplin’s Bar (RIP). The Maltings. Sprinting back to Fenwick on a Saturday night in the nick of time, as Mrs Willmott stood checking her watch at the backdoor, clipboard in hand and a subtle knowing smile. Mr. Robinson’s English lessons were legendary. R.E. with Mr Hunt and Chas. Mr. Perfect and Ancient History was something else. Lots of laughs with some truly amazing people: Nicole, Lisbeth, Lucy, Charlie, Treds, Sweetie, all Pauls and Phils and Steve too, just to mention a few. I’ll be forever grateful for it.
What advice would you give to your school-age self?
Just stop with the over-thinking and worrying.
What do you do as a career?
I co-own a microbrewery in Kingston upon Thames. The Park Brewery started in our family kitchen in 2013. My husband returned home from a family shopping trip, with a homebrew kit from Wilkos, and the rest, as they say, is history. Somehow the hobby spiralled, and we now have a 3000L kit (each brew is approximately 5,300 pints). We make a big range of flavour packed beers. We also have an on-site Tap Room, with lots of events and of course, great beer 😉
What does your work involve?
A large amount of plate-spinning - selling, marketing, people management, planning, event organising, book-keeping, holding it together, fire-fighting and all the other joys of running a small business with a small team at a particularly tricky time.
What are the most challenging parts of your job?
People. Cashflow. Time (lack of).
What are you most proud of?
Running a small business through Covid while home-schooling and not falling apart (also while going through three rounds of long covid). I think I’m a little more resilient than I realised. I think we all are. We’re just rarely fully tested. When your back is against the wall, it’s amazing what you can pull off. We managed to pivot the business from 100% trade sales to 100% home deliveries during those lockdowns and that really elevated our profile. It took the business to another level.
What are the three objects you would take with you to a desert island?
Pen and paper (can that count as one thing and can the paper be never-ending? I have a lot I’d like to download!) Am I allowed my phone and some kind of solar power charger? A piano – just in case.