Top of the hops: Zany brewery concept wins young entrepreneur £10,000

A promising young Wythenshawe entrepreneur has secured £10,000 after winning a nationwide competition, with his idea of an alternative brewing company.

Aaron Darke, 23, a native of Northern Moor, beat hundreds of contestants in the nationwide TestTown competition.

The youngsters winning idea, Zymurgorium, is described as a community-focused brewery and meadery consisting of zany-flavoured alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.

An elated Aaron said: “This is the biggest thing ever to have happened to my business.”

The name has taken its inspiration from the word ‘Zymurgy’ – the science of brewing and ‘emporium’ – a shop selling various items.

Zymurgorium offers quirky flavours including champagne-style mead, rosehip copper ale, lychee vodka, kiwi pale ale, and hibiscus cola.

To make his exotic brews, Aaron grows his own berries and he also harvests blackthorns, rosehips and figs at Chorlton Water Park and Wythenshawe Park.

The TestTown competition, organised by the Carnegie UK Trust, is a seven-day enterprise initiative for young people aged 16-30; the challenge aims to support young entrepreneurs while ‘demonstrating how high streets benefit from imaginative thinking’.

Aaron travelled to Cambridge, after winning a regional final held in Wythenshawe, where he was competing with contestants from Middlesbrough, Coleraine, Rhyl, Kirkintilloch, Bury St Edmunds and Perth.

Contestants were judged by a panel of six experts over the weekend and after much market research, Aaron was faced with setting up his own pop-up store in Cambridge.

“The contestants were judged on the business’ viability as an ongoing success, branding, product quality and customer service,” he said.

“I also had to make a presentation to the judging panel, in a room packed with local business people.

“Fitting everything Zymurgorium means to me in the six minutes available was impossible.”

Aaron described the experience as ‘nerve-wracking’ however, he believes his jittery nerves worked in his favour since it gave him energy and made his pitch ‘heartfelt.’

After receiving the generous cheque of £10,000 from the Carnegie Trust, Aaron says that he is determined to invest the money wisely and is now on the lookout for permanent business premises in Wythenshawe.

“I’ve had great support from the regeneration team at Manchester council to help me get this far, so I will continue to work with them and Carnegie Trust UK to work out how to best use the prize money,” he said.

Approximately 450 teams of young people applied to take part in TestTown, making it one of the country’s largest ever entrepreneurial competitions.  

TestTown UK Programme Leader, Jim Metcalfe, said: “It’s without doubt that [Aaron’s] business idea has the strength to go extremely far and we wish him and all of the contestants the very best for the future.”

Councillor Sue Murphy, Deputy Leader of Manchester City Council, also commented: “I’d like to congratulate Aaron on winning TestTown 2014 and I’m sure that the prize money will help him to go on to build a real Manchester success story.”

Aaron has been tipped for future success for his ‘creativity’ and ‘entrepreneurial spirit.’

Ms Murphy said that Manchester City Council was delighted to support Aaron on his journey to winning TestTown 2014.

For more information on Zymurgorium follow @Zymurgorium on Twitter.

Image courtesy of Manchester City Council, with thanks

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