Leaders in focus: Jenn Merrick

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Professional brewer Jenn Merrick has a passion for two things: community-focused business initiatives and beer.

In 2017, she combined both when she founded the Earth Station Community Brewery, a social enterprise based in east London that creates jobs and prospects in the brewing industry for the local community.

What inspired you to launch the brewery?

I’ve lived in the Newham area of London for about 12 years and I’ve witnessed a lot of changes. A big influx of new residents to the area has led to some friction around the issue of gentrification. I wanted to help relieve some of those social pressures and improve my local area. Tackling that challenge from a business perspective seemed like the most natural fit for me.

I’ve worked in many smaller local breweries, in neighbourhoods that have been through a similar period of social change, and I’ve noticed that when local councils or developers look to regenerate an area, they invariably think that a craft brewery will help do some of the heavy lifting. It felt important to have a go at making that work for everybody.

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What is the pipework project?

The government has changed the way apprenticeships work and how they’re funded, with every industry now given an opportunity to create a new standard. The Pipework Project has been about creating a new standard for brewing. I’ve been lucky to be involved with a trailblazing group of employers who’ve set the specification and curriculum for these new apprenticeships. Brewing is an industry that struggles to find enough qualified, experienced people.

The industry has a diversity problem, so we create opportunities for under-represented groups. An inclusive business strategy can bring fresh perspective and talent to any industry. It’s been part of what’s revitalised this area of the beer trade and led to growth in more modern styles of brewing. Inclusivity relies on creativity, fresh ideas and lots of diverse influences.

How do social enterprises boost the economy?

Social enterprises tend to move more quickly and with a greater sense of urgency than most large organisations. They tend to stay leaner and hungrier, and I think that’s something bigger businesses can really learn from.

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