Continental Brands toasts new investment

6 April 2011

A relatively modest business angel investment has enabled Leeds-based entrepreneur Simon Jackson (27) to unlock the potential of his business – which is now performing way above even his own expectations.

Spotting a business opportunity in the UK’s thirst for continental beers, and using his knowledge of the catering industry, Simon’s import and distribution business, Continental Brands, looks set for major success, thanks to an investment from Yorkshire business angel Kevin Wheelock.

Simon’s business experience has grown through years of hard work in restaurants and pubs, working his way up from pot washer to bar manager. He and his wife Laura started developing their business venture whilst they were both in full-time employment. They quickly secured sole UK distribution rights for the Greek beers ALFA and Marathon, and further exclusive UK rights for Portuguese, Italian and Far East bottled and draught beers. Recognising the growth potential of their business, they incorporated the company last year, with Simon working in the business on a full-time basis.

“Sales were good but the costs of importing and warehousing meant we needed some extra cash flow finance to finalise a big new customer, but we had no luck at all from lenders. We’d already ploughed all our savings into the business, and sold off assets keep us going through a tough 2010,” says Simon.  “It was so frustrating; we had strong orders and enquiries from potential customers, so everything hinged on raising some money.”

Simon decided to approach the Yorkshire Association of Business Angels and an investment opportunity was circulated to its angel members, where it caught the eye of investor Kevin Wheelock.

Says Kevin: “My background’s in manufacturing, so this isn’t the usual type of business I would consider investing in – I’m not even a lager drinker, I prefer a pint of bitter!  But I was impressed by Simon’s attitude, skills and entrepreneurial spark. He’s a real go-getter and genuinely nice young man, who’s spotted and seized a great opportunity in a tough industry. He’s done a huge amount of legwork so far - he just needed some help with the finances to unlock this venture’s potential.”

The investment has been made in the form of a loan with the option to convert to equity later this year.

Says Simon: “Kevin offered us crucial financial support at exactly the right time – we’d hit a wall in terms of finding funding and were starting to feel that there was no way forward. The best thing is that on top of the investment, Kevin’s business experience and structured support has also been incredibly helpful, and I know I can learn such a lot from him.”

Simon’s original plans to sell directly to 125 restaurants – the equivalent of importing one container load of beer per month – have been dwarfed by current sales. The investment helped secure his crucial first big deal and he’s now selling to wholesalers too.  He’s currently importing between 40-50 containers a week and with Kevin’s support is also in negotiations with several large supermarkets.

“It’s the stuff of dreams,” he says. “I knew from experience how hard it could be to break into the supermarket and hospitality markets. It will be even more surreal when we see our brands on the supermarket shelves!”

YABA has been supported by regional development agency Yorkshire Forward for the past ten years, during which time YABA has been the conduit for £21 million of investment in companies across the region creating over three hundred jobs in these investee companies.



For further information or to arrange interviews, please contact:

Charlotte Atkinson, Yorkshire Association of Business Angels, Tel: 01423 810149

Jo Kelly, Campuspr Ltd, Tel: 0113 258 9880 or 07980 267756,



Yorkshire Association of Business Angels (YABA)

YABA is a non-profit making introduction service that puts entrepreneurs and companies seeking finance in touch with private investors, known as business angels, looking to invest in start-up, growth stage and turnaround opportunities.

Associate members are drawn from the professional services sector and include legal, finance and banking representatives.

Business angels provide a vital source of funding to fill the equity gap in the high risk, early stages of business. They may invest sums of up to £250,000 but more usually keep within a range of £10,000 to £100,000. In some cases, a group of business angels may come together in a syndicate, particularly in cases where a large amount of finance is sought. Importantly, angels are also able to offer a wealth of business expertise and advice.

YABA also offers companies access to a register of business mentors and non-executive directors drawn from its membership, who have expertise and experience in a wide range of industry sectors and professions.

The Association runs a full events schedule throughout the year, including regular investment forums, at which entrepreneurs pitch their business opportunity and Master Classes for angel members on topics relating to private equity investment. YABA provides investors with secure online access to business opportunities in the region. 

The Association is sponsored by regional development agency Yorkshire Forward and is a member of the British Business Angel Association.  

This project has only been possible as a result of support from Yorkshire Forward. Further information is available on the YABA website: