Starting a business that serves customer needs with Brunswick Aces

When you're starting a business, it helps if your business idea serves evolving customer needs. Learn how Brunswick Aces launched their non-alcoholic spirits brand at a time when Australian drinking culture was changing, allowing them to capitalise on a social trend that helped them to finesse their business model.
· 14 May 2023 · 4 minute read
The three founders of Brunswick Aces sit at a bar smiling looking to camera

Brunswick Aces co-founders Stephen Lawrence, Diana Abelardo and Dr Cameron Hunt.

Founded in 2017 by a group of like-minded neighbours, Brunswick Aces is Australia’s first non-alcoholic spirit brand. Champions of business innovation, the label’s co-founders serve up beverages at their inner city Melbourne cocktail bar and also sell products via a well-stocked web store.

In an effort to find drinks they could all enjoy, the group used their collective skillset, including science and engineering, to develop three non-alcoholic sapiir blends and three alcoholic gin blends: Spades, Hearts and Diamonds.

By launching these twin ranges, Brunswick Aces have ensured that everyone can enjoy the same drinks with the same flavour profile and not feel left out. We chatted with Brand Director Stuart Henshall to find out more about the business inspiration behind Brunswick Aces.

Smarter Business interviews Brunswick Aces Brand Director Stuart Henshall

Smarter Business: How did you decide to take the plunge into producing beverages and, later on, opening Australia’s first non-alcoholic cocktail bar?

Stuart Henshall: Once we started sharing our creations with friends and family, and began receiving glowing responses and increasing demand, we knew we had something potentially great on our hands.

Between 2017 and early 2020, we focused on growing our two non-alcoholic blends, Spades and Hearts, with premium venues and found strong market demand in the Middle East very early on. The Middle East remains one of our key markets to this day.

How do market insights influence your business planning?

After the first year of the pandemic, data came out that signalled our relationship with alcohol was going one of two ways: greatly declining or worryingly increasing.

We predicted that in a post-COVID-19 world a rebalance would happen – those who had increased their alcohol consumption would want to drink less and those who had reduced their alcohol intake would be looking for somewhere to socialise without the temptation.

Opening the bar for us had always been a dream, but COVID-19 accelerated that for us. We were called mad for opening something as avant-garde as a non-alcoholic bar, particularly in the middle of a pandemic, but it has paid off in spades for us. 

Did you conduct any market research before launching your product?

As our product was created from a personal need we didn't conduct any market research. We create products based on our own preferences and they just so happen to appeal to a wider audience.

Since we began in 2017, the growth of the non-alcoholic industry has been incredible. We've gone from a couple of products to some of the best non-alcoholic drinks in the world coming out of Australia.

Where do you find business inspiration to help your brand grow?

Opening Australia's first non-alcoholic bar has given us a great insight into what non-drinkers and moderators are looking for. We use this insight as we look at new brands to stock in the bar, bottle shop and online [in our web store].

You have over 8,000 Instagram followers. What digital tools do you use to market your brand and help boost your social media following?

As we're all about community, we have been focused on organic social growth and drawing people to us naturally over time. We've done very little paid digital advertising, with our success to date being a 95% PR led approach. Customer experience, our quality products and community focus has been our reason for success to date.

Learn more about how to create a social media strategy.


Lessons you can learn from the Brunswick Aces brand story

When business planning, keep customers in the forefront of your mind to make sure you’re catering to their needs.

  • Take steps to improve the quality of customer service you offer.
  • Remember that offering great customer experience helps to organically grow your social media and online following.
  • Develop products that you have a passion for.


This article does not necessarily reflect the views of Telstra or its staff.

Grow your online presence with digital experts

Whether you need a website or a complete digital marketing strategy, we can help your business to thrive online. Our services include website design and hosting, digital marketing, online store creation and more.

Explore Business Website Services

More on this topic

Reach your customers with online marketing

A strong online presence helps attract customers to your website. We can help you rank higher on search engines and to run online advertising campaigns, plus more.

Explore online marketing tools

Other articles you might like

  • How award-winning businesses achieve outstanding growth

    Want to achieve and sustain business growth? Here, three brands share the scale-up strategies that impressed the judges at the 2022 Telstra Best of Business Awards, where they were announced State Winners in the Outstanding Growth category.
  • Ways to use tech to solve challenges

    Get inspiration on how to innovate with technology from award winning businesses. Here, three inventive brands show us how they’ve developed technology solutions to help overcome the challenges facing modern day Australia.