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Off the booze and on the way up

Written by Ronnie Dungan on Monday, 14 December 2020. Posted in Fresh faces, Interviews

After an uncomfortable falling out with the demon drink, Ruari Fairbairns decided to launch a subscription-based alcohol prevention programme, aiming to change people’s relationship with drinking.

Off the booze and on the way up

After an uncomfortable falling out with the demon drink, Ruari Fairbairns decided to launch a subscription-based alcohol prevention programme, aiming to change people’s relationship with drinking, which now boasts 70,000 members worldwide and has already won twice in the regional Great British Entrepreneur Awards…

When historians document the UK’s lockdown experience, alcohol, booze, the hard stuff, call it what you will, is likely to figure just as prominently in the folklore of it all as the good old fashioned cup of tea did during the Blitz.

To say that alcohol prevention programme, One Year No Beer, is bucking current trends is something of an understatement when wine boxes have become as much of a fixture on the average shopping list as baked beans. 

In fact, given all that, there’s a strong argument to say that Ruari Fairbairns’ brainchild may be just what the nation needs to sober up once the Corona crisis is finally over. Cometh the hour; cometh the entrepreneur.

As is often the case, Fairbairns’ direction of business travel started in his personal life, which he readily admits saw alcohol, interlinked with his professional exploits become an issue for him.

He explains: “During my time as an oil broker in London, two worlds collided, partying and being successful, and the more I partied the more successful I was. After a few years of this lifestyle, I started to experience a number of health problems, IBS, anxiety, dry skin. 

“I realised that alcohol was causing me more trouble than good. I approached my boss and said that I was thinking about taking a break from booze and he said that this would be committing commercial suicide! 

“Six months later I finally plucked up the courage to do it and when I finally did, I was blown away with the benefits – I got fitter, faster, healthier, a better husband, a better dad. I grew my oil broking business and reduced costs by 30 per cent. My IBS and dry skin disappeared and there was no area of my life that didn’t improve.

“I wanted to make people understand how big these benefits are, so I decided to create a challenge, and in 2016, we launched One Year No Beer, a 90-day challenge, and gave it away. It rapidly went viral and in the first year we got over 20,000 signups. This is how One Year No Beer was born.”

OYNB aims to help people change their relationship with alcohol, which Fairbairns believes leads on to most people fundamentally transforming their lives. 

Research conducted with Stirling University in 2017, showed that 93 per cent of people had a drink when they didn’t want to, and 84 per cent had experienced pressure from friends to drink alcohol. Fairbairn’s programme aims to challenge cultural norms and help people to make better life choices. 

The programme is not about eliminating alcohol entirely but more about breaking down old habits and building new ones to take back control of the decision-making process when it comes to drinking.

“We want to flip the drinking model on its head,” explains Fairbairns. “From one of admitting you have a problem and having to go to a church hall or community hall and sit in a circle and talk about being stigmatised for the rest of your life, to one of positive change.”

It’s worth noting that OYNB is not a free programme and there are different tiers of membership from £59 for a 28-day programme to £250 for a whole year. It is aimed at people who drink the equivalent of more than three glasses of wine a week. Its 70,000 members come from all over the world and across a broad spectrum of lifestyles - teachers, nurses, parents, even athletes.

There are, of course, plenty of free programmes available to help people with alcohol issues, but Fairbairns sees OYNB as adopting a role akin to that of a personal trainer, also offering a way to handle peer pressure in social situations such as weddings, stag weekends, holidays, etc. Something more than is on offer elsewhere.

“It’s like saying why would you pay for a gym, when you can run around the hills?  Or why would you pay for a personal trainer when you get a six pack on your own? If it was just information, then everyone would have a six pack and a £1m in the bank.

“We charge a fraction of the cost of drinking (which socially, mentally and physically causes enormous costs to healthcare, personal care, mental health down the track) and for that we most likely change your life. Questioning whether that is worth charging for is almost as insane as NOT questioning why alcohol companies should be penalised for causing so much health, social and individual cost and disruption.

“But this is our relationship with alcohol as a society - we are totally blindsided by the truth. Some 96 per cent of our members say they change their relationship with alcohol, most members say they changed their life.  Other alcohol interventions vary from less than five per cent success rates to up to 30 per cent. So paying for something that works, better, faster and more inclusive makes sense.”

In fact, he says, the aim is to make giving up the grog actually enjoyable.

“Could you easily, not drink for the next 90 days and LOVE doing it?  If the answer to that question is no - that’s why we charge you £1.20 a day to make it EASY and you LOVE it.”

That might sound like a stretch for some but results show that some 78 per cent of 90-day members will continue being alcohol-free and Fairbairns claims to now be the leader in preventative behaviour change around alcohol, and the plan is now to diversify into lots of other behaviour change models in areas such as caffeine, sugar, porn, social media and gambling.

“In a little over four years, we've created and grown an online business that has attracted customers from across the globe. Turning over £2.7m per year and supporting over 70,000 members in 90 countries across the world, and the business continues to witness 300 per cent growth YoY. This is only the beginning.”

Now, that’s worth drinking to.

Founder of One Year No Beer, Ruari Fairbairns, was named Great British Entrepreneur of the Year for Scotland and Northern Ireland and also Health & Wellbeing Entrepreneur of the Year, at the Great British Entrepreneur Awards.

About the Author

Ronnie Dungan

Ronnie Dungan

Ronnie is a business journalist and comms specialist of some 30-plus years' experience, although thanks to a rigorous moisturising regime, and the right lighting, you wouldn't necessarily know it. He has edited and published so many titles that he has lost count. It's well over a dozen, but he shows no signs of calling it day just yet.

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