Ex-crimper toasting a dramatic career change

Andrea pulling pints
Andrea pulling pints

Wigan brewery boss Andrea Cox knows all about going head-to-head in business – she started her working life in hairdressing, and now runs one of the fastest-growing small businesses in the North West.

The 50-year-old is managing director of Wily Fox Brewery, Martland Park, a micro-brewery which creates and brews craft beers which are served up across the region, and as far afield as the south of England.

“I’ve known only two careers – working in and then owning a hairdressing salon, and then owning and running a brewery. The only common thing is heads,” said Andrea.

The brewery was established in 2016 after her husband Phil suggested the idea.

“Before he’d finished the sentence suggesting it over dinner, I’d said yes,” she said.

“It was faster than accepting his marriage proposal.

“All the clichés about carefully researching and planning apply, but the fact of the matter is that my sister-in-law, Bev, and I are running a brewery, and we make all the decisions.

“That can be anything from what we call a beer, through to the design of its label, to getting involved in tasting and finalising the finished product, to selecting suppliers and negotiating with customers.

“So far, those decisions appear to be correct: not only do we deliver a range of beers to a number of pub chains and bars, we’re also on course to open two specialist craft ale bars.”

Wily Fox has annual sales of around £500,000, and employs seven people.

“There’s no doubt that brewing is considered to be a man’s world, and we do get some predictable reactions when both buying supplies and selling beers, but both suppliers and customers quickly take us very seriously, especially when they experience the quality of the beers and the efficiency of the operation,” said Andrea.

“But statistically, businesses with women in the boardroom are more financially efficient.”

Wily Fox Brewery opened in Wigan in 2016 and supplies craft ales and beers to bars around the North West of England, with some exports to other regions.

The brewery is a multiple SIBA (Society of Independent Brewers) award-winner. The management team is mainly female: Andrea Cox is managing director, and Bev Cox head of sales.

Earlier this year, Wily Fox won a long-running planning battle to open a new bar on the outskirts of Wigan town centre.

Sherrington’s will take the place of former ice-cream parlour Will & Joe’s on Kenyon Road, following its untimely closure last year.

Andrea and Phil said the bar, set to open at the end of the summer, will undergo a complete refurbishment and will be designed and fitted-out to a high standard incorporating features to minimise any local impact.