Adam Clawson Revisited

Red Rover Craft Cider

When the Business Profile Series first began, we paid a delicious visit to Red Rover Craft Cider, operated by Adam Clawson and his partner, Nicola Mason. Since that initial interview, Clawson and Mason have become established members of the Fredericton business community as mentors, participants, and all-around friendly neighbours. Their operations have expanded greatly as they innovate in their field; this year alone, Red Rover received two awards from the Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition (GLINTCAP), the world’s largest cider judging. Adam has also been accepted into the Wallace McCain Institute’s Entrepreneurial Leaders Program (ELP). We wanted to take this opportunity to speak with Clawson again about his and Mason’s journey as newcomers in Fredericton.

Clawson and Mason, originally from Leeds, UK, moved to Fredericton over ten years ago. Despite his current line of work in craft cider, Clawson originally studied mechatronic engineering; back then, his life goal was to design a prosthetic hand. Mason, who had studied microbiology at McMaster, wanted to continue her life in Canada. The only location that did prosthetic upper limb in the country was Fredericton, which narrowed their search immediately.

Clawson became the lead mechanical engineer of the UNB hand. Once the project ended, Clawson jokes that he “turned to drink in a really big way.” Both he and Mason wanted to find a way to work together while staying in Canada, and found it in the form of a gap in the Fredericton market: craft cider. In England, the sector had exploded, but had yet to find its way to Atlantic Canada.

“There was a gap in the market and we wanted to stay here,” remarked Clawson of their decision to start Red Rover. “The reason for starting a business in Fredericton was mostly because we loved the space. We’ve seen a bit of the world, and we fell in love with [the city] over the few years we were here.”

Their dream started to become reality when they received validation from Andrew Campbell, who used to work with Ignite Fredericton (then Enterprise Fredericton). They found immense help in being able to talk to someone about their new idea without having to pay, and were able to begin the next steps, such as procuring a SEED loan.

“That SEED loan bought our entire apple supply for the first year,” said Clawson. “The great thing with the SEED loan as well, is that even though we got that four years ago now, and have been slowly repaying that, it comes with a portion for education that I’m now able to spend on ELP.”

Being the first in their sector in Atlantic Canada, Clawson and Mason had to create the supply chain on their own; while they based themselves on the beer model, they had to deal with different farmers in order to get the apples they needed. Since then, they’ve been able to open up their supply chain and model to other craft cider brewers in the region, causing the sector to expand exponentially. Finally, after developing both the supply chain and the previously nonexistent policies around cider, they opened in 2014.

In terms of being welcome as a newcomer in the community, Clawson explained that being a part of the University of New Brunswick (UNB) was helpful, as there were a few international people there. Being a newcomer into industry, he felt extremely welcome; if you just wanted to be in business, there were a lot of places you could feel safe. Clawson tries to perpetuate that openness now by going to mixers and events, despite not being a startup anymore. He feels it is important to pay the experience forward.

“The business community in Fredericton is a lot less where you’re from, insomuch as where you’re going to. If you’re willing to grow and support the community in general, then that’s all they really care about.”

Going forward, Clawson and Mason intend to continue to grow their business and create quality products that are not just from New Brunswick, but proudly Fredericton products. They want to show that not only the tech sector can grow in this city.

“Ignite is blind to what the business is; they’re not specifically a social enterprise, a tech accelerator… they’re a business success generator.”

“Nicola and I came here with two suitcases and a thousand dollars in my shoes… we didn’t have a plan to actually leave, because we’d been promised the money for my education. If we’d not have liked it, or if something didn’t work out,  the plan was to be deported and then pay back the deportation charges.” Explained Clawson. “We came here with literally nothing, and ten years later, we now have a home, and we have a business here, and we now support around 15 staff… and that’s all because of the embracing nature of not only Fredericton and New Brunswick, but the business community as well.”

Learn more about Red Rover Craft Cider.