A former oil broker and bar tender, who is raising money for his healthy drinking programme, understands at first hand how a bad experience with alcohol can change your life.
Ruari Fairbairns is part-way through a £1.4 million fund-raiser for his One Year No Beer online tool kit which helps those wanting to live an alcohol-free lifestyle.
It has garnered 70,000 members in five years since he launched the business, with many supporters sharing his story.
He worked in the City for 13 years and saw it as part of his job to entertain his clients. The culture of heavy drinking became ingrained into his working day – and devastated his family.
He might be out two or three times a week for boozy work lunches or dinners, coming home at 2am.
Following one drink-fuelled lunch he filmed himself with his head out of the window of a speeding train and was lucky to escape potentially fatal consequences.
“Lots of people take ridiculous risks and do crazy things because of alcohol.” he said in an interview last year with the Daily Record.
“That day I’d had a long lunch which started at noon and finished at 6pm. I was absolutely smashed.”
His behaviour caused friction and rows at home. His wife Jen returned to her native Sweden and and he realised he had to take a break from drinking, despite fearing that it might harm his relationships with clients.
Instead, he saw his business grow substantially. He said: “I thought I was going to lose my job. Entertaining was a key part of my identity. I had created a brand around being Scottish and knowing my whiskies.
“But instead of losing business, I became faster, sharper and better at what I did. I found healthier ways to bond with people, and realised you don’t need alcohol to be successful and have a good time.”
He was reunited with Jen and says his life has never been better.
Mr Fairbairns, who lives in North Berwick, is hoping investors will add £300,000 to £1.1 million already raised by One Year No Beer in a new round on the Seedrs crowdfund platform.
The funding will be used to further develop the technology infrastructure of the business which is based in shared offices in St Andrew Square, Edinburgh.
‘I became faster, sharper and better at what I did. I found healthier ways to bond with people, and realised you don’t need alcohol to be successful and have a good time’
The mission is not to eliminate alcohol entirely, but to address negative habits and build new ones through various behavioural science and positive psychology programmes. Mr Fairbairns, who grew up on Mull and attended Tobermory High School, is an advocate of low or no-alcohol drinks and would like to see it comprise half of all drinks menus.
The company has also recently joined forces with Weight Watchers, to allow users free access to their ‘28 Day Challenge’, promoting both the physical and mental benefits of reducing alcohol consumption
Members of One Year No Beer sign up for 28, 90 or 365-day challenges, then get daily emails and video support.
Since UK lockdown measures were implemented in March, it has witnessed a 30% increase in signups, signalling a clear demand for increased support.
These figures are reinforced by a recent YouGov survey that revealed that nearly three-quarters of UK drinkers were drinking the same (45%) or more (29%) during lockdown, leaving only 25% drinking less. Further to this, 18% believed they would emerge from lockdown drinking more than they did pre-lockdown.
The company raised £3m in an earlier fund-raising round which was supported by Mark Cowan, ex-director at Facebook, Joe De Sena, CEO and founder of Spartan and Death Race, and Alain Renaud, previously global head of mergers and acquisitions at HSBC.
Mr Fairbairns said: “We’re delighted to launch this latest funding round and welcome our customers and supporters onboard as we continue our mission in helping the nation change their relationship with alcohol, as well as other positive behaviour change, through the power of online community and connection.
“Our plan is now to diversify into lots of other behaviour change models, not just alcohol.”