Knowledge transfer in a start-up craft brewery

Andrea Cardoni, John Dumay, Matteo Palmaccio*, Domenico Celenza

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to explore the role of the entrepreneur in the knowledge transfer (KT) process of a start-up enterprise and the ways that role should change during the development phase to ensure mid-term business survival and growth.

Design/methodology/approach: An in-depth, qualitative case study of Birra Flea, an Italian Craft Brewery, is presented and analysed using Liyanage et al.’s (2009) framework to identify the key components of the KT process, including relevant knowledge, key actors, transfer steps and the criteria for assessing its effectiveness and success. Findings: The entrepreneur played a fundamental and crucial role in the start-up process, acting as a selective and passionate broker for the KT process. As Birra Flea matures and moves into the development phase, the role of the entrepreneur as KT’s champion needs to be integrated and distributed throughout the organisation, with the entrepreneur serving as a performance controller.

Research limitations/implications: This study enriches the knowledge management literature by applying a framework designed to provide a general description of KT, with some modifications, to a single case study to demonstrate its effectiveness in differentiating types of knowledge and outlining how KT can be configured to support essential business functions in an SME. 

Practical implications: The analysis systematises the KT mechanisms that govern the start-up phase of an award-winning SME, with suggestions for how to manage KT during the development phase. Seldom are practitioners given insight into the mechanics of a successful SME start-up; this analysis serves as a practical guide for those wishing to implement effective KT strategies to emulate Birra Flea’s success.

Originality/value: The world’s economy thrives on SMEs, yet many fail as start-ups before they even have a chance to reach the development phase, presenting a motivation to study the early stages of SMEs. This study addresses that gap with an in-depth theoretical analysis of successful, effective KT processes in an SME, along with practical implications to enhance the knowledge, experience and skills of the actors that sustain these vital economic enterprises.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)219-243
Number of pages25
JournalBusiness Process Management Journal
Issue number1
Early online date2018
Publication statusPublished - 4 Feb 2019


  • Craft beer
  • Knowledge transfer in start-ups
  • SME business processes
  • SME development
  • SME start-ups


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