Meet Rupert Holloway from Conker Spirit, a refreshingly new and exciting gin distillery from Dorset. Rupert has created the first dry gin to come out of Dorset and although the business is very much in its youth, he’s off to a cracking start. 

This month’s ‘Inspired Client’ is Dorset’s very first gin distillery set up earlier this year by Rupert Holloway.

We caught up with Rupert to find out more about his journey in a new start-up business so far. Here’s what he had to say:

What ignited the spark in you to start a new business venture?

It was basically because I wasn’t happy in my current work. I was a chartered surveyor and it was a bit more office based than what I would normally like with lots of emails backwards and forwards sorting out people’s problems so I decided I would work for myself, do my own thing and manage my own time.

And then I just landed on this idea. I was looking for a business idea and I was researching different business models. I then came across this gin distilling movement in America that has been around for years and is quite mature, but in the UK its only about 5 years old. I saw some really great gin distillery businesses, selling gin in small batches in London and I thought this could really work in Dorset. I researched the idea to see if there was anything already out there in Dorset, realised there wasn’t and thought wow…that will work, if I don’t do it someone else will and I took the leap.

What has been your most satisfying moment in business?

That’s a good question and I’d like to think I get a satisfying moment in business every few months. In the early days I spent what seemed like an enormous amount of money on registering an IP address and registering Conker Spirit Limited where it suddenly becomes a formed company. The trade marks being granted was also incredible because obviously that’s very important and it wasn’t clear cut that we would get it and everyone I had spoken to about it was amazed that we managed it (thanks Hybrid!).

And then there’s obviously looking at the finished product and listening to people use the word ‘wow’ to describe their first sip and that’s been quite consistent. People use the word ‘refreshing’ too so I guess it’s a combination of the appreciation of the product and the business side of things starting to fall into place that have been the most satisfying so far.

How do you go about marketing your business?

At the moment, where Conker Spirit is in start up mode, my marketing budget is zero and it’s been a Facebook and Twitter drive and that’s really helped us. I should also add that rather than targeting the public, it’s more about targeting the mixologists and bar staff. It’s important that they all feel as though they found the product first and they’ve helped contribute to the birth of the Dorset Dry Gin and everyone wants to mix with these spirits. No pun intended!

I’m also conscious that it’s not just about getting Conker Spirit stocked behind bars. It’s about the customer actively asking for Conker Spirit and the bar staff actively recommending it so I found approaching different trade associations a really effective form of marketing.

The next thing will be the website as it’s just a holding page at the moment so stay tuned for when that launches very soon!

What’s next for Conker?

So getting set up in our own distillery and getting enough production to stock venues will be the next step for us. To do that, we’re going to need to scale the recipe, set up the equipment as well as applying for all kinds of registrations with HMRC. Once we’ve achieved all of that, it will then be a case of officially launching Conker Spirit over the next few months. We’ve already set most of the foundations in place and we have lots of interest from certain bars and pub chains. However, we want to do everything right and it’s important for us to lay the foundations properly first.

If you had to pass on one key tip to our clients for their business, what would it be?

I would say, because we started with hardly any money, I had to spend it wisely. I didn’t skimp on spending money on professional services such as forming a company, registering the trade marks and getting the branding done properly because you have to do everything right from the outset. I know from Hybrid that it’s not great to be retrospectively trying to grab trade marks at a later stage, especially if there’s a risk that I couldn’t get them or someone else had them. So if you’re looking at building not just a business but a brand, and I look at things based on my background from a brand ownership perspective, being able to own that and add value to it with the trade marks standing up on their own two legs is invaluable.

So for me, I would ask yourself what is already trade marked? Who will own the company? How will it be structured? What will the website look like? What about the branding itself? For the latter, making sure that you are completely satisfied with the final designs is key as I know some businesses have a tendency to sign off on this quickly. Branding in my opinion is key so making sure your brand reflects what you had in your mind is essential.