“The support from Business Wales AGP has been invaluable”
Father-and-son team behind Hensol Castle Distillery reveal their recipe for success
In our new blog series, we talk to the businesses we work with to find out more about their journey, ambitions and top tips for business success.
First under the spotlight is Hensol Castle Distillery. With exciting plans to launch a new gin visitor experience in one of Wales' most stunning historic properties, it's set to be a big year for father-and-son team Andy and Rhys Mallows.
Here, co-founder Andy shares what he's learned on his business journey so far.
Tell us about Hensol Castle Distillery
Hensol Castle Distillery is a joint venture between the Leeke family, who own The Vale Resort and Leekes, and my son Rhys and I, who founded our distillery business in April 2018.
The project will see a craft spirit distillery, gin school, visitor experience, bonded warehouse and bottling plant open at the 17th century, Grade I-listed Hensol Castle later this year.
The venture forms part of a £7 million scheme to bring the castle, which sits in the grounds of the four-star Vale Resort, back into use and transform it into a flagship tourism destination.
Visitors will be able to distil a bespoke bottle of gin made to their specific taste. They will also be able to tour the distillery operation, learn about the history and ingredients of different gins and enjoy gin tasting and cocktail sessions.
We will also produce a range of spirits for commercial sale including entry-level, mid-level and premium-quality gins, vodkas and other spirits including an exciting low calorie, low sugar and low alcohol range.
The ambition is for these to be available in local pubs and restaurants as well as major supermarkets, wholesalers and cash and carry outlets. We currently employ eight people, with that number set to rise significantly when the distillery and visitor centre open during October 2019.
What are your proudest moments in business so far?
I'm proud of developing our first product and taking it to market. Also, winning the Welsh Start-Up of the Year award at the 2019 South Wales Business Awards was a real boost for us. It's always great to be recognised for our hard work.
If you were starting again, what would you do differently?
Realise that perfection is the enemy of done. Once you have your vision and product concept cemented, have the confidence to bring it to market – rather than waiting for everything to be perfect.
Manage budgets carefully – cash flow is imperative for all start-ups and spending money on agencies can run away if you're not careful.
Have the confidence to be brave and different – it's part of what makes your business unique, so embrace it.
How has support from Business Wales AGP helped your business?
Our Business Wales AGP relationship manager Howard Jones has supported us with business planning, branding and labelling as well as assistance with financial modelling.
This support has proved invaluable in the development of the distillery and visitor centre. Without it, we would not have a successful company, and we wouldn't have secured a joint venture with a major Welsh company.
We have also secured a Tourism Investment Support Scheme (TISS) grant of £158,000 to help with the design and build of the Hensol centre, which is crucial to the realisation of our plans.
What advice and guidance would you give other businesses starting out?
Have a clear strategy and vision for your company and products. Do your research to ensure you have a thorough understanding of your category, customer and consumer benefits. Be ruthless with your time and focus each week on pushing the business forward.
Get trading as soon as you can – once you're open for business, you become a real company and not just a pipe dream. Prove your concept by meeting customers and consumers as quickly as you can.
Have strong financial models and forecasts – we based ours on worse case scenarios to ensure the business is viable.
Be brave – don't listen to nay-sayers or be afraid of the risks. While this is the scary part, taking risks is also part of the fun.
Be resilient and recognise that competitors are going to make it tough for you.
Recruit and build a team of people with different styles and strengths – both internally and in your supply chain.
Meet and listen to as many consumers as you can. Try to sell to them personally as no-one is more passionate about your company and products than you.
Enjoy the ride – it's going to be bumpy with lots of twist and turns, blind alleys and scary moments. Be prepared to work 80 hours a week for a minimum wage. However, remember that you're building your own company and products and nothing is more exciting or rewarding.
For more information on Hensol Castle Distillery, click here.