Liz recently did an interview with Women’s Entrepreneur Network the Merit Club, so we thought we would share her answers with you all on the highs and lows of setting up a gin company and how it all started…
The Merit Club: When did you found it?
Liz: June 2016 – Cam (Co Founder) and I were on a work trip together and we hated it so much it spurred us on to incorporate our own company to escape. We set up the company early one morning on the trip. It was the final straw for us but the push we needed!
The Merit Club: Can you tell us a little bit about what you do? What is unique about your business?
Liz: We combine our love of beauty and booze by adding collagen to spirits, with the first drink being a gin aptly named Collagin. We are the only gin in the world to do this.
The Merit Club: How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
Liz: Cam and I used to work together and we came up with the idea in a brainstorm and we thought there was something in this… so we quit our jobs to create the business!
The Merit Club: How long did it take for you to put your idea into action? What prompted you to act?
Liz: It took about a year to create the gin recipe and the unique design for Collagin. We re-branded and changed the name several times and it took a while to find a type of collagen that did not affect the taste, look nor smell of the gin. We did a lot of 6am and weekend meetings to fit it around our day jobs which was tough but we truly believed in the concept and wanted to work for ourselves and that kept us going.
The Merit Club: Do you remember the moment you realised you could do this as a full-time job?
Liz: I don’t think we were ever 100% sure, we just had to take a leap of faith and believe in ourselves to make sure we did it. We both decided failure was worse than regret so we had to give it a go. Now it definitely is a full-time job! Also, the best advice we were given was to give 100% focus on it. If we had another job, we wouldn’t have put our heart and soul into it as we always had a safety net to fall back on.
The Merit Club: What were you doing before Collagin and what gave you the idea?
Liz: We worked together in a marketing agency in Oxford. I knew I wanted a family and couldn’t do that job with a family and that’s another reason why I wanted to start the business. So lots of reason for needing a change and to create the lifestyle that fits around family and Cam and I.
The Merit Club: How did you get your first sale?
Liz: Through face to face meetings and lots of persuasion and chasing! Plus we believed in the product and are so passionate about it and this shone through when we met retailers. Face to face was always (and still is) more successful than email pitches as buyers can get to know our story and future plans.
The Merit Club: Running your own business has so many challenges. Have you had any career defining moments, or hurdles that shaped who you are and where you are right now? How did you overcome these?
Liz: So. Many. Hurdles. Hurdles every day! The biggest one at the start was to overcome the sexism. The gin industry was traditionally male dominated and no one was taking us seriously as two women starting in the industry. One potential distiller even assumed I was the PA not the Founder because I was female…
Then the next (and current) hurdle was cash flow. Delaying wages so we could buy bottles is always a tough call but right for the business… not our social lives! or mortgage…
Then the hurdle was being surrounded by gin whilst experiencing hyperemis (severe sickness) during my pregnancy. I can safely say I did not touch gin for nine months…
Now the hurdle for me is fitting in meetings and conference calls with a six month old! When my day isn’t set in stone I can work around my little one, but when it is the other way round, it doesn’t work. He somehow knows I have an important call coming up and the hysterics start….!
The Merit Club: How is it working with two Dragons? (Tej Lalvani and Touker Suleyman) And how has it elevated your business?
Liz: We have actually mutually agreed to not progress with the deal. After lots of discussions it wasn’t quite right for any of us.
The Merit Club: If you had one piece of advice for someone who is just starting out, what would it be?
Liz: Just do it! If you think about it too much it could scare you and you might be put off. So do it first then think about it later. If we knew the legal, financial and discriminatory barriers to starting this company we would never have done it! I am all for planning but sometimes you have to trust in yourself and just go for it and forget sticking to the plan.
Also, prepare to take three steps forward and 20 million steps back! No one said it would be easy otherwise everyone would be doing it.
The Merit Club: What are your goals for the future?
Liz: More products in the Collagin range, strengthening the brand identity, brand partnerships, international expansion, creating a Collagin community and potentially a new spirit. We have SO many ideas but we can’t get too distracted with them in one go…
The Merit Club: Finally, which women inspire you?
Liz: Ella Mills from Deliciously Ella – I love the brand she has created but also the community around it. She also showed resilience during the clean eating backlash and closing her delis. It will be interesting to see how she juggles motherhood (she is expecting a baby in August) and running a business – I hope she is honest about the highs and lows because it is anything but easy.