Love and business, love and business, goes together like…
Around 1.4m UK companies are now run by couples and, according to recent research*, this growing number of entrepreneurial couples in Britain are part of a wider trend towards more family-owned businesses with a whopping 4.7m family-run businesses now in existence in the UK.
The Collective actually boasts four couples within its membership who run businesses together. We’ve been talking to Collective members and award-winning gin makers Nichola and Jamie Jarrold about their decision to collaborate in business and what they have achieved together in just two short years.
What made you want to become husband and wife gin makers?
Travelling the world in the oil industry exposed us to a rich selection of ingredients used in food and drink from a wide range of different cultures. None more so than in Iraq where the local people use Noomi Basra, or Persian Limes, in a vast range of cuisine. It’s instantly recognisable with citrus notes and sensational flavour. We were also fascinated and inspired by the revival of gin, which we’ve always thought of as a stunning and versatile spirit. So, we decided we wanted to make our own robust gin with heavy notes of juniper but perfectly balanced by the other botanicals. We are lucky to be working together in such fantastic industry, collaborating on something we are both very passionate about and learning so much together along the way.
From deciding to launch your own gin brand to now, what is your proudest moment and proudest achievement?
Our proudest achievement must be building our own distillery in our garden. It was hard work but totally worth all the effort. The still itself was made in Germany, at Kothe Destillationstechnik by true craftsmen who take pride in what they do. The rest of the construction of The Nodding Donkey Distillery Company was done on site and we love the interior design and fit by Allyson and Andrew Bettridge in Chichester. It’s simply wonderful to have a view from our office of the garden that our children grew up in.
And our proudest moment to date was when we found out we had been awarded two International Wine and Spirit Competition Medals (IWSC) in 2018 only 4 months after opening. Silver Outstanding for our London Dry Gin and Bronze for our All Year Round Sloe Gin. Winning a coveted IWSC award isn’t easy, which is what makes the medal so well respected among trade and consumers alike. The IWSC handpicks industry experts and judge entries over seven months of the year to ensure a considered approach to tasting is adhered to for each and every product.
What have been the biggest challenges in starting your business and getting your product to market?
We took on so much of the work ourselves and as such there were a number of individual challenges. We were very fortunate in that we involved the right people early on; trading standards, health and hygiene and HMRC were all incredibly helpful at an early stage of the business and without a doubt helped us to ensure we had all the right requirements in place before we even had a label printed. Probably our biggest challenge was the bottle design. The design was done in New York, the bottles produced in Italy and they were decorated in Poland so bringing all of that together was incredibly challenging. It was also an area which we had absolutely no experience in, so we’ve learned an awful lot in quite a short period of time. We really wanted to have some embossing on the bottle to make it quite bespoke, but the minimum run at the glass factory was 30000 bottles which was prohibitive for us. Something to aim for!
What area of launching a new business has been your steepest learning curve?
Certainly, for this type of business we underestimated the time which it would take to pull everything together. When you do a business plan and start taking revenue into account for income streams, then it’s crucial to factor in delays so you don’t find yourself short of working capital. Also, payment of accounts is another potential delay in revenue for new businesses so allow for that too.
What advice would you give any couples thinking about starting their own business together?
We were quite clear from the start what our respective roles would be – obviously there is some overlap, but we have different strengths, so we identified those and then allocated roles and tasks accordingly. This has worked really well for us. We have found it’s also very important to talk about how things are going regularly, encourage and praise each other but also to say if you aren’t happy with how something is done. It is a partnership so doing things together is important, for example when we are distilling we make sure we both spend time together in the distillery. Having fun and taking time off is also very important!
Thank you Nichola and Jamie for sharing your insights into co-owning a business as a married couple. And the good news for anyone considering starting a business with their partner or spouse is that, according to research from the Danish Institute of Labour Economics, it provides significant income gains for couples. So good luck to all you entrepreneurial couples out there!
*Research conducted by FreeAgent and published in February 2018