Name: Harrison Alex.
What is your company’s name?
Young Business Spirits.
Where are they based?
What facilities does it offer?
Young Spirits is a bottling and spirits company that has found a gap in the market to serve the needs of small batch producers by offering shorter lead times. Our aim is to usually have two-week lead times for the craft industry so that businesses can quickly bring their goods to market.
To whom are we selling?
In Scotland, our client base is mainly independent beverage producers.
What’s the turnover there?
At the end of the first year, our turnover was £ 800 thousand. We’re halfway into the second year now and are on target to cross £ 1.5 million.
Right at the beginning of the Covid 19 coronavirus outbreak, we were lucky to turn the company around, bottling hand sanitizer provided by one of the distilleries. This started with the disinfectant being delivered to the NHS and nursing homes in late April. It was a three-month project which, at a very difficult time, gave us a lifeline and allowed us to keep running. However, as it would distract us from our core business, we made the decision not to extend this into a long-term project.
How many workforce?
When did it become established?
Why did the plunge take you?
My business partner, John Ferguson, and I have seen an opportunity to help smaller craft producers who have been forced to bottle regularly and with short lead times. We found that there were more than 130 operational distilleries and just 19 bottling plants when we surveyed the industry, most of which are operated by bigger distilleries and multinational companies. In particular, as a single malt Scotch whisky must be distilled in Scotland in order to be sold, we thought that demand would continue to be high, so there should still be strong demand in this field, not to mention growth opportunities for other spirits.
Until you took the dive, what were you doing?
I worked for an event company catering to students a couple of years ago. The position expanded with some of the major spirits and beer brands to include liquor sponsorship packages. This provided me with a strong introduction to the industry and a chance to understand the business.
I bought bottle stocks at some point and then went on to purchasing whisky casks, realizing there was a business opportunity to explore here. So I started my own company to broker a mix of individuals and some independent bottlers to buy and sell whiskey barrels.
Prior to starting a subsidiary within the company called IceBlue Refrigeration, John left school and started working in the family business, the Ferguson Group. As a specialist in refrigeration and freezer systems for the transportation and storage of food at sea, IceBlue made a name for itself. Before it was sold in 2014, John was instrumental in moving the firm forward. He returned to Ferguson Group at that point to run the UK sector.
How did you raise the money for the start-up?
Our own money was used by both John and I to start the company and get it up and running.
What was the biggest breakthrough you made?
It was my first customer to buy a keg in the event market. That got me interested in the industry, and I also learned about the brokerage side of buying and selling, which then allowed me to break out of the event industry and start my own business.
What was the toughest moment you had?
Young Spirits was only four months old, we had moved into our first warehouse and added five new employees to the team, and then John’s daughter was born and he was on paternity leave for four weeks. It was an intense period of multitasking as I tried to single-handedly train the team while delivering customer orders. In between, I had to get deionized water to reduce a cask strength whiskey. Fortunately, our neighbors, Sweet Dram, filled a 50-liter barrel that I was able to pick up. With a little help from their team, we loaded it into the trunk of my car, and then disaster struck: the barrel cracked open and the water flooded the car, which eventually slopped. A very expensive day at the office.
What do you enjoy most about running the company?
There are several aspects that I enjoy, but the camaraderie in the team is one of the main aspects. We