Small Grant Scheme
Grants of £1,000 – £25,000 available
Suffolk Distillery scaled up its craft sprits production from 25 to 500 bottles a week using a new still and ancillary equipment bought with the support of a New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership grant.
Master distiller and chemist Gary Wilkinson pursued his passion of having his own distillery after a long career as operations manager driving thousands of miles a year for a large distillery. He and his wife Melanie launched the business in 2016 from their garage with production in full swing in 2017. They grew the business organically by going to food markets and pubs, and by word-of-mouth promotion. After four years, it was time to move to larger premises.
On the boundary of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Stoke by Nayland, they discovered the Munros Orchard Barn. With the help of a £7,000 grant from the LEP’s Small Business Scheme they kitted out the space with a 300-litre still, mash tank and fermenter, creating a craft distillery. “The hybrid still, which can make gin, whisky and vodka among others, came from China but without instructions!” says Gary. “Luckily, my brother is an engineer and he was able to assemble it with the diagram and it works brilliantly.”
Making botanically infused spirits with state-of-the-art technology, and the best of British and local ingredients, was a long-held ambition and the first distillation was a milestone moment. Scaling up a business requires tenacity and organisation, but fortunately Gary and his dedicated team have these qualities in bucket-loads.
“Running your own business is the best job in the world yet time-consuming,” he comments. “Managing your cashflow is a challenge so you need to have a budgetary plan, keep track of your cashflow with specialised software and the time you think you will spend on a project – double it. With the grant application, you’ll need to be prepared to put the work into it and have money to match it.”
After about six to seven months, Gary also began attracting people for distillery tours and tastings, alongside the production. Since launching, the company has grown from making one type of gin to five specialities, a spiced-chocolate rum and liqueurs. And it has plans brewing for new products, including a Suffolk single malt whisky and an apple brandy using apples from its own orchard.
“We have a loyal customer base, and our products are very good which has a lot to do with my background,” says Gary.
Most of the firm’s raw materials are bought locally and Gary works with designers and printers in the area, helping him support local businesses. Asked where the business would be today without the LEP grant, he replies: “We would still be in my garage. But also, without the help of Melanie, who is a director, we wouldn’t have been able to achieve this.”
Grants normally cover up to 40% of your total project costs. Read more about the Small Grant Scheme here.
Find out more to help grow your business. Check eligibility and contact New Anglia Growth Hub via https://www.newangliagrowthhub.co.uk/contact-us/