Samantha Long of Spirits of Bronte
Spirits of Bronte founder Samantha Long tells BQ why she sold her salon of 17 years to launch Yorkshire Lass' Gin...
Tell us about Spirits of Bronte, what does the business do?
Having lived in Yorkshire for as long as I can remember, I was inspired by the rugged landscape and literary heritage of Bronte Country to create my own small batch gin brand. Distilled in one of the UK’s oldest and most prestigious distilleries, A Yorkshire Lass’ Gin is an old school drink with a truly unique flavour.
What did you do before you started this business?
I owned my own tanning and beauty salon in the village I live in. I’d run it for 17 years and loved the people I worked with and also our lovely customers but I’d always been a gin lover and the gin craze was really taking off so I decided to sell the business and use the funds to create my own … and the Spirits of Bronte Drinks Company was born!
What inspired you to start up?
I had an interest in small batch gins, mainly tasting them and collecting my favourites, but I started to do a bit of research and loved the stories behind each brand. I realised there was a gap in the market for something with a citrus kick and a super-smooth finish; stripping gin back to it’s original and classic flavour but with a modern twist had always been my intention. I also took inspiration from my local area, which I think despite its literary fame, is still a massively hidden gem in terms of its natural beauty and the infectious charm of its people (if I do say so myself!)
Where do you get advice, support or help?
I’ve run a successful business for many years so know about giving customers what they want. I did a lot of research and found that the gin industry is a great one to be working in. I recruited the help of Rob Dorset, master distiller who guided me through the process and steered me in the right direction when I started to over think the flavours that I wanted to come through. Once I had the gin recipe down to a tee and the distilling process had begun, I started working with a local marketing agency so that I could make sure that I was positioning my brand correctly online and maximising the reach when I launched. I’m all for putting in the hard graft myself but I recognise that I can’t do it completely alone and it’s only worth doing if you draw on the ‘best in the business’ to help you get the best results.
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
It’s still quite early days for Spirits of Bronte Drinks Company, but I’d say my biggest achievement so far would be bringing the Yorkshire Lass’ Gin to market. I’ve been blown away by the number of interested stockists and invites to events where my gin can be put in the spotlight, it’s been a very exciting few months!
How do you differentiate your business from others?
The beauty of working in the gin industry is that ‘competition’ is in the nicest form possible. As a gin lover myself, I know that customers will have more than one bottle at home; I have a whole shelf of small batch gins that I love for many different reasons! So I’m not trying to persuade customers to buy my Yorkshire Lass’ gin as opposed to other brands such as Hendricks or Brockmans, there’s room on the customers palate for lots of gins! A lot of customers have said to me that they like the ‘down to earth’ and Yorkshire roots of my gin and my story; knowing that it’s come from a Yorkshire Lass living in a Yorkshire village is probably my USP. Finding a unique taste in such a crowded marketplace has also been important. It’s very distinctive and people can easily identify the citrus kick and smooth finish from other brands.
What’s it like to be your own boss?
I’ve worked for myself for many years and love doing something I’m passionate about. When I sold the salon and had the idea to set up Spirits of Bronte Drinks Company, I didn’t expect to be so busy from day one! Obviously doing research was important, so attending festivals and tasting lots of different brands is something that comes with the job, which often feel more like fun than work!
Where do you see your business in 5 years time?
I’d love to say that in 5 years’ time Yorkshire Lass’ Gin will be a regular on shelves in supermarkets and larger designer stores like Harvey Nichols or Selfridges, but has maintained the ‘local’ aspect too. I still get excited to see it on the shelf in my local corner shop and I don’t want it getting too big for its boots! I’m currently working on a new Spirits of Bronte Drinks Company product which I’m keeping quiet under my flatcap, but I can’t wait to start shouting about that too. And who knows, perhaps in 5 years’ time there will be a whole range of products on offer!
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
My advice would be to make sure you have all your ducks in a row before you take the plunge. Many people would say ‘just do it’ but it’s so important you have a plan in place so that you’re ready for the next three steps before you’ve even taken your first. Launching Spirits of Bronte Drinks Company has made me realise how quickly things can move if you have a good product and I’m so glad I invested in getting legal advice and quality marketing from the beginning.