Wakefield gin couple forging ahead

A husband and wife team who run a craft gin company in Wakefield are forging ahead after being given a growth grant.

Gary and Victoria Ford, who run Forged in Wakefield, have been given the £25,000 grant to help them move in to bigger premises to keep up with demand.

The pair have plans to relocate to Tileyard North, the new creative business centre being built at the former Rutland Mills next to the Hepworth. The move means they can fit in a new 300-litre still, offer distillery tours, run a gin school and a bar.

The company has been given the £25,000 growth grant by AD:VENTURE, which helps ambitious new businesses trading for less than three years in North and West Yorkshire.

Gary said: “Vicky and I had no idea what was involved in running a small business when we started. We have learnt along the way and made a lot of mistakes in the process. At the moment we distil the gin, act as the salesforce, maintain the website, develop new flavours and a million other things. Moving into the premises will mean we can employ staff and take the business to the next phase of its development.”

The company, which has also been given business advice by AD:VENTURE, which is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), was launched in January 2019 by the pair who loved brewing beer and wine, and wanted to move into distilling spirits. But that meant a lot of red tape.

“It took in the region of six months to gain all the licences required to become a distillery. It was a massive learning curve and we nearly gave up at one point,” said Gary.

“But now we are forging ahead it is worth it. It’s our passion and dream and we always find a way to make it work. We are planning to take on at least five staff before the end of 2021 to help cope with demand and to work in the bar.”

The small batch gin, which is produced in eight flavours, including The Original, Yorkshire Strength, Passionfruit and Lemon Sherbet, is certified organic and vegan.

The current still can produce around 90 bottles of gin in eight hours, but the new premises will mean they can invest in a new still which can produce three times as much, and can make other products, such as vodka and rum. Victoria and Gary are also moving bottle production from France to Yorkshire to reduce their carbon footprint, and are having a custom-designed bottle developed.

The gin is sold to the public via the Forged in Wakefield website and to about 50 farm shops, bars, restaurants and clubs, and the couple are currently negotiating to export to Norway.

Gary said: “It is difficult to appreciate just what is involved in running a small business unless you have walked that path. Small business owners, including ourselves, often work 80 to 90 hour weeks; so our time is spread very thinly.

“Having the help and support from the team at AD:VENTURE  really makes a difference. The investment has been fantastic as it helps us to increase our capacity and produce our custom bottle, but the team at AD:VENTURE  went above and beyond this, spending lots of time coaching us and offering business support and guidance.

“Their advisers are happy to help in any way they can and are great at putting you in touch with people. They open doorways and open your eyes to other ways of doing things. There’s so much help available that our biggest regret is that there is only the two of us and we don’t have the time to take all the help that is out there,” said Gary.

AD:VENTURE has funding and delivery partners across the Leeds City Region, including Wakefield Council and the region’s other eight  local authorities; the Business Enterprise Fund; the Prince’s Trust; Leeds Beckett University; West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, and the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership.

Cllr Darren Byford, cabinet member for economic growth, regeneration and property at Wakefield Council, said: “Forged in Wakefield is exactly what it says, a great company and product forged in our district which is full of amazing creative people doing amazing things.

“Giving support to early stage businesses through the AD:VENTURE programme really pays off in the long run as it helps these businesses to thrive and create jobs and greater economic prosperity for us all.”

For more information about AD:VENTURE go to https://ad-venture.org.uk/

For more information about Forged in Wakefield go to https://www.forgedinwakefield.com/

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