Manly Spirits makes gin, botanical vodka, liqueurs and single malt whisky. They are a distillery based in Manly, one of the coolest suburbs in the Northern Beaches area of Sydney.
In this episode of LIDE’s Leaders of Tomorrow, we had a great conversation with Vanessa Wilton, one of the co-founders of Manly Spirits. We discuss the business origin, the founders’s professional backgrounds and how they quickly adapted to the challenges the coronavirus pandemic brought upon their company.
The business combines perfectly both backgrounds of the co-founders: Vanessa came from an entrepreneurial background, managing her own branding agency. Her business partner, on the other hand, had a more corporate background. According to Vanessa, it was the perfect combination since she would bring in the big and creative ideas and her partner would then bring the structure to achieve all goals.
Starting a new business, such as a distillery, is quite challenging. The alcohol industry is full of big players and when fighting the big ones for shelf space, you have to be creative. In their case, Vanessa told us that they had to engage consumers first, as they would be the ones requesting their products at venues, bottle shops and restaurants. Working on their branding gave them a competitive advantage.
On the Covid-19 outbreak, Vanessa told us that what the pandemic did was bringing all changes at once. They had to shut their business overnight, following government guidelines, and all other revenue streams were also shut apart from bottle shops.
However, this situation also brought opportunities. When Vanessa went after hand sanitisers and couldn’t find any, she started thinking that there must have something Manly Spirits could do about it since they were alcohol producers, after all. Using the technical knowledge of their team of engineers, they pivoted quickly and started producing their own sanitisers.
The first batch was donated to community groups that needed it, but couldn’t get it anywhere. After that, they started commercialising sanitisers and now they find themselves in a new world and navigating a new industry.
Looking into the future, Manly Spirits started a new business that will be separate from the main distillery as it focuses not only on the consumers but also medical distribution.
We would like to thank Vanessa and the team at Manly Spirits for their time and for sharing their story and experience with us.
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