Husband and wife team David and Victoria Perry received their loan from Transmit Startups in June 2019 for their small batch gin distillery in Surrey.
Victoria tells us how they’ve turned the coronavirus crisis into an opportunity to demonstrate how much their brand cares for its community.
Hi Victoria, give us a quick overview of your business journey up to the point of COVID-19.
Perryley Craft Gin was born after a holiday in Dorset and the discovery of a lovely violet gin. This stuff was amazing – but very expensive! So, David decided to use his previous brewing experience to try making his own.
He did and it was wonderful. We decided to start selling it after getting the relevant paperwork and licences in place.
Things were going so well that we applied for a Start Up Loan to build a new distillery and expand our production.
We had aimed to be in the new building by the end of the summer but the build was halted halfway through because of the crisis. Fortunately, we are still able to work from our tiny existing space at home.
How quickly were you affected by the pandemic and what impact did this have?
The Government shut down of mass gatherings meant the cancellation of all events we had planned, including farmers markets, gin fairs and wedding fairs.
We’d usually use these events as a way to sell gin but also as a way to make bookings for further events so the impact was quite significant at this stage of our startup.
We then found our supply chain was hit, meaning manufacturing became impossible.
Botanical ingredients for the gin, bottling supplies and labelling supplies slowed or ceased and in some cases the prices of ingredients have also risen by as much as 100%.
How did your customers react?
As we’re such a new business, we’ve only had time to develop a very small repeat customer-base. Despite this, we’ve been loyally supported on social media feeds by those who are sharing our social media output and sending messages of support for the ‘re-open’.
We have a pool of 100 product testers who are eagerly awaiting their sample of gin. However this will have to wait until lockdown restrictions have eased. Everyone has been very understanding.
What steps did you take to minimise the impact/diversify your business?
We have been quite brave and ceased producing gin altogether. We have instead begun producing hand sanitiser, using the same alcohol but with added aloe vera gel.
It really dismayed us that some stores have been profiteering from the increased demand created by the coronavirus. They've been hiking up the price of their hand gels.
So, we made a choice. To supply hand sanitiser to key workers and those in our immediate local area for free. And to supply at cost price to anyone else who would like some.
We created survival packs for our immediate neighbours. We’ve also given a free bottle to anyone providing us with deliveries as a show of our gratitude to those who are working at their own risk to keep supplies moving.
Sourcing ingredients to make the sanitiser hasn’t been easy. Wholesale stock of aloe gel and small plastic bottles have been in demand from larger distilleries.
We remain committed to providing a service during this time so are swallowing the inflated costs with the aim of developing long-term brand awareness and loyalty.
Has the reduced production time allowed you the chance to focus on any different areas of the business?
Yes, that’s been an unexpected bonus. We’ve been busy creating a botanicals garden where we’ll grow our own ingredients in our new distillery.
We’ve invested in our marketing by building stock imagery of our gins for use in promotions, we’ve developed social media content and have created new labelling for the sanitiser.
Just before the lockdown we purchased a horsebox, which we planned to refurbish for use as a mobile gin bar. We’ve been unable to collect it from the suppliers, but we have been able to build it a home within the distillery area while locked down.
How would you describe your experience of the crisis as an entrepreneur?
David and I are a great team, we are good at problem-solving and coping in a crisis, however this has still been challenging. Initially we were mainly disappointed as we had just started attending events and were enjoying the experience.
Now, however, our worries have shifted gear a little. We are more concerned about cashflow at this point.
While we have had some personal savings we can draw on, we have held off contacting our banks for loan and mortgage holidays. Now that lockdown has been extended, we feel we need to make those calls.
Have you taken any steps to cope with the crisis that could potentially lead to long-term changes for your business?
The crisis has driven us to prioritise our sustainability objectives. We have grown so used to ‘overnight’ and ‘same day’ delivery but the impact of this is huge in human and environmental terms.
We had always planned to consider how we improve the efficiency our stock and supplies as our business developed, but we will do this more urgently.
Once we have ridden out the storm of the outbreak we will be reviewing our ordering practices. We are seeking more local suppliers for the ingredients in our gin and we have been looking at glass suppliers in the UK.
Have there been any unexpected outcomes from the experience?
We were recently approached for help by a charity who work with mentally disabled care users. They have been unable to get hold of sanitiser for their carers who visit clients in their homes.
We will be creating the sanitiser free for them and also supplying a little of our gin just to thank these wonderful heroes for all their hard work.
We are hoping to maintain this relationship and it feels really good to have this direct connection with our community.
Read other coronavirus case studies here.