Pandemic and Brexit

In the last blog post I told you about how we came up with the name, Old Mother Hunt, and how/why we decided to make rum.

In this post, I’m going to touch on the joys of creating and launching a business during a pandemic. There were stumbling blocks everywhere we turned due to the pandemic restrictions.  Instead of being able to visit distilleries, everything had to be done over the telephone and video chats. When we applied for our rectifiers and compounders licence we were told we were in a massive backlog as all applications for hand sanitiser were, quite understandably, being fast tracked. This added months on to our timeline and as we were creating the company as a new way of life and career, it stretched patience, resilience and finances pretty thinly.

The first thing we had to do was find a rum that we loved and that would suit our purposes. We wanted to make spiced rum first so we needed a white rum that was beautifully balanced- not too strong to over power the spices and not so plain that it had no character. Choosing the rum took a lot longer than it would have normally as we had to correspond by post and send samples back and forth from different places until we found the flavour we were looking for. In the end we were lucky enough to find a brilliant distillery that could not have been more helpful and knowledgeable and gave us exactly what we wanted.

All of this was happening whilst we were trying not to panic that we were spending all our savings without bringing in any money as well making sure that the children were happy, entertained and protected from the worrying reality of the pandemic. When people say “whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” well I’m not entirely convinced they’re talking about a marriage. Ours, at this point, was pretty much in tatters and to be honest, it’s not had a lot of time to recover. The main thing that has kept our marriage together is that we both have very different strengths. In an ideal world, Matt would make rum in the arse end of nowhere, surrounded by his 15 dogs and just leave it outside the front door next to an honesty box. His ability to learn a new skill is phenomenal and there’s not a chance in hell I could’ve learnt how to distil so quickly without him researching, learning it himself and in turn teaching me. On the flip side, there’s no way that Matt would’ve done all the legal stuff, the advertising, the social media and the company basics. In short, we could not have done it without each other. We both fulfil incredibly different halves of the business and that has been our biggest blessing. We don’t step on each other’s toes, we both enjoy the sections we’re responsible for and we both know, with 100% certainty that it’s a team effort. Without Matt, I couldn’t have made a product and without me, Matt couldn’t have made a company. Now we’re up and running we do swap roles sometimes and often things are a joint effort. Ha, we continue to argue on whose responsibility it is to entertain the kids!

Creating this company has to be one of the hardest things I have ever done. We were challenged at every single step. There’s no real guide book to creating your own alcohol company in the UK and the guidance is spread out over different excise documents that are insanely long and not written for the average person to read easily. We had to make our own lists of what licences, insurance, permission etc we needed and then ask a specialist licensing lawyer to check if what we’d gathered was correct. Luckily we found a wonderful local lawyer who kindly spent quite a lot of time going over it with us. We did obviously make a lot of mistakes along the way. We put the duty stickers in the wrong position, we sent off 200 hundred labels to the printers with the wrong description and many other shockers but it definitely kept us busy.

We were aiming to launch OMH 01/08/2020but in the end it was 04/11 before we started trading. Ideally we could’ve done with being a bit more organised and waiting a few more weeks but we didn’t have a choice. If we didn’t launch when we did, we risked the very real possibility of missing the Christmas rush.

On top of the pandemic pressures, we were hit by BREXIT delays. Our original bottles were sourced from a company in Italy and they got stuck at customs for over 8 weeks due to COVID delays and then BREXIT checks and problems. We had to emergency order another pallet of bottles from a UK supplier which cost us just over twice as much due to the lack of availability and time pressure- you live and learn! This year we plan to be way more organised.

Next post will be about the actual launch of the company and public reaction...