Business mentors will tell you the missteps are proof that you’re trying or making progress.
But for Blush Gin founders Elliot McClymont and Chris Thomas the idea that led to their business was pure coincidence.
“One evening Chris was making a rhubarb crumble, we infused the rhubarb into the gin and the idea never went away.”
Sensing the uniqueness of the rhubarb-gin, the pair seized the opportunity to launch a whole range of infused and flavoured gins.
“We didn’t realise pink gin would be the next big thing.”
The business grew organically from a kitchen bench hobby, to having over 250 retailers nationwide.
They self-funded the business early on and relied on sales to drive cashflow, refusing to draw any profits out of the business for almost two years.
“With any entrepreneur having ‘skin in the game’ makes it very real, you fight for growth when you’ve pumped your life savings into something,” McClymont says.
However, as with all small business, the journey hasn’t been without growing pains. Scaling up was the first major challenge.
Its first commercial run was 60 bottles but after strong sales it quickly needed to grow by 900%.
McClymont says Covid-19 “completely derailed” Blush Gin’s plans for UK export, where gin sales have taken off in recent years.
The company had spent a year building a foundation to allow it to cope with export demands in the lead up to Covid.
“We are still wanting to focus on export, but the market jitters have importers quite hesitant.
“We are working around this and looking at launching internationally direct to consumer through third-party logistics.”
Its target is to be 20% export-driven for this fiscal year but the pair say brand loyalty remains strong in New Zealand, and that’s what they are most proud of.
“We have a wonderful audience of end-users who champion our brand and believe in us.”
McClymont’s advice for entrepreneurs is to think of decisions as if you were reading your own biography.
“Would you want to read the next page if the last sentence said, “I didn’t take the risk?”
He says it’s important to be realistic about risks but also back yourself.
“You can do anything; you’ve just got to try. I’m a big believer in learn from your mistakes, it’s not wasted time, but time spent on self-development.”
He says New Zealand has a great brand overseas, and Kiwi’s should leverage it.
“It also helps to be a small nimble company; we can launch new products in weeks. Test on a small scale and learn from that. It’s very Kiwi to think outside the box and make things work.”