Meet Willow Tree Distilling
Established in 2016, Willow Tree Distilling is run by founder Mary Vincent, on the family farm where she grew up in Bedfordshire
The first product, Willow Tree Gin, launched in June 2017 and is handcrafted using a combination of 12 botanicals and freshly picked herbs. The process of selectively smoking botanicals gives Willow Tree Gin its distinctive flavour. Mary takes our Q&A session.
How and why did you start the business?
My inspiration for starting the business stems from my time in Detroit. As an adventurous twenty-something, I developed a love of travel and adventure and spent 5 years in the U.S. American’s love for risk-taking and entrepreneurship rubbed off on me and sowed the seed of developing my own product and embarking on my own gin creating journey!
How long have you been a GS1 member?
I have been a member of GS1 UK for 6 months, since I started trading.
Do you trade with any partners/channels?
I'm working on it but nothing confirmed just yet, but watch this space! I do love meeting my customers at the markets as their feedback and encouragement is invaluable. Since launching in June, my main sales channels have been local stockists and farmers markets. I also sell in local pubs and I am currently developing relationships with retailers and distributors.
What is a typical day like for you?
There's no typical day as every day is different! A distilling day would involve a start at around 6:30 am. I always need to start my day with meditation and stretching, a cup of herbal tea and then it’s straight outside to prep the still and pick fresh herbs.
All my botanicals go into the still and once I start the process I will have a few minutes to grab breakfast. The distilling takes around 6 to 8 hours depending on the size of the distillation run that I am doing.
I always finish my day with a 30 minute run to wind down, something I can do whether I am at home or at the farm. Late afternoon and evening is sometimes a time to catch up with family and emails.
What are the main pros/cons to running your own business?
It still feels that there are more pros than cons. I love the fact that I have the freedom to manage my time and also the variety in my working life. In any one week I will be distilling, bottling, labelling as well as sales, admin and planning events. Future planning and coming up with new product ideas which requires experimentation, is also something I enjoy. The main downside is working on my own. Although I have a support network, I could sometimes do with another pair of hands!
What are currently your biggest challenges in the business? What keeps you up at night?
The biggest challenge is probably the same as others running their own business, not enough hours in the day and cash flow. Because I am passionate about what I do and because I see my journey as an adventure, it is sometimes a challenge to switch off and have a healthy work, life balance.
What are your plans for the business for the next 12 months?
My plans are to focus on developing new products, growth and increasing brand awareness.
Tell us an interesting fact about you?
In my late teens, I applied to be a horse racing jockey at the British Racing School in Newmarket!
Who inspires you?
Jo Malone. She had no formal training but followed her passion. She had to overcome adversity in her life and believes in reinvention and growth as a person. She keeps moving forward. I have been inspired also by the correlation between fragrances in her perfume and flavours in gin.
What top tip/piece of advice would you give to our other brands/sellers?
Keep moving forward and keep learning. Don’t be scared to take risks and surround yourself with positive people who support you.