2 March 2020
Helen inspired pupils with tales of her entirely hand-foraged product, and the testing process of setting-up a successful business: “Think about what really motivates you; follow your passion,” she told the senior school pupils.
After just two years in operation, the eponymously named Badvo Gin (Badvo is the name of the family farm, meaning ‘tree by the house’ in Gaelic) is now found in over 50 outlets. Since its inception, the product has earned the young entrepreneur several awards, including ‘Great Taste’, ‘Scottish Young Thinker’ and ‘Scottish Young Inspirational Person’.
Developing the taste
Girls heard how Helen’s interest in the spirits industry was ignited at Glasgow University while achieving joint honours in English Literature and Linguistics and doing a holiday job at a local distillery: “I decided to do my dissertation on whisky and gin, ‘The Linguistic Legacy Illicit Distilling left in whisky and gin’ combining my love of writing and spirits!”
During what little free time she had, Helen juggled studying with experiments at the family farm, which has been worked by her ancestors since 1599: “My parents told me about distant relatives who used to distil on the farm and I became really drawn into the romantic stories of illicit stills in the hills.”
Pursuing her interest, Helen decided to invest in some equipment, emphasising to the attentive audience that it’s all about one step at a time. “I bought small, copper, half-litre still from a street vendor in Portugal and, with the help of dozens of jam jars, vodka and juniper berries from my parents’ farm, I experimented for months before finally coming up with a recipe I was happy with.”
Crafting the brand
Giving girls an insight into branding considerations, Helen talked them through the thought-process behind her labelling: “Where you find pure water, you find plentiful fish and where you find plentiful fish, you find feeding herons; hence the logo.”
Water used in the gin’s distilling process flows off the foothills of the Cairngorm mountains and straight over her parents’ land.
Propelled by the very modern method of crowd-funding, Helen took pupils through the process of raising money online and getting investors to feel enthusiastic about taking a stake in your company: “Early adopters were real gin enthusiasts who wanted to learn – and talk – about the product’s provenance and authenticity. Generating good content is vital to create enthusiasm.”
Marketing, as with so much of the process, was a big learning curve. “I found that different age-groups preferred different methods of communication, the idea often has to be ‘sold’ in different ways.”
Pupils found the talk inspirational: “It’s really made me think about starting my own business,” said one. “There’s so much to think about but it just shows you what can be done if you put your mind to it.”