032: With a single 300L still at home in 2007 made an Irish-style, triple distilled whisky – merged, moved to a 4,500L and 2 other stills, launched an award-winning gin then sold out to return to distilling from home on a 700L still (Damian Mackey)

Presented by Troy Trewin

Troy has worked intimately with 26 businesses in 20 years. He knows their numbers, understands their growing pains and people issues and has helped with most financial aspects, as well as having coached on leadership and management.

August 3, 2020

In this episode, I interview Damian Mackey, a master distiller of whisky and gin and the founder of New Town Distillery in Hobart, Tasmania. In 2005, he started building a small distillery (Mackey’s Distillery) in his backyard in Hobart, and in 2007, filled their first cask with triple distilled Irish style single malt whisky, which was matured five years later. 

In 2014, he partnered with Sheena state, moved, launched an award-winning Gin, took on investment, and went from using a single 300 litre still at home to a 4,500 litre and two small stills. The distillery grew from laying down 400 litres to around 100,000 litres, and recently sold out of a large business to return to distilling at home where he is now doing about 8,000 litres a year. 

Damian recommends investing 10% to 20% of sales into marketing, and finding an expert to work with. He went from 1 full time employee to 6, then back to 1. He insists that business and financial planning using KPIs, ensuring you’re well funded, and getting and keeping mentors are crucial to success. He believes the hardest thing in growing a small business is, “Balancing the resources you pile back into the business”. The advice he would give himself on day one of starting in business is, “Make sure you’re doing something you’re passionate about, is unique, and has a point of difference” Stay tuned for more on Damian’s entrepreneurial journey.

This Cast Covers:

  • Moving from distilling as a hobby to being the only commercial scale distiller doing triple distilled single malt whisky in Australia.
  • From a 300 litre still to a 700 litre still: Damian’s whiskey-making back story.
  • Their move back to smaller scale distilling and their current phase of laying down barrels.
  • Developing and launching their award-winning Poltergeist gin.
  • Being the only distillery doing pot still whisky and encouraging others to try it out.
  • Learning a lot from doing 100,000 litres a year to the current 8,000 litres a year.
  • The importance of getting down a marketing plan and working with an expert in the area.
  • Making things easier and ensuring sustainable growth by automating production processes.
  • Funding the business from their own savings and how they benefited from a state government grant.
  • How plenty of funding would help in building a large distillery.
  • The challenge of leaving Shene Distillery to go back out on his own.
  • How a small business owner can get their head around their startup business through business planning.
  • Continuous measuring of real-life results against results projected during business planning.
  • Ensuring employees are passionate about their work and always on the same page as a team. 
  • The value of online courses: Reading a lot about making whisky.
  • The extra effort that has to be put in when a business is owned by partners.
  • The challenge of balancing the resources that are piled back into a business.
  • Starting businesses that we are passionate about so we can courageously face the challenges that come with it. 

Additional Resources:

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Quotes:

“If you’re going to do something businesswise , do something where your passion is” – Damian Mackey

“Whatever your projected revenue is, allocate between 10 and 20 percent to invest in marketing” – Damian Mackey

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Music from https://filmmusic.io “Cold Funk” by Kevin MacLeod (https://incompetech.com). License: CC BY (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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