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Manchester gin lures a dragon

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Manchester gin-thusiasts Mark Smallwood and Liam Manton created Didsbury Gin in 2017 and the tipple has already been hailed by Vogue Magazine as ‘one of the most exciting new British gins’.

Hot off the heels of redundancy, and a bumper year making gin, Mark from Middlesbrough and Liam from Manchester took on their biggest challenge yet, the Dragons’ Den.

The craft gin makers bagged themselves three minutes to pitch their plans for world domination to the BBC show’s five resident multi-millionaires in a bid to convince them to invest their own cash in the craft gin company.

After some initial banter between the multi-millionaires, Liam and Mark hooked in offers from both Jenny Campbell and Tej Lalvani. Ex-career banker turned business turnaround specialist and European cash machine entrepreneur Jenny prides herself on helping young talent realise their potential and the gin-makers felt an instant chemistry with her. What’s more she has a well documented love of gin and her own home gin bar already!

With the promise of help scaling up the business and reducing costs so they could increase production of the gin, enabling them to offer the right price point to take their product to the bigger retailers and restaurant and bar chains, Liam and Mark took Jenny’s offer of £75,000 for 33.3% of their one year old business.

Since the show was recorded in April 2018 Jenny has already guided Liam and Mark through a rebrand, an upscale of the business as well as legal and financial advice, and they are now just days away from announcing a number of listings with some of the UK’s biggest bar groups.

Corporate social responsibility manager for a construction firm Liam and partner in gin ex-bar manager Mark were spookily both made redundant from their respective jobs at the beginning of 2018 just as the gin business was starting to take off.

After first deciding not to take part in the BBC show in January 2018 because they had jobs and didn’t feel that it was the right time for the business, they jumped at the chance later on in the year just after they had been made redundant.

Liam Manton, co-founder of Didsbury Gin, said; “It was terrifying especially when minutes before we went in front of the Dragons we realised that our glasses smelled of egg. Sulphur in the washing machine water had made them disgusting and our gin would also be disgusting. We had to wash everything very quickly before our chances were ruined.”

Mark Smallwood, co-founder of Didsbury Gin, continued; “We loved having the opportunity to appear on the show, and when Jenny offered to invest, everything just seemed like it was coming together. Her no-nonsense Northern personality fits really well with the brand we are building, and we really liked how straightforward she was with us. She has some great ideas, and saw the growth opportunities for Didsbury Gin both nationally and internationally. Plus, we know she has a genuine interest in the product because she is a gin drinker herself.”

Jenny Campbell, Dragon and business turnaround specialist, said; “Didsbury Gin is all about Mark and Liam. They instantly drew me in with their charm and I thought this could work. I also went to school in Didsbury so I thought that was a good omen! They knew their product and the numbers behind the business, they stood their ground when my fellow Dragons attacked and most importantly I liked them. I think gin drinkers across the UK will too. They have a great brand which will be taking on the classics names by the end of the year. Watch this space.”

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Philip Ghayour
Events, PR, and Marketing Manager at The Samuel James Group, Philip has a degree in Journalism from the University of Salford and holds an MSc in Marketing from Lancaster University, Philip has also worked at BBC Radio Lancashire, Clitheroe Football Club and Accrington Stanley Football Club.

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