Dave Rigby, Greg Hull, Louise Rivers-Hull and Mike Hughes are the Founders of gin company, Manchester Three Rivers
“Nothing is more important for a young company than being around like-minded and passionate people. There is a sense of openness and transparency within Manchester; people are willing to share not only their advice but their time.”
Manchester Three Rivers opened Manchester’s first distillery in the city’s history. In 2015, three friends came together to help Master Distiller Dave Rigby realise his dream of creating a world-class gin right in the heart of Manchester and to create a place where people could come and share in his passion. The company is a result of the Mancunian condition; the inability to simply be a passive consumer, a desire to contribute and the need to get involved.
What makes Manchester a great place to start a business?
First and foremost, it is the sense of community and the city’s strong spirit and tradition of doing. Manchester holds dear one of its own and we have found that there is a strong feeling of wanting a Manchester business and a Manchester product to do well. Manchester is also thriving now as an incubator for new and exciting businesses because there is a strong support network of businesses that can help SMEs to grow. It is a hub of ideas and passion. Nothing is more important for a young company than being around like-minded and passionate people. There is a sense of openness and transparency within Manchester; people are willing to share not only their advice but their time. All of these things combined, not to mention that Manchester is known the world over for its culture, industry and innovation, create a fertile ground for a business to be able to grow.
What makes a great startup in 2018?
There is no one single thing as there are so many different types of businesses, with different aims and ambitions. Personally, there are some unifying principles we see from great startups…
A strong base of authenticity. I believe in the modern world all customers want to know that the business is operating with authenticity from the top down. In some ways, you could say operating with a belief in its mission statements and aims. If you look specifically at a local level, Manchester especially is not a city that tolerates cynicism and nor should it.
Doing things your way. The world in 2018, for any business, is more competitive than ever and some of the best start-ups I have been around always doing things their own way. Yes, they listen to customers and take advice from experienced people, but it gets disseminated and delivered in a way that retains their unique perspective. This takes a lot of courage for any start-up as there will always be a crowd of people telling you that you are wrong simply because they have not yet seen a new approach, or they have just followed the crowd.
Brutal honesty. From the very first day, we fostered a culture of brutal honesty. Start-ups are more often than not small teams to start with, so you simply do not have the luxury not to address internal issues with absolute honesty. Once it is running through the company then each new hire absorbs it and you develop a strong honest culture where things can be dealt with quickly and effectively and growth follows.
Passion. I appreciate the word passion gets thrown out there a lot, but you simply cannot create a start-up or grow a start-up without it because you will be tested to the limit, having to make 100 decisions a day, having to learn on the job (and fast), pull 90-hour weeks and all of that is before the mountain of rejections that inevitably come your way early on begin to rain down. Without passion for what you do you simply will not have the energy to wake up every day and be ready for the fight.
What inspired you to start the business?
It was our Master Distiller Dave Rigby who had dreamed about developing a world-class gin. He owned a café bar and was inspired by great products with interesting and authentic stories. It became his passion sourcing and working with these products. He had always felt gin was an interesting category because of its history, narratives and the way in which flavour and style could be experimented with but had never found one that he really loved, so being a Mancunian he decided to set out on a journey to learn how to develop and create a gin he wanted to drink. To achieve it he brought together 3 like-minded friends and they all quit their jobs and set about creating the City of Manchester Distillery.
What makes your business stand out from the crowd?
It’s the irony of not trying to stand out from the crowd. We knew we wanted to create a world-class product and that is all we set out to do. We knew we wanted it to be handmade by us with the highest mark of quality. We didn’t sit and go ‘how can we be different to all the other gins?’, we simply put together a group of friends, to make great gin in an authentic and transparent way. Ironically, this is what makes our business stand out.
What surprised you the most when setting up your business?
Firstly, how resilient we were as a team, it was not easy to launch a business with so many working parts covering production, logistics, customer service, event delivery and sales, and there were tough moments but we never quit. Next was how much you learn every day and have to learn every day. It can be overwhelming with a range of different problems to solve, different issues to deal with every single day, but learning is where the fun is. Then there was the support we got from so many different types of business not only in the city but across the country, we hadn’t expected people who have been there and done it themselves to have time to help us and get behind what we are doing.
What keeps you motivated?
The love of it. Plain and simple. A start-up will rightly take over your life, and if we didn’t love, not just the business we are in, but working for ourselves for our own creation then we wouldn’t do it. Also, the feedback we have received from our customers and guests keeps us very motivated. It means everything to us when someone says we are their favourite gin, or a guest says the Gin Experience is the best thing they have ever done.
How does your business help give back to Manchester?
We like to think we contribute culturally to the city with the Gin Experience, which is now a top tourist attraction in the city attracting people from all over the world who come to visit us. We also curate, participate and support numerous events within the city. These events are not just hospitality focused but cover a wide range of industries throughout the city. We have expanded the local team throughout 2017 and 2018 and want to continue to bring in great people from Manchester and the surrounding areas to help us grow.
What are your business goals for the next 3 years?
We are focusing on expansion for Manchester Three Rivers Gin both in sales and brand. We are now taking big steps in European and international markets where the gin is being very well received. We always make sure we match this expansion with ensuring the brand stays relevant and authentic in each market. Our aim in the next three years is to be a stable and exciting international brand the city can continue to be proud of.
Our first annual ‘Manchester’s 20 Hottest Startups’ feature is our pick of the most inspiring startups and stepups in our city. If you’d like to be featured in 2019’s ‘Manchester’s 20 Hottest Startups’, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.