The community business sector is a hugely exciting place right now. We see many examples of groups coming together with ambitious plans to establish new ventures in their communities that improve local amenities and create fair and inclusive economic opportunities.
A key part of helping groups get off the ground is hearing from others who have already succeeded. GlenWyvis, a whisky distillery near Dingwall, is one of the more established community businesses we have worked with, so we thought it was a good time to catch up with this flourishing business. Lindi Konso, Sales and Marketing Representative spent some time chatting to our team about GlenWyvis’ inspiring story and how this distillery is doing things differently.
Who are GlenWyvis and what sets them apart from other distilleries?
GlenWyvis is a small but mighty distillery based in Dingwall, north of Inverness.
The main thing that sets us apart from other distilleries is that we are the only 100% community-owned distillery in the world.
Tell us a little bit about you and what attracted you to the role at GlenWyvis
I previously worked in the exhibitions and events industry, working for companies that provided bespoke exhibition stands and shopfitting solutions for businesses, including distilleries across the globe.
This role sparked my interest in the whisky industry. Most people who have worked in the exhibition industry would agree that many of these events are not environmentally friendly in their practices. Because of this I was keen to work for a company that had alternative qualities other than salary, such as sustainability, not just from an environmental perspective but also for the community it operates within.
So, the fact that GlenWyvis aims to give back to the community, through a GoodWill fund (more about this later) and operates entirely using green energy really appealed to me. The main part of my role at the distillery is to promote the brand through sales and marketing, so I hope I can portray the positive ethos at GlenWyvis effectively, along with the fact that we produce delicious spirits!
What have been the businesses key successes to date?
The most notable success at the distillery to date is successfully bringing distilling back to the town of Dingwall after a 90-year absence. This was only possible thanks to the crowdfunding campaign that was generously backed by our initial 2,200 members. This effort was record breaking at the time, with £2.6 million being raised in 77 days. The press attention that this effort received encouraged a further 1,400 people to invest, allowing construction for the distillery to begin in 2016. The distillery was completed in the winter of 2017, making it the first 100% community-funded distillery in the world.
The business has been funded by community shares, tell us a little bit more about how this impacts how the business is run.
Our community shareholders are known at GlenWyvis as our members. Every year our members have a chance to have their say on the running of the distillery at our AGM, where all members are invited to vote on important topics regarding the distillery. Our board is also exclusively made up of members who oversee the running of the distillery. They are all volunteers bringing a vast amount of knowledge to the operations of the distillery from engineering to finance and law.
Tell us about the importance of the business to the local community
Prior to the last distillery closing in Dingwall in 1926, distilling was paramount to the culture of Rosshire especially to the town of Dingwall, where Ben Wyvis Whisky was made for many years. Distilling may have left the town, but the history remains. The old Ben Wyvis distillery was turned into flats overlooking the Cromarty firth. I actually live in one of the old workers cottages. Due to the towns distilling history, bringing distilling back to Dingwall has been well supported by the local community.
We also plan to reinvest a share of our profits in the local community via our GoodWill Fund, which will be available for local causes to apply for later this year. More information about our Goodwill Fund will be available soon on our website.
Why was it so important for the business to be 100% powered by green energy and how does it help you compete?
It was important for us to make a positive environmental impact on the community from the get-go because sustainability is paramount to the GlenWyvis brand ethos, we want our practices to have longevity. We are lucky to have use of an onsite wind turbine, hydro scheme and solar array from our landlord. We also have our own biomass boiler, which enables us to run entirely from green energy.
We have found that our customers on trade and off trade are incredibly supportive of our dedication to producing a quality product, sustainably.
What is next on the horizon for GlenWyvis?
We want to keep the community spirit alive by continuing to release delicious, quality spirits to the market, which will in turn allow us to continue to reinvest profits into the community. The next year will be exciting, as we will finally get to see the impact the GoodWill fund will have on local causes. You also never know another share offer could be available, to welcome knew members, so keep your eyes peeled.