Welcome to the 2nd Edition of Drogheda Chamber’s Member Spotlight Series.
Every Week Drogheda Chamber will feature one of our Members on our website and across our social media platforms.
This week we spoke to Bronagh Conlon, Managing Director of Listoke Distillery & Gin School.
Where did the idea for the Gin School come from?
Iv’e been involved in the food industry for years . When my children were small I had a jam business called the Irish Food Company so I’ve gone from jam to gin!
I was the first person into The Mill when it opened and I met my business partner there.
Both he and his wife had spent years working in bars and hotels in Manhattan and I had been involved in two poitin companies so we both had experience in the area.
We both wanted to do something different and I remember saying we should do something with gin and then the idea of a gin school popped into my head.
I had seen the small pots set up when I was doing research for the poitin factory and the thought hadn’t left me.
A few weeks later my business partner mentioned it to me.
I’d forgotten I’d had the conversation with him but he said I just can’t get that idea for a gin school out of my head. He was all for it so we just thought – Lets do it!
Since then it’s basically gone for 0 to 500. We’ve recently moved premises so the distillery and gin school are run from our state of the art gin house in Monasterboice.
We run schools every weekend with roughly around 18 people attending each school.
What do you think has been your biggest achievement with the business?
It would have to be the Gin School and just the way it has taken off. when we told people about the idea they said it’s never going to work but we didn’t listen and just ploughed ahead.
We have people coming from all over to visit us and do the school and we enjoy it so much.
Every weekend the craic is ninety.
Last weekend we had 10 people coming from Norway, we have people coming from Germany, Russia, Hen party’s from the UK. It’s incredible.
All of our employees are locals so it’s absolutely brilliant that they can advise tourists about where to eat, have a drink and what to visit.
I feel like the Gin School has done a lot for tourism locally and we are always encouraging tourists to visit local sites of interests, pubs, restaurants and shops.
During our schools we always provide food and I’m proud to say that we use food from producers in the Boyne Valley.
We don’t allow drivers and organise buses that leave from Scholars Townhouse Hotel and the D Hotel in Drogheda.
It’s five euro each way per person and you know that everyone is going to get home safely.
It’s important to us to be socially responsible!
We’re also getting lots more corporate clients visiting us for company away days and have recently started turning one of the rooms into a boardroom where companies can have the first part of their away day in the boardroom and then take part in then school in the evening.
We also recently found out that we are featured in a Failte Ireland brochure promoting Irelands Ancient East that was used during a show in Paris.
We were so chuffed with that! It’s great for tourism locally – we are the only gin school in Ireland, in Europe, possibly even the World!
Tell us one thing people might not know about the business
This year we won European Gin of the Year which is phenomenal.
I think people might be surprised about the growth of the business – it really is flying.
We’re selling 20 pallets a month. We’re in Tesco, Dunnes, Supervalu, O’Briens
My business partners have also relocated to New York.
After spending 18 years in the bar trade they have lots of phenomenal contacts so our strategy is to build the brand from the ground up which is really exciting.
What is the best piece of business advice you’ve ever been given?
If you think you can you will and if you think you can’t you won’t.
I heard that for the first time from Pat Falvey when I did a course in UCC years ago and I’ve never forgotten it and use it all the time.
When I got sick a few years back I was able to cope with it.
Everyone goes through crap in their life and you have to learn to park it and get over it.
It’s so easy to stay in the negative and listen to negativity and naysayers around you but for me you always have to think about going forward.