Business born during lockdown breaking into different markets

A BUSINESS launched after an entrepreneur was forced to ‘go on the dole’ during the Covid lockdown of 2020 is now breaking into new markets after securing investment.

Forbidden Cocktails, the brainchild of The Blind Pig and Ce Soir owner Brian Smith, is now available in more than 20 outlets in Guernsey as well as in a selection of bars and off-licences across the UK, with a number of retail outlets due to add the ready-to-drink range to their shelves in the coming weeks.

‘This first tranche of funding has enabled me to upscale production and work with a distributor in Jersey and Guernsey, as well as partnering with a great supply-chain company in the UK – Comesto – which will fulfil all orders from hospitality businesses,’ said Mr Smith.

‘We have also secured a number of accounts across the UK from off-licence delis in Edinburgh and Glasgow to a group of music venues, whose portfolio includes a flagship nightspot in Birmingham and several festivals, at which Forbidden Cocktails will be on offer. Excitingly, we are also about to launch in about 100 Co-op stores in one region, while we are sending samples to several other outlets and distributors with a view to securing more accounts very soon.’

With ambitions to have ‘at least 1,000 accounts in the UK by this time next year’, Mr Smith said it was vital that the brand moved quickly to secure a foothold in a rapidly developing area of the industry.

‘The potential is tremendous but we need to strike while the iron is hot because ready-to-drink is now the fastest-growing segment in the alcohol industry,’ he said. ‘While there are new products hitting the market all the time, we know that we have the flavour profiles and the business model to succeed, and are now targeting the UK, region by region.’

Having secured the first tranche of investment needed to develop the brand overseas, Mr Smith says that, as the number of Forbidden Cocktails stockists grows, further funding will probably be required.

‘The current funding has been critical in taking the business to the next level but, by this time next year, I will probably need further investment to upscale,’ he said. ‘Growing a business is very much a chicken-and-egg scenario because, without funding, it is very difficult to build. Now the egg has hatched and the chick is growing but I am confident that more eggs will hatch soon.’

Mr Smith said that, while securing the funding had not been straightforward, he had learned a lot in the process.

‘While a lot of people say that they like the idea of backing a start-up, I found that most of them actually wanted to invest in a more established business,’ he explained.

‘Spending time with a number of potential investors, though, has been enlightening. Everyone has a different idea about how to build a successful business and what success looks like. Having gone through that process, I would say that there is no set model to follow. A lot of it comes down to feeling and how quickly you want to scale.

‘I have taken an organic approach to growth – supported in no small part by the backing of local retailers and drinks suppliers – and, in the process, I have gained even greater insight into, and control over, my business. From operations and supply-chain logistics to marketing and investments, I oversee every element of Forbidden Cocktails and work alongside my wife, Stani, to drive the business.

‘While I would love to expand the company even more quickly, the important thing is that any growth is sustainable.

‘When you consider that the brand was born out of desperation during Covid, to be taking Forbidden Cocktails to the UK – and hopefully soon to Europe – is quite an achievement.’

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