Meet the maker interview - Renegade and Longton
What was the first inspiration for your business?
My little brother is the really eccentric one in the family and for a friends 21st he made a batch of ‘elderflower champagne’ from a traditional recipe. When I tasted it, I thought it was so good and couldn’t understand why I couldn’t buy it anywhere. He wasn’t interested in making it commercially so left me to experiment on the recipe and process.
A secondary realisation was that you can ferment anything to make a sparkling wine, which opens up the possible flavour combinations available. We’re currently working on a gin inspired sparkling wine!
Tell us a few words about the launching of your business.
It is incredibly satisfying to see the finished product after months of imagining it! The next best feeling was to sell the first bottle. This felt like vindication for the hours of hard work put in. Although there are still many hours ahead it all feels worth it.
How did you come up with the name of your business?
It is a nickname for me and my business partner. I had a safe accounting job in London and I left that all behind to start the business making me the 'Renegade'! My business partner lives on Longton Avenue and we used his shed for the final experiments, plus we picked elderflowers from his street, making him 'Longton'.
Tell us a bit about your ingredients and how you source them.
We have conducted various experiments using varied sources of ingredients to perfect the recipes. We try to source these as locally as possible as not only does this provide more support for local producers it also makes it easier for us to communicate with our suppliers and ensure the quality of production.
Do you still drink your product?
Of course, although I try not to have it every day as that would be a little extravagant! If I am ever invited to a friends for dinner or am entertaining, I will always have a bottle chilled in the fridge. I would argue they are more versatile than a traditional sparkling wine, be that prosecco, cava or champagne, so you there are more occasions to drink them.
What is your favourite product from your range and why?
The elderflower blush is probably my favourite as it goes so well with a wide variety of foods making it easy to drink on a wide range of occasions. Although having said that I do prefer the colour of the label for the pure elderflower!
Describe a typical day.
I tend to wake up as early as I can without feeling too tired, normally around 6.30am. If I can force myself to I will then do a variety of exercises and stretches, mainly to keep myself fit for the various hobbies I enjoy, mainly skiing and surfing.
I tend to start working around 8am and normally with a longer more complex project that requires more of my time, I tend to work best in the morning.
Once I have managed to complete one or two of these tasks I will move on to other more responsive tasks, for example sales calls or responding to emails which then normally takes up the rest of my day and evening. At the moment, as we are just starting out I will be typically working into the evening, although I try to stop when my productivity starts to fall as I think it is important to be as well rested as possible for my mind to work properly.
What part of your job do you enjoy the most and why?
I really enjoy directly interacting with the public and making sales. This is double edged as selling the product is extremely satisfying as it proves people are willing to part with their money for it but at the same time we often receive a wide range of positive feedback from customers.
Additionally there is occasionally negative feedback which provides me with areas of the business to think on and improve, which I also enjoy, as a problem solving exercise.
What have been some memorable business challenges along the way?
One of the very first challenges I faced was realising I did not have the skill set by myself to make the product I wanted to make! That led me to phone around all the wineries in the South East looking for someone who would be able to assist me in perfecting the product.
This has led to my business partner Richard joining me. This is also very useful as Richard views things in a very different way providing a different insight into a variety of areas.
Another challenge we have faced is changing the bottle shape and the knock on impact on other areas, for example foiling and transportation. This required us to be very responsive as problems would arise that we would not have thought of, meaning we would need to deal with it at very short notice. It has meant we now have a production timeline in place which gives us a much greater control over how different alterations will impact the business.
Who are some other producers that you admire and why?
I really admire the Isle of Harris gin as they have entered a very competitive market but have managed to stand out against the intense competition. They have shown that if you can produce a quality product both in packaging and flavour you can still be successful. I also really like how they utilised a potential disaster to make great publicity. They had run out of their unique bottles, but rather than stopping production they offered refills of bottles if they brought them to the distillery.
Another small company I like is Manchester gin who have a very good product, but have also got a very clear story and product design that brings their brand together.
mouth-watering to share?