iVvy co-founder James Greig launches Wildflower Gin distillery

iVvy co-founder James Greig launches Wildflower Gin distillery

What began as a passion project with a brief stint as a hand sanitiser is now a fully fledged gin distillery in production.

Founded by Gold Coast-based serial entrepreneur James Greig (pictured), the distillery Wildflower Gin was unveiled this week to the delight of gin obsessives.

On paper the decision by a tech entrepreneur to launch a gin brand seems strange, but who better to produce liquor than someone who knows the hospitality industry inside out?

For those unfamiliar with Greig's history the entrepreneur has been an active developer of tech solutions since 2004.

His first business Bloomtools is a developer of software-as-a-service (SaaS) web tools, established before the advent of Web 2.0 when a web presence became a necessity.

However, it is his leading venue management tool iVvy that gave Greig the confidence he could pull off a gin business. 

"It was definitely a hobby that got out of hand," Greig says, speaking to Business News Australia.

"I enjoy creating in the general sense, no matter what it is, but it's nice to go from something digital to something tangible.

"One of the reasons we thought it would be a great idea to launch the distillery is we've got such a great network in the hospitality space here in Australia, so it was quite easy for us to get into all the various establishments."

He says the business basics learned from iVvy have crossed over nicely into Wildflower Gin.

"The idea that we've learnt very quickly with iVvy is that customers want to be loved and have a great relationship, and that's what's translating across in our branding and in the way we communicate."

The gin itself is stacked with hints of local flowers from the Gold Coast region, courtesy of the bees that make his own backyard honey which is also used in the distilling process. 

"That's why we call it Wildflower," says Greig.

"Effectively it's almost everyone on the Gold Coast having contributed to our gin in a way because the bees have been in their backyards, and now are adding to the flavour of our gins.

"We went through about 76 iterations of our gin before we decided on this particular one, and really what we've ended up with is something that's designed for people who maybe had bad experiences with gin or maybe that aren't gin drinkers; it's just so light and easy to drink."

The launch of Wildflower was, as one would expect, delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Naturally, Greig's venue booking platform iVvy had been put on pause (many larger venues are still closed or at reduced capacity). But with the pandemic arose an opportunity for Greig to put his distillery into use for a good cause: hand sanitiser.

Like many distillers in Queensland and around Australia Wildflower decided to pivot the business toward producing hand sanitiser during the early stages of the pandemic in Australia when the product was flying off shelves and nearly impossible to buy anywhere.

"So we actually started our distillery not actually making alcohol, we started out making sanitiser, which is not something I'd considered, I never thought we'd be in the healthcare game" says Greig.

"But the support was overwhelming. The whole COVID thing was really successful for the launch of the distillery and we did a post on Facebook one evening and within 24 hours we'd had 4,500 people signed up on our database and things just went crazy from there.

"We had one business [iVvy] that employs 60 people that went from very successful and growing very fast to all of a sudden almost dormant because all of our customers around the world turned off their lights. So the first thing we were able to do was bring across some employees that we'd just stood down and we could keep some people employed."

Though Wildflower has only just launched the business has already found success thanks to the enthusiastic Australian gin community.

The first batch of Wildflower is already close to selling out, which Greig initially expected to last around three to four months.

The brand was also picked up by gin subscription service Gin Lane as its monthly pick for May 2020, which Greig says is quite a big deal for a small distillery like his.

"For a new distillery that's quite a big order to be one of our first orders, so we're really thrilled" says Greig.

"Our product is going to go straight to the people that are fans, and it's just been great from a sales perspective to really help push it and get it out there and pull in more people.

"There's so much opportunity in this space; we're really excited about all the different things that we can do and who we can work with."

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