International Women’s Day 2022: Spotlight on Annabel Thomas


Kirsty McVey

Kirsty McVey

Marketing Executive


Nc’nean is an independent, organic whisky distillery based on the west coast of Scotland, leading the way in creating a modern and sustainable way of distilling.

To mark International Women’s Day 2022, we sat down with Annabel Thomas, Nc'nean’s Founder and CEO, to find out more about how her business came to be, why she thinks sustainability is so important, and what her proudest moment as a business owner is.

Where did your interest in organic whisky distilling come from?

Originally my interest in whisky distilling was sparked by the place – our family farm is on the west coast of Scotland, and I don’t think you can be there for long without thinking of whisky! It then evolved from a family idea to something I specifically wanted to pursue, as I came to see a need for forward looking or modern distilling approaches – in particular, with regards to sustainability. Being organic is a part of our overall approach to sustainability, which is central to our philosophy.

Did you always want to start your own business? How did you get started?

Originally, no, I didn’t want to start my own business. I started my career as a strategy consultant at Bain & Co in London and envisaged I’d go the way of a big corporate afterwards, but I then spent a year and a half on an ‘externship’ to Innocent Drinks and it was there that my interest in start-ups, sustainability and business as a force for good really grew.

What has been your career highlight/proudest moment?

Oh, that is a tough one! I think the bottling of our first whisky was pretty amazing – seven years after I started working on the project. However, last year we announced that we were verified net zero for scopes one and two, and this year we were certified as a B Corp, which I’m also extremely proud of. Picking just one highlight is too hard!

Do you think sustainability should be at the forefront of business owners across the food & drink sector?

Yes, I think it should be at the forefront of every business owner’s agenda, food and drink or otherwise. This is the biggest challenge facing the planet right now; I believe it is incumbent on every business owner to act.

What are your plans for the business going forward?

We are still early in our journey – we have lots of growth opportunity ahead of us and harnessing that as well as continuing to progress our sustainability ambitions are the core focus.

I think sustainability should be at the forefront of every business owner’s agenda, food and drink or otherwise. This is the biggest challenge facing the planet right now; I believe it is incumbent on every business owner to act.

What advice would you give to any women reading this who are thinking about starting up their own business?

I’m not sure that the advice I’d give to women is any different than that I’d give to men – you need to be really, really clear about what you are doing and why. Why for yourself, and why for your consumers – the going will get tough and you need that to anchor your motivation. Make sure you have support around you – that could be from family, from mentors, ex-colleagues etc. And prepare for it to cost at least twice, maybe three times as much as you expect and for it to take that much longer as well!

Do you have any role models?

Well this is strange to say, but not specifically – I didn’t really see myself as an entrepreneur when I set out on this journey, partly because it was a family endeavour. Having said that, I look to other founders for inspiration and motivation – friends on a similar journey or the stories of others who have gone before.

Finally, what makes JC your adviser of choice?

Great whisky knowledge, a professional but friendly attitude and all of the expertise we need in one place!

 

If Annabel’s story has inspired you to take the next steps for your business, our advisers could be the sharp minds that you need. Get in touch with a member of our Food & Drink team to discuss how we can help your business now.


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