Jayne Carmichael Norrie - The Gin Room Scotland: From an Idea to an Award Finalist

Jayne Carmichael Norrie

I am a self-employed Singing Teacher, so perhaps I am not the most obvious choice when selecting someone to develop a new business concept based around Scottish Gin. After previously applying for Elevator’s Accelerator Programme and not being selected, I was caught off-guard when I was selected this year; the competition is fierce and there are a lot of great business ideas out there.

My time with Elevator on the Accelerator Programme has helped me greatly in developing my vision for The Gin Room Scotland, and it has also been vital in helping me go through processes to clarify my vision.

One of the first processes I experienced helped me to appreciate my own skillset. My experience in music has helped me to hone an important skill, and one that is very valuable in the entrepreneurial world; Empathy. A lot of businesses fail early because they don’t put their customers needs at the forefront of their product design. It’s important to validate every step with data and to challenge all assumptions. When I went to the Juniper Gin festival I assumed everyone would have a Gin subscription of some kind, but in fact most of the Gin fans I spoke to didn’t like the idea of a subscription. They preferred to seek out impartial expert advice, and liked the flexibility of choosing products for themselves based on that guidance.

Another process which is linked to this, is one that made me realise a lot of what was holding me back was my own mindset. Many young businesses avoid talking to people out of fear their idea will be copied; that is highly unlikely to happen, and the amazing feedback you receive from your potential customers are well worth the effort. For sample, if I didn’t take the time to interview Gin fans, I would never have discovered they wanted to search for products not just alphabetically, but also by other criteria such as price and bottle size.

One of the funny things about entrepreneurship is the misconception people have about taking risks. Am I one of these people that’s going to put the keys to my house on a Roulette table? No, I’m not. Entrepreneurship, to me, is a process where you collect data which transforms what people conceive to be a huge risk, into a small manageable risk which tests the waters, but doesn’t end up leaving you homeless. To me, Entrepreneurship is about turning risk into little bite-sized chunks. I finished my research at the Juniper Gin festival with a wealth of ideas and inspiration. That was well worth the £60 train tickets to get there.

An important reason to developing your business idea like this, is to work out whether you really have a business in the first place. One of the things that Elevator made me realise is that great business ideas do not necessarily make great profit. The main criteria for a business is there are people willing to pay for your products; if you don’t have that, then you don’t have a business.

I have found the Gin fans who are excited about The Gin Room Scotland, and can’t wait for it to launch. In the meantime, I am raising the profile of Scottish Gins with news articles that have been featured in The Scotsman and Visit Aberdeenshire.

Jayne is the founder of the Gin Room Scotland and Forte Music School.