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Jazz Shapers

Shaper: Louise McGuane

Transcript

Elliot Moss
Welcome to the Jazz Shapers Podcast from Mishcon de Reya. What you are about to hear was originally broadcast on Jazz FM however the music has been cut or shortened due to rights issues.

Welcome to Jazz Shapers; it’s where the Shapers of Business meet the Shapers of Jazz, Soul and Blues. My guest today is Louise McGuane, Founder of the Chapel Gate Irish Whiskey Company. Growing on her family farm in Ireland, Louise almost joined the Army, having spent two years in the Reserves but after University, a chance meeting launched a career in the drinks industry. “For two decades”, she says, “I worked and learned from some of the best in global multinational drinks companies Diageo, Pernod Ricard and Moet Hennessey. I know the drinks industry inside out and it truly is my passion.” After marrying her husband in 2012, Louise made the tough decision to leave a career reliant on travelling and while watching her 74 year old parents working the farm as they had always done, she says she felt a duty to secure the future of their land. Inspiration came when Louise learnt of a nineteenth century whiskey bonder, JJ Corry, from her home county. She decided to bring back the lost art of whiskey bonding, “A piece of heritage from her community”, as she says. We’ll be chatting to Louise very shortly about a Kickstarter campaign, about global distribution and Louise’s views on luck and effort. We’ve also got brilliant music today from amongst others Sonny Rollins, Bill Laurance and Nina Simone. That is today’s Jazz Shapers. Here’s Etta James with Something’s Got A Hold On Me.

That was Etta James with Something’s Got A Hold On Me. Louise McGuane is my Business Shaper as billed earlier, she is the Founder of the Chapel Gate Whiskey Company and I must admit, I have to declare an interest, I have tasted it. I have tasted The Gael. Is that how you say it?

Louise McGuane
The Gael. JJ Corry ‘The Gael’.

Elliot Moss
JJ Corry ‘The Gael’ she’s saying to me, ‘Elliot, you fool, you can’t even say it properly. Just because it’s got an A and an E in it, doesn’t mean it’s a weird word’. It’s really lovely to see you.

Louise McGuane
You too. Great to be here.

Elliot Moss
I love… not being a farmer, being a man from Stanmore which is in northwest London, the end of the Jubilee Line, Louise. I am always fascinated by people that have been brought up in that world and then they come back to it. So, just tell me a little bit about the day you went, ‘do you know what, I am not going to be doing this corporate thing anymore’ because I mentioned earlier you were a proper hardcore corporate person, executive, flying around the world being awfully important with great titles. You said, “No, I am going to go back to the land. I am going to do something else.” When did that happen? If indeed it happened in one moment?

Louise McGuane
I think it did happen in one moment, actually. So, I had twenty odd years of major multi-national corporate life essentially and I think I didn’t when I grew on the farm, I probably didn’t realise that I was an entrepreneur the entire time because I had never seen an entrepreneur, it wasn’t in common parlance back then but every corporation that I worked in, I, looking back on it now I can see I was very entrepreneurial and so I would be given a project and just told to go away and sort of make it happen and then I would take that project and blow it up but I would do that in a very entrepreneurial way which sometimes means not playing the corporate game and just not necessarily working within the confines of a corporate culture, you know, just sort of making stuff happen regardless as opposed to doing it in a particular kind of corporate way. So, I did that in every corporation I was in probably and I ran massive, you know, huge big budget projects and I got a lot of stuff done but I perhaps didn’t really fit into the corporate mould but I worked really, really, really hard and I think the moment I realised that I can’t do this anymore was something to do with maybe a bit of like cumulative of twenty years of being a square peg in a round hole and also I think I came back from a particular gruelling business trip for about, I think I was on the road for seven weeks in total from Singapore to Brazil to the US and London and back to Singapore and maybe somewhere in between, and my boss called me up and gave me a very serious dressing down, a very demoralising dressing down for having a meeting with somebody that he had wanted to meet and, you know, looking back on it, it was, you know, it came from the wrong place in his perspective, it was just kind of him playing a corporate role and trying to work within the confines of a corporate structure and I sort of realised that, you know, matter how hard I ever worked, I didn’t fit in, you know, or conform to the exact corporate structure and that I was working within I was never to get anywhere, and I kind of made a decision in that split second that didn’t want to do that anymore, you know, I had been trying to do it for twenty years, that was probably the spark that got me thinking about setting up my own business.

Elliot Moss
And, very briefly, from that moment when the spark happened to actually starting the new business, what was the gestation period, roughly?

Louise McGuane
It was a couple of months so, after I had had that conversation on the phone, to kind of compound all of this, you know, I was living in Singapore and I was, my husband was living in London and I was making all of these sacrifices for the business to be in this international posting and be away from my new, you know, my then new husband so it was kind of compounded and I said, “I’m booking a holiday”, I booked a holiday and I went to Thailand, I think or maybe Indonesia, I can’t remember, and I sat on a beach and I wrote a business plan and then I handed in my notice and I was out of there in terms of, including the notice, a couple of months.

Elliot Moss
Wow. That’s called making a decision rather quickly and that is why Louise McGuane is my Business Shaper here today talking to me. She’s the Founder of the Chapel Gate Whiskey Company and you are going to be finding out lots more about the woman from the farm that has gone global and then come back home, in a way. But much more of that shortly. Time for some more music right now, it’s Sonny Rollins with St Thomas.

That was Sonny Rollins with St Thomas. My Business Shaper today is Louise McGuane – I hope I am saying it correctly – she’s the Founder of the Chapel Gate Irish Whiskey Company. I am looking sometimes at my notes about Chapel Gate because I think of it as this bottle in my office, I must admit, of JJ Corry and ‘The Gael’ as you said. So, you made the decision, two months, you wrote the plan on the beach. Did you need at that point, funding? Did you need external capital to get things going and where does one start when one wants to start making whiskey? I mean that’s quite a big thing, isn’t it?

Louise McGuane
So, whiskey is one of the more capital intensive consumer products that you can make, and it’s capital intensive for a number of reasons. There is two routes to make whiskey, you either invest a huge amount of capex into a production facility which can run you anything from, you know, a million to 25 million, how long is a piece of string? The issue then comes with whiskey, specifically Irish and Scotch Whiskey, you can’t sell it immediately like gin or vodka, you are legally obliged to wait several years, a minimum of three years, before you can actually bring it to market. So, there is always going to be a lag time between you investing in your plant and your stock and actually being able to sell so, I knew immediately, yes, this is a hugely capital intensive business no matter what business model I choose so I am going to have to go out and raise money and, you know, I think it’s pretty common people know that, you know, raising money is hard no matter what kind of business you have, it’s particularly hard, it’s even hard I think if you are a woman, that’s just statistically very, very well proven and so I knew, you know, I had to go out there and just sort of make that happen but the first thing I needed to do was prove my business case if you like so, professionally I had enough experience behind you and enough knowledge within the industry, you know, people would back me as a horse, let’s just say, or as a jockey but I had to prove that the business model and the story that I had and the product that I was going to bring to market was worth a punt so, back in those days I decided I needed a kind of proof of concept, quite frankly. I knew I had a really strong story in JJ Corry, you know, he was an actual whiskey bonder in my local town in the 1800s, it was an old business model and a piece of Irish whiskey heritage that had been lost so there was a really good authenticity to the brand that I was building and the story I was building around that brand, I knew I could call on my friends in the drinks industry and the whiskey industry to help me to create a really good qualitative whiskey. So, I knew I could do it but I had to prove it. So, back then, crowdfunding, unlike today, it was actually quite a new concept so, Kickstarter and, you know, the other various different consumer crowdfunding platforms were really coming to the fore so I decided I’d try that. I looked at some projects that were similar to mine that were, that had succeeded on Kickstarter and I set my target, I think, at about 50,000 dollars or euros or something and I said that the thinking was can I get people to part with cash just based on a story I can tell on Kickstarter.

Elliot Moss
And what would they get for the cash?

Louise McGuane
So, it’s a non-equity fundraise, right? So they would get things like a hat with JJ Corry written on it or you could get a barrel of whiskey, for example, that you could come and visit and you could come and stay at our house, we have this beautiful guest house on the farm that has won all these awards for design and stuff, it’s this amazing space to stay, they can come stay there for a weekend or it was down as simple as like you can name a cow on the farm so, it was really tiny little cute things ranging in price from 5, actually 2.50 all the way up to like 4000.

Elliot Moss
This is when you know you are talking to an entrepreneur because basically they just make stuff up. They say to me, “You know what, we could name a cow. I mean, that’s going to get people interested” and low and behold, how much did you raise?

Louise McGuane
Well, first of all we sold sixty of those cow things, I just want to say.

Elliot Moss
The poor cows. Did you ask the cows if they could be called? I bet you didn’t.

Louise McGuane
Cows are cows.

Elliot Moss
They weren’t, they weren’t asked were they?

Louise McGuane
Well, they don’t answer to their names anyway so they don’t care so they’ve been named.

Elliot Moss
So go on, give me the money because I want to play some more music in a moment but give me the amount you actually raised.

Louise McGuane
So, we exceeded the target pretty much immediately within the first like ten or fifteen days of the raise, it was a thirty day raise and I think in the end it was close to like 68/70,000 that we raised so, and then we shut the fund down kind of immediately but you know we were the first ever Irish Whiskey company to successfully crowdfund. That proved the concept and it allowed me to attract angel investment.

Elliot Moss
The modern and traditional being synthesised perfectly, or blended I should say, perfectly. Louise McGuane is my Business Shaper, lots more coming up from her very shortly but first we are going to hear from one of our programme partners at Mishcon de Reya, some words of advice for your business.

You can enjoy all our former Jazz Shapers and indeed hear this programme again with Louise by popping Jazz Shapers into iTunes or your preferred podcast platform, alternatively you can ask Alexa to play Jazz Shapers and there you will find many of the recent programmes. But back to today, Louise McGuane is my Business Shaper, Founder of the Chapel Gate Irish Whiskey Company and you have been hearing about what I would call chutzpah and I don’t know, I love all the different things, what Louise would call, I am not sure what you would call chutzpah in Ireland. What do you call?

Louise McGuane
I would be too rude to say that on air.

Elliot Moss
Yes, don’t say that, yes. She has a tendency to be rude has Louise but or there will be a jockey or a horse thrown in there or something. You were off to the races as you said once you got this money under your belt. You got your first batch out how soon afterwards?

Louise McGuane
Now that took a while longer, that took a while longer, yeah because we went out and we had funds in the bank certainly to now purchase whiskey and then to purchase casks in which to put it but then I had to source the whiskey and I came up against a bit of a brick wall there, to be honest with you because the Irish whiskey industry is old school is how I would describe it, you know, it’s been run by the same four or five organisations for certainly my entire lifetime. So I was a newcomer coming in, nobody knew who I was in terms of, within the sphere of Irish whiskey within Ireland so nobody took me seriously, to be frank in the beginning so I had to kind of convince people that I had all of this money in the bank and that I wanted to buy their whiskey from them and that took a lot of relationship building and it took a lot of sort of proving my case and proving what I was capable of and all the rest of it.

Elliot Moss
How long did that take, Louise, for you to actually secure the whiskey itself?

Louise McGuane
Well, it took about six months. It should have taken five minutes, you know, but it took six months.

Elliot Moss
So was it, I mean, A) obviously do you think it was sexist? I am imagining you do. B) I imagine that it’s a cartel in a way so people don’t like being broken into. But how did you then, I mean all you were asking for is sell me your whiskey, I mean you have money, give me your whiskey and why would they not?

Louise McGuane
Both of the things that you mention there, you know, it is a bit of… cartel is a strong word but it’s not far off but there’s not many people you can go to, to purchase whiskey from and a lot of people would not sell whiskey to me, they just refused. My business model was very different, I was very vocal all the time on social media within the whiskey sphere about things that needed to change and the progress that the industry needs to make to make it more relevant to whiskey consumers globally because the Irish whiskey industry had been really stuck in the past and was making one or two kinds of whiskey, lower end kind of whiskeys just like banging them out so, maybe I had built a bit of a reputation for advocating for change and people didn’t like that, quite frankly.

Elliot Moss
Did you do that because you, I mean obviously you believed it to a point but did you also know that would be differentiating because you’re a marketing person, you’d understand that? Was there a madness to your strategy? Or sorry, a method, and a madness, was there a method to your madness, I guess is what I am trying to say?

Louise McGuane
There was. Like, so, well first of all it’s coming from a very authentic place because I believe every single thing that I am saying and I knew what I was saying was going to be controversial and I said it anyway because of course people are going to pay attention to it and you are going to stand out from the crowd and, you know, I am willing, I don’t care about taking knocks on social media and I don’t really care if people think I’m too big for my boots within the industry or whatever, it’s irrelevant to me, like I know what I am capable of so I’m just going to go out and do it anyway, and it’s really worked to our advantage, you know, we are one of the most visible Irish whiskey companies within the category now. Certainly one of the most, the newer of the newer crowd in the independents, you know, people, you know, look to us for opinions on the industry and people know JJ Corry largely because of the fact that I am out there telling my truth and being authentic about how I think the industry should change.

Elliot Moss
May I ask, where did you get your inner confidence from because you are a very naturally strong person? I mean, whether there’s, you know, when it’s late at night and you are worrying about the eighty four things that you’ve got to worry about maybe you are a different Louise, I am sure are, we all are, but not everyone can project such a level of inner belief. Where do you think you got that from? Is that a parental thing?

Louise McGuane
Yeah, it’s probably a parental thing. Honestly, I think it’s just a life thing, you know, I had, I probably didn’t have this level of it in a corporation because I felt pulled in many directions and I was trying to make too many people happy and I was worried about what other people think. I honestly think that once I became an entrepreneur I was freed from all of that and I felt confident enough to just express how I felt about things because I believe in myself, I believe in my background, you know, if I am wrong I will always admit it and say it, I take accountability for what I am wrong about but it just, it just is part of me I guess, and I think you need it as an entrepreneur.

Elliot Moss
And today, how many bottles of your lovely JJ Corry are you selling across the different strands, the different variants?

Louise McGuane
Yeah, so we, so we’ve really only been on the market for three years now? Yeah, three years really we hit the market maybe two and a half really. We are exporting to the United States, we are exporting all over Europe, here in the UK, we’ve opened up Asia and what we’ve, the model has evolved into sort of a lower volume, higher margin model so we have gone very squarely for the ultra-premium and sort of luxury sector so our volumes are not huge but our gross margins are.

Elliot Moss
What’s that one over there? Louise has brought a present for somebody. We’re going to have to fight, Stuart and I will be fighting later.

Louise McGuane
This is a very, this kind of indicative of what we do, this is a very small batch called The Banner Blend. We do really, really small batches, you know, 120 cases or 300 bottles for very sort of unique clients. This one we launched in the summer, this is exclusively available in County Clare, you can only purchase this in County Clare where we are from. I made it available to some local shop owners who have been supportive of us and when we launched this on social media last summer, there were people driving from all over the country to, queuing up outside the shop to purchase it. We had people from Boston sending people to drive down from Dublin to pick it from us and it sold out in three and a half hours and that’s kind of, it’s very, very low value for us, that retails for I think about 80, that’s kind of our sort of sweet spot and we go up from there but everything we do is small and low volume, high margin but it sells out very, very quickly.

Elliot Moss
And it might be coming home with me, we’ll see.

Louise McGuane
It’s a collector’s item, that one.

Elliot Moss
Oh good. But I’m allowed to drink it as well?

Louise McGuane
Mmm.

Elliot Moss
Mmm, not so sure.

Louise McGuane
Have a look on the auction sites and see where the price is, yeah.

Elliot Moss
Good lord. Now, everyone’s smiling in here. Stay with me for my Business Shaper today, that’s Louise McGuane and she’s the Founder of the Chapel Gate Irish Whiskey Company. Time for some more music right now though, it’s Bill Laurance with Swag Times.

That was Bill Laurance with Swag Times. Louise McGuane is my Business Shaper. We’ve been talking about being confident, saying what you need to say rather than worrying about things because that’s what happens when you leave the corporate environment, you can just let go, take the handbrake off. Here we are now a few years in and the business is growing, you’ve got some investment, you’ve got people that are working for you, it’s an entity, this is no longer the thing that Louise had in her head on the beach, this is now real. Do you feel differently or do you feel just as liberated as you did those five years ago?

Louise McGuane
I feel just as liberated. This year is going to be a year of change for us, I think, you know we’ve just closed a round of funding which allows us to get to the next stage of growth essentially. The business model has evolved a little bit and we are in a period of acquisition in terms of, you know, whiskey again this year and we are staffing up a little bit. So, it’s starting to feel, you know, it began with me in a converted cowshed on the farm, just alone for a very, very long period of time and now we have people on board, we have as you say it’s an entity, it’s a business now but I still feel, I feel far better than I ever did in a corporation I think, you know I could never go back now, I could never, you know do what I used to do but it just brings different pressures with it, you know, as you grow and you bring people on there is an onus now to the people who work for me as well but there is a responsibility to them and the business itself is just a much bigger beast and has to be looked after in a much more strategic, you know, way and things have to get a little tighter internally and I have to say, acting a little bit more in terms of organisational stuff as I did back in my corporate days.

Elliot Moss
You know, you’ve got the supply chain stuff, you’ve literally got when is the whiskey coming, you’ve got the casks, you’ve got to make sure that the temperature is right, there’s the production itself, there’s the sales piece, there’s the marketing piece, there’s the HR piece as numbers of people creep in. Where is your comfort zone and where are the areas which are not comfortable for you and what have you done about the areas which are not comfortable?

Louise McGuane
My comfort zone is the marketing piece, I am very comfortable in that area, I am very comfortable in the sales, commerciality and sales of it. Production has been difficult for us to be honest with you and it’s difficult for everybody, everybody in the industry that I speak to, it’s difficult, there is a lot of bureaucracy around production in alcohol in particular and if you are not hyper on top of that, it can get really kind of sticky for you.

Elliot Moss
Have you got someone that does that?

Louise McGuane
I do now, yeah, so we have a production manager on site now so they are dealing with all of that. You know, being responsible for other people, I really take that very seriously, I take it very seriously in terms of their career development during the time that they are with us, quite frankly, and also the experience that they have while they are with us so, for me that’s something that I, you know, I think long, long and hard about and I am getting more comfortable with that. But the only sort of non-comfortable piece for me was the bureaucracy piece and dancing to the tune of the various Governmental bodies but we’ve solved that.

Elliot Moss
And in terms of the bureaucracy that creeps in to all these things, have you, again with your corporate hat on, have you gone ‘There’s a better way of doing that’ or have you had a different realisation which is ‘Every business has this kind of stuff to deal with’?

Louise McGuane
It’s the latter. Everybody has to deal with it, you know, I fought it for a long time, you know, I was being hyper entrepreneurial about it and thinking I could find a work around and a do over and a way through and that didn’t last very long so, you know, I lost that battle, you know, sometimes you just have to put your own entrepreneurial get it done, bull in china shop way, in a box and when it comes to dealing with Governmental agencies and bureaucracy and around a product as highly legislated as alcohol, you just have to do it by the book.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for my final chat with Louise McGuane plus we’ll be playing a track from Nina Simone. That’s all coming up in just a moment.

That was Nina Simone with the brilliant, African Mailman. Louise McGuane is my Business Shaper just for a few more minutes. We’ve spoken about being a woman in business and an entrepreneur and raising capital and how difficult it is and I have had a number of people on and we’ve talked about it, as you said, the stats speak for themselves. Looking back now, and looking forwards, does that disappear once there’s a little bit of success under your belt? Do people become inherently less sexist? In other words, they just start saying ‘well, that person who happens to be a woman, is backable’ or is it the same old stuff?

Louise McGuane
I think it’s the same old stuff so people invest in people they can relate to and you know, the majority of my investors are men, God bless them, and they happen to see beyond, you know, my gender, quite frankly but I think, you know, there’s going to come a point that we are going to go into sort of probably institutional investments and much, much bigger scale, you know, at the moment we have, it’s not friends and family at series A but there will come a point where I will be sitting in front of either VCs or big institutional investors and I just know it’s going to be, yeah, it’s going to be similar. That’s going to change eventually but what I always say to everybody is, is that that is the reality of the world that we currently live in. I, as an individual female Founder, I am not going to change that, I don’t think it’ll change by the time I have finished work, I think the next generation might have that advantage but until you have more women in VCs, until you have more women like at institutional investment organisations, it’s just not going to change so you just have to work around it, you know.

Elliot Moss
Is there a lot to learn about as you get bigger and the investors get bigger and the amounts get bigger? Is it just common sense or have you gone, or have you had to have external advice saying listen this is how we are going to approach it and if you have done that, the kind of advisors you have, does it matter whether they are men or women to you at all?

Louise McGuane
No, I couldn’t care less who they are but I know I need it. That is not, and you know, starting this business, it wasn’t even something I massively thought about, you know, fundraising in terms of when you are getting to bigger numbers but I very quickly realised this is not something I have a skill set for, I have no background in this, I have no experience in this, there is different language involved, you have to also protect yourself as a Founder as well, there are so many elements that are involved and that you have to get advice and I couldn’t care less who is giving me that advice as long as they know what they are doing and they are beside me for that particular ride.

Elliot Moss
And is the vision for you to grow this into a global business? Is it going to be in, you know, five years, ten years’ time, the number one whiskey coming out of Ireland or is there something else that’s driving you?

Louise McGuane
It won’t be the number one whiskey, it can’t be because I can’t go up against, you know, the six million cases of Jameson or whatever, that’s not it but we are, I want to be the… right now we are a global small business, like that’s what I was aiming for, that was kind of step one.

Elliot Moss
But award winning. I mean you are being feted for the taste which I can testify to.

Louise McGuane
Yes. Whiskey people, you know, the whiskey lovers love us and, you know, we are on a path now to the next stage of growth which is becoming a bigger consumer facing brand rather than just a whiskey connoisseur facing brand.

Elliot Moss
Can I quickly ask, sorry interrupting you on this just because it’s important, how did you know what good whiskey would taste like apart from your own taste buds? Was there a group of people advising you on what this should be like and the viscosity of it and the way the blend works and so on because it’s a pretty exact science, isn’t it?

Louise McGuane
Yes, so that is not my skill set and again, for me, you’ve got to surround yourself with people who are better in certain things than you are, it’s vital to the success of my business so I work with a nose whose sole job and sole duty is to create and curate flavours into our whiskeys essentially. And that’s a specialist skill, it’s a very hyper specialist skill so I work with a nose in order to help with that. I’ll define the commerciality of it and I’ll say we need a super juicy fruity fruit bomb Irish whiskey and then…

Elliot Moss
The nose comes in. Where does the nose live?

Louise McGuane
In the UK.

Elliot Moss
And was the nose part of the Kickstarter campaign? I don’t think he was, no.

Louise McGuane
No, no, no.

Elliot Moss
The nose was not for sale.

Louise McGuane
The nose… we don’t talk too much about the nose because the nose is like an industry person who works for, who has to remain autonomous because they nose for a lot people.

Elliot Moss
I love this notion, I want to meet… can I just say, one day, I want to meet the nose but you obviously, we’d be like the…

Louise McGuane
Someday.

Elliot Moss
Someday, but he’ll have a helmet on his head and we won’t know who he is, in a black visor. Listen…

Louise McGuane
It could be a woman.

Elliot Moss
It could be a woman, well that’s true. Very good point, very good point. Thank you for correcting me. Louise, it’s been lovely talking to you and really good luck with it. The taste is phenomenal. I know I am now sounding biased but it is just like, I enjoyed ‘The Gael’ and I am looking at this Banner County Blend and I am going, ‘Wow, I can’t wait for a bit of that’ maybe at some point this evening. Just before I let you go though, what’s your song choice and why have you chosen it?

Louise McGuane
My song choice is Miles Davis, So What. I left Ireland in 199…dadada, a long time ago and, you know, I literally left and I went to go and work in the United States, I was working in Boston and I had a roommate who had a record player and he put a kind of Blue on, on a Sunday morning after, you know, I got up out of bed and I had never in my life heard a jazz record ever before, really, and I couldn’t believe it, I was like “What is this? This is amazing” and then that took me down sort of like a five year path really of Miles Davis and Dave Brubeck and all of those guys and it was the first record I ever heard and I still play it now on Sunday morning when I wake up.

Elliot Moss
That was So What from Miles Davis, the song choice of my Business Shaper today, Louise McGuane. She was driven, really focussed, had huge self-belief and has been absolutely liberated by becoming an entrepreneur after twenty years in the corporate world. Really good stuff. That’s it from me and Jazz Shapers, have a super week.
We hope you enjoyed that edition of Jazz Shapers. You will find hundreds of more guests available for you to listen to in our archive. To find out more just search Jazz Shapers in iTunes or your favourite podcast platform or head over to mishcon.com/jazzshapers.

Louise McGuane is the Founder of the Chapel Gate Irish Whiskey Company.

Having left Ireland in 1995, Louise pursued an international career in the luxury drinks industry living and working in New York, Paris, London and Singapore.

Returning home she learnt of a nineteenth century whiskey bonder, J.J Corry, from her home county of Cooraclare, and decided to bring back the lost art of Irish Whiskey Bonding becoming the first whiskey bonder in Ireland in over 50 years.

She matures and blends award winning whiskies which are now exported all over the world and is Ireland’s only solo female founder in the Irish Whiskey industry. 

Follow Louise on Twitter @lmcguane.

Interview highlights

I didn’t realise that I was an entrepreneur.

Being entrepreneurial sometimes means not playing the corporate game and not necessarily working within the confines of a corporate culture.

I sat on a beach and I wrote a business plan and then I handed in my notice.

Raising money is hard no matter what kind of business you have.

I had to prove that the business model, the story that I had and the product that I was going to bring to market, was worth a punt.

I had built a bit of a reputation for advocating for change and people didn’t like that.

I don’t care about taking knocks on social media and I don’t really care if people think I’m too big for my boots within the industry.

I know what I am capable of so I’m just going to go out and do it.

I feel far better than I ever did in a corporation.

Being responsible for other people… I really take it seriously.

You’ve got to surround yourself with people who are better in certain things than you are.

Shaper: Sir Martin Sorrell

Sir Martin Sorrell is the Founder of WPP – the advertising and marketing services group, and S4 Capital – an advertising and marketing company for the digital age. Sir Martin was CEO of WPP for 33 years, building it from a £1 million “shell” company in 1985 into the world’s largest advertising and marketing services [...]

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Jazz Shapers - 3 months ago

Shaper: Marcia Kilgore

Serial entrepreneur, Marcia Kilgore, is the Founder of Beauty Pie – the radical, luxury cosmetic buyers’ club as well as Bliss, Soap & Glory, FitFlop and Soaper Duper. Coming from humble beginnings, Marcia’s drive and ambition led her to Found Bliss Spa, selling a majority stake to LVMH in 1999. In 2006, she launched bath, [...]

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Jazz Shapers - 4 months ago