Program: New York
Intake: March 2011
Current Roles: Co-founder of Valentian Vermouth
Dominic Tait (New York, March 2011) is the co-founder of Valentian Vermouth, alongside his brother David. Valentian is Scottish-Italian vermouth which combines the best ingredients from Scotland & Italy including small batch Italian wine and make new malt barley spirit, and botanicals cultivated in both countries.
Dominic is responsible for the sales and marketing side of the business and day to day operations.
How did you get into this line of business?
I was introduced to the drinks industry at an early age: my father worked in the Scotch Whisky industry and in brewing. I think I did my first distillery visit at the age of 5!
I found the drinks industry really exciting and absolutely fascinating – especially seeing the development and launch of new products. I developed a further passion for premium, high quality drinks working in bars at university – I was really drawn to the business and always wanted to get involved in some way myself. I eventually worked for some of the leading companies including William Grant & Sons, the owners of Glenfiddich, Balvenie and Hendricks amongst others.
There’s an incredible high regard internationally for products with a Scottish provenance – something I saw on Mountbatten. So many of my American and international colleagues would ask me for Scotch whisky or gin recommendations – this was something of which I was incredibly proud.
While working in New York on Mountbatten I was exposed to some really incredible hard working, entrepreneurial and creative people – there is a real ‘can-do’ atmosphere on the program. I like to think I’ve taken this mind-set to heart and brought it into the business.
How did you go about setting it up and getting established?
Like many good ideas we developed the concept for Valentian Vermouth over a few drinks in the pub!
We worked really hard researching the product and production methods – we also utilised our extensive network of contacts in sourcing ingredients and production partners in Italy to help us create the final product. We have been incredibly lucky to find some great partners to bring the idea to fruition. We are incredibly proud of the fact we bootstrapped the project to launch too but we really couldn’t have done it without the help of our friends, family and supporters.
What else is in the pipeline?
Really excitingly we’re about to launch a crowdfunding at the start of May with Crowdcube! We’re fundraising to grow our sales and marketing team, expand our range (adding Bianco and Secco vermouth) and build a “brand home” in the Scottish Borders amongst other activities. The brand home will be a vermouth bar, tasting room and experimentation studio for consumers and bartenders from around the world to come an experience Valentian – as well as a place for us to develop new lines.
Investors have the opportunity to become part of our family business and join us on an incredible journey – making Valentian vermouth the next big thing in drinks.
What has been the proudest moment in your working life thus far?
It might be a little cliché – but achieving that first ‘win’ of getting Valentian listed in a bar for the first time and then going in for a cocktail, it was really amazing – it was a tough journey at times getting the product to market, so it was a huge achievement.
What has been your biggest mistake/learning experience?
Underestimating the time it would take to get the project together – I thought we could do it much quicker. I’ve had to learn to be patient and not rush things. There’s definitely a lot to be said for planning and having key goals in mind – but be ready to pivot and change your timelines or strategy.
Who are your role models?
I love entrepreneurial stories and the Estee Lauder story is really impressive. She was born in New York to Jewish immigrants and went on to found one of the biggest most luxurious names in cosmetics. (Arguably one of the creators of the industry.) Her famous quote: “I have never worked a day in my life without selling. If I believe in something, I sell it, and I sell it hard.” – is a great maxim for entrepreneurship.
Any words of advice/wisdom would you impart to others thinking of setting up their own business?
Find good partners if you can. Being an entrepreneur doesn’t mean doing everything yourself – recognise what skills or expertise you lack and find others to help fill the gaps.
Most importantly though: take the plunge! – you’ll make mistakes, sure, but the rewards are so worth it.