We’re delighted to hear that founding Ambassador in our Executive Team and Chair of our Awards Judging Panel, Graham Langley, has been nominated for the New Start Business Award by the Chamber of Commerce in his native South Africa. Awarded to a small business that has made significant strides in achieving sustained growth, the judges will be looking for evidence that the business has experienced a good level of financial growth in a short period and has good future prospects as well as the challenges faced by the business and how these have been overcome ie through being dynamic and innovative.
Graham is a Director of TBG & Co Ltd which is the brand owners of the ‘The Glover’ whisky which was officially launched in October 2015. The Glover is believed to be world’s first fusion of extremely high quality and rare Scottish and Japanese whiskies, and seeks to celebrate the current and historic relationship between Scotland and Japan, via an important historical figure. The whisky is named in honour of Thomas Blake Glover, a Scot who travelled to Japan in the 19th Century and had a profound impact on the modernisation and industrialisation of that country. He was the first non-Japanese to be awarded the Order of the Rising Sun by the Emperor. Although little known in Scotland, his home in Japan continues to attract up to two million visitors per year, and his name remains extremely well known there.
“We produced two versions of The Glover, an ultra-premium whisky called The Glover 22, which retailed at £1100 per bottle and a premium whisky called The Glover 14, which retailed at £95. Both were blended by world leading authorities on whisky, the Hon Alex Bruce of Adelphi Distillery Ltd, and Mr Charles Maclean, a world renowned expert on whisky and author of a number of books on the subject.
In just nine months starting in 2015, we took a concept, founded a company, selected partners and got our unique product to the domestic and international market. Our substantial stock sold out within days and attracted world-wide interest and media coverage – creating a demand for the next edition. Although our target market was Japan, the unique nature of our product, and subsequent international interest meant we exported 70% of our stock to fifteen countries: Germany, Holland, Denmark, Italy, Taiwan, Norway, France, Canada – Alberta and British Columbia, Sweden, New Zealand, Australia, Switzerland, Hong Kong and Japan.
Such was the interest shown in The Glover, it was the subject of a motion in the Scottish Parliament, which attracted cross-party support. The fact that we took a start-up business to being in profit within just a few months, especially when we were entering such a competitive market is, as one commentator said, ‘an astonishing feat’, especially where exports to so many different countries accounted for the vast majority of our sales.
We are currently working on variants of The Glover which, whilst retaining the brand and the high quality of the product, also creates a demonstrable historic narrative which seeks to maintain interest and export sales of The Glover. TBG & Co Ltd have adopted what we believe is a hugely innovative strategy towards exporting that has paid significant dividends. Although every business who seeks to trade abroad will undertake research into its target market, TBG & Co Ltd, even as a small, new company, really went the extra mile. We embarked on extensive consultation and research into the Japanese market, and gained a deeply sophisticated understanding of the culture, business environment and consumer expectations of that country. This exercise was time and resource well spent. This research informed our approach and gave us three very unique and innovative techniques to take our products forward: The first is that we did not simply produce an ordinary whisky that would have been jostling for position in an already crowded market. By blending Scottish and Japanese whiskies and coming up with a unique aspect to our product, we tapped into our target market’s taste for new and innovative items that are anchored in a respect for tradition.
The second is that although we sourced two extremely rare and sought after whiskies to use for our product, we did not rely on this to deliver a successful whisky. Instead, we went one step further and decided to ‘tie’ the whisky to our target market by using a Scottish figure who was instantly recognisable in Japan. This ‘character based’ aspect to the whisky was exceptionally well received and contributed to the exposure we earned, and consequently boosted sales.
The third is that we marketed our whisky not just as ultra-premium and premium whiskies, we highlighted the fact that our products were also a celebration of the life and times of Thomas Blake Glover and the relationship between Scotland and Japan. This aspect was both important and demonstrable; the blender, Alex Bruce is the Great-Great Grandson of the Earl of Elgin who signed the first treaty of trade and amity between the UK and Japan in the 19th century, and one of our Directors has won several awards, including the Consul General of Japan’s Certificate of Commendation for his work in promoting the relationship between Scotland and Japan for more than 25 years.
The Glover was launched at the Aberdeen Maritime Museum which has a dedicated exhibition to Glover. Principal attendees were Lord Bruce, The Consul General of Japan, Mr Hajime Kitaoka, and the Leader of Aberdeen City Council, Councillor Jenny Laing.”
We wish him the very best of luck, he has helped so many WeDO members and has been a stalwart in our Executive Team for 8 years and absolutely deserves this recognition for the huge success of The Glover.
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