What was your first job?
A butcher delivery boy. My branded bicycle had what seemed like a giant wicker basket on the front. Each parcel was lovingly wrapped in thick brown paper, skill-fully tied and tagged with beautiful handwriting – a craft in itself.
This instilled in me that if a job is worth doing, then it’s worth doing right.
What qualifications do you have?
I left school without formal qualifications and worked my way up from glass collector to general manager, to founder of an award-winning brand. Determination and hard work, in my experience, is what pays off in the long run.
What do you attribute your success to?
Passion and surrounding myself with talented people.
How would you describe yourself to someone who’d never met you?
I like to think I put a smile on people’s faces whenever possible.
Who do you look up to in business?
Local hoteliers, bar and restaurant owners and the like. So many have invested massive amounts of time, energy and enthusiasm into the City of Belfast and are owed a lot of respect.
How do you get the best out of the people who work for you?
I encourage everyone to be an ambassador for Northern Ireland. Jawbox represents the true character of our people and celebrates our pride and craftsmanship.
If you could change one thing about doing business in Northern Ireland, what would it be?
Our licensing laws so we can compete with other European destinations. It’s also important we help young people see hospitality as a serious career. Whilst Northern Ireland boasts some of the most talented staff in the world, there is a skills shortage which could worsen if not addressed.
What website or app could you not do without?
Instagram. We love to see people from around the world share photos of our gin.
What was the last book you read?
I’m not a big reader but I read industry titles to keep an eye on emerging trends and new brands.
What car do you drive?
A Jeep Renegade, branded of course. Watch out for me on the road – it probably means there’s a Jawbox tasting not too far away.
Tell us something interesting about yourself.
In 2008 I ran a festival to celebrate the 200th birthday of Belfast-baker, Barney Hughes. Alongside tours, exhibitions and concerts, I also commissioned a beer from a local brewery named ‘Barney’s Brew’, which remains one of its best-selling products.
What is your greatest passion outside work and family?
Travel. So far, I’ve visited China, Vietnam, Cambodia, South Africa, The Philippines, USA and most major European cities. A lot more to see.