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How these three entrepreneurs turned passion into profit

What do a gin distiller, financial planner and tent manufacturer have in common? They all followed their hearts into business.

Nicole Haddow

Your Money contributor

Gin distillery Brogan's Way was launched by a father-daughter team following their dream
Gin distillery Brogan's Way was launched by a father-daughter team following their dream (iStock.com/bhofack2)

Making the perfect gin martini is just like completing a complex science experiment.

So, having the precision of a medical laboratory scientist would be handy for Brogan Carr when she ditched the test tubes to distil gin for a living.

Despite being early in her science career, the pull to complete her Master of Science Brewing and Distilling at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland, was strong.

“My father had always dreamed about setting up a winery or distillery,” she explains.

They decided to make their shared passion for spirits profitable.

First, the fun bit: Carr, 24, and her dad, Simon, 55, visited distilleries around the world to see how the best in the business did it.

“They were all very generous with their time. It helped with still commissioning, equipment cleaning, marketing and even which pumps and pipes we should buy,” she says.

Investing in passion

In September, their three-year vision came to life when they opened Brogan’s Way, a distillery and bar in Richmond In Inner-city Melbourne.

The key to their early success is an evolving business plan that includes projected sales, production runs and operating costs. To make it work, they’ve invested their own capital and engaged an additional investor, too.

“As it turned out we weren’t far off on operating costs, but investment has been higher than expected. There were some unforeseen permit requirements and exchange rate movements,” Carr says.

Have the father-daughter team lost any of their passion during the hard slog?

“The love of gin and flavour never changes. Some things are new and interesting to me but other can be stressful. It has been a challenging journey,” she admits.

Go all-in if you’re game

Chris Browne, founder of Rising Tide Financial Services believes it’s difficult to do two things well.

“An all-in approach can pay off if you’ve got the right idea,” he says. But a lightbulb moment isn’t enough on its own.

“Unless you have a steady stream of clients you will be out of business in no time. Figure out what these customers look like, what they’d be willing to pay for your services and where to find them,” he suggests.

Chasing a dream might be a mistake when stress chips away at something you love.

“Following your passion is enormously satisfying but following your passion and making a significant profit is epic,” Browne argues.

He suggests that it requires careful planning, calculated risk and hard work. If you’re not prepared to get grubby in the process, it’ll be little more than a hobby that makes a bit of extra income.

Browne suggests throwing yourself in wholeheartedly when you’ve done your due diligence. “If everything fails you can always go and get another job knowing that you’ve had a red-hot crack at running your own show,” he says.

Reaching for the stars

For Stephanie Francis and her husband, Doron, trips away with their “bell tent” inspired their calling.

“The idea of creating our own version of our favourite tent came naturally,” Francis, 35, recalls. In 2014, they started manufacturing their Homecamp tents. Now, the business has evolved to include a glamping and events division called Under Sky.

After nine years in public relations, Francis made the jump to self-employment.

She completed freelance jobs while getting the business running. “I took a part-time contract with my old agency. Having that steadier income was needed as we grew the business,” Francis says.

In hindsight, their combination of “confidence and naivety” was a risky foundation. “I knew a bit about targets from being a senior part of my PR team, but I’d barely seen a profit and loss before. Nothing like jumping into the deep end to learn fast,” she says.

What they lacked in experience, they made up for in lifestyle forecasting, starting the business just as glamping became one of Australia’s biggest travel trends.

They’re not rushing to pay themselves generous salaries. “We have prioritised investing back into the business rather than paying ourselves a higher wage but can now see that shifting as we free up more cash.”

The couple’s advice:

“You can have the most amazing vision, but it doesn’t mean much if the numbers don’t add up. Think carefully about what you excel at and where you can outsource.”