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Start Up Loans Programme Backs Artisanal Welsh Brandy Business

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A landscape architect turned liqueur maker from Skewen has established an artisanal liqueur business inspired by the slow food movement, linking the pleasure of using traditional methods, sustainable ingredients and slow consumption for maximum taste.

Emily Richards, 32, launched Caru Spirits in April 2022. The company makes sustainably-produced brandy liqueur for distribution to local markets, online alcohol retailers including Amazon, and independent shops in Wales such as the Loafley Bakery and Deli in Tenby.

Sense of place, and the ability to create a connection with a place, has always been important to Emily, thanks in part to her job as a landscape architect and her experience of travelling.

She started experimenting making liqueurs from lemons when she found herself living in the Spanish countryside during the Coronavirus lockdown and the experience inspired her to turn a long-held dream of running an artisanal spirits company into a reality.

“Every European region used to have their own brandy made using local fruits, but over time globalisation has phased large parts of this practice out and everyone basically started drinking the same thing. I’m a huge advocate of the importance of local provenance in what we eat and drink and so I think it’s time to go full circle and return to our home grown roots. And having grown up in Wales, it’s been even more ingrained in me the importance of preserving local culture”,

says Emily.

Longing for home, Emily set about creating a brandy liqueur with spices and flavours that would conjure up a family Christmas at home in Wales. She named it ‘Caru’, the Welsh word for love.

Emily is now collaborating with one of the UK’s Master Distillers and awaiting the opening of Caru Spirit’s first barrel of brandy liqueur after six months of maturing.

“I think there’s something timeless and luxurious about brandy. And consumers are increasingly looking to broaden their horizons when it comes to liqueur options, we’ve seen this in the growth of other sectors, like the boom in boutique gin brands for example. With this in mind I felt the moment was right to establish Caru Sprits”,

says Emily.

Emily received £25,000 to launch her new venture via the British Business Bank Start Up Loans programme. The loan has been used to pay for the upfront costs of producing the liqueur, including the wine and ingredients needed to make the brandy, the barrels, packaging, the company’s website and design.

The British Business Bank Start Up Loans programme provides government backed loans of up to £25,000 per individual, up to a maximum of £100,000 per business, facilitated through delivery partners in Wales like Business in Focus based in Bridgend. In addition to finance, successful applicants receive 12 months of free mentoring and advice.

It’s this support, as well as the loan itself, that Emily found invaluable:

“I had the business concept in my head and it was really valuable to have someone to bounce ideas off… I don’t know if I would have gone ahead and launched Caru Spirits if the Start Up Loan programme wasn’t such a supportive experience”,

she says.

The Start Up Loans programme has delivered more than 4,300 individual loans to entrepreneurs in Wales over the past ten years, worth over £43m. In September, the British Business Bank announced it is expanding the programme to include new businesses that have been trading for up to three years. It is also providing Second Start Up Loans to businesses trading for up to five years.

With circular sustainability at the core of her business, and in anticipation of sales booming, especially around the Christmas season, Emily hopes to reinvest the profit from her sales to produce 4,000 bottles of brandy next year.

Jess Phillips, Senior Manager for Wales at the British Business Bank, said:

“Caru Spirits, born out of the slow food movement with its focus on sustainability and culture, is exactly why our Start Up Loans programme exists – to bring the ideas of passionate entrepreneurs to life.”

“We are pleased to support Emily’s dedication to environmentally-conscious, artisanal production and Caru Spirit’s celebration of Welsh culture. We wish her all the best with the business’s growth.”