And what do you think is the one key ingredient to a successful family business other than love and passion?
Well, our business motto is ‘f*** it’. And as far as we’re concerned, that’s what we live and die by. When Jen first quit her job, it was ‘f*** it’, let’s do it.
What I mean by ‘f*** it’ is, just be bold in what you do. If you really think it’s worthwhile doing it, then do it. But ultimately, if it was easy everyone would do it. When I first started working on the business my friends would say ‘Why would you bother to do this?’ My old boss was the same, when I got my first still got delivered to my office he told me I was an idiot… he took that back 4 months later!
I think this ‘being bold’ rhetoric just says everything about you. When we were on the panel together at that Northwest Insider event your desire to succeed came across so strongly. Do you mind me asking, where does that come from?
Honestly, it’s a desire not to fail. I always wanted to start my own business growing up, conversely, Jen wasn’t that massively enthused about it and it wasn’t a big driver of hers.
I think it just comes from always wanting to do something new. If you discover something you love, why wouldn’t you put your all into it? Why wouldn’t I want to make a whisky next, why wouldn’t I want to build a new distillery? Once you’ve done one thing, it needs to roll onto the next. For us, the development of our brand isn’t a game plan, it’s a natural progression.
That’s so interesting to hear you say that. At Morson, one of our core values is curiosity. We want our people to know that by being curious, and inquisitive you’re making yourself and your business better, and more successful.
Yeah, exactly. You must always be on the lookout for what’s new, and what’s coming. Two years ago, we didn’t have the ambition to go into whisky but in the next six/seven years it’ll probably become the focus of the whole business. So, you’ve just got to roll with what’s moving, what’s changing, and how your passions change and evolve.
So, whisky is firmly in the pipeline?
Well, I always say, and I stand fast in this, I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up. And I don’t think I’ll ever know. But I love this business, I love making alcohol – the next ten years will revolve around whisky. We call it a super distillery. It’ll be capable of producing half a million bottles of whisky a year. Compared to Scotland, that’s considered very small. So we would be a cottage industry business to Scotch Whisky and but we’ll be in the top three or four producers of English Whisky. So our ten-year goal is to produce one of the world’s best whiskys and grow internationally with that brand.
The still behind us is a thousand-litre still that can make a million bottles of gin. Our 750-litre whisky still can only make 40,000 bottles. So we need a 15,000 square foot space to make the equivalent amount of whisky to gin. So the focus for the next two to three years is to get a new distillery up and running and fire into production because you’ve got to wait at least three years for it to mature into whisky.
Will it be Manchester’s first whisky?
I mean Macclesfield have a whisky and the guys at Forest Gin, but that’s Cheshire, so yeah, Manchester’s first. But also the best, I want to produce the world’s best whisky, you know, just a small feat…
You’ve got guts and ambition. It’s great. Whilst we’re talking about the future, what would you like your son to follow in your footsteps?
You know what, I just want him to do what makes him happy. Jen and I always talk about how amazing it is to see his personality developing and coming through. He’s four now and in reality, the job he’s most likely to do doesn’t even exist right now. When I think when I was a child, social media didn’t exist now I employ three people in our social media team – a job that didn’t exist 20 years ago.
I’d like him to be in control of his own life, which for me meant running my own business when however hard you work is usually a direct correlation to how much you earn. But money is not the be-all and end-all. Genuinely, I would say, as long as he’s happy, that’s the most important thing.
When we were on the panel, you spoke about legacy. The fact that you wanted to create a business that is still going and growing when your son is older. Is that a driving factor?
Yeah, the way we’ve built our brands is for longevity. It comes back to my old days in property. The reason I went into property was to build a building that outlived me. I wanted my children, and my grandchildren to go and see that building, and say “Granddad built it” and it’s the same thing with our brand. I have no interest in him running this business, he has to go and live his own life, as I did. We’ll always have our family name on the back of every bottle we produce and it’ll be something that he (hopefully) is very proud of. But he doesn’t need to run this business if he doesn’t want to.
So as we’re in the festive season, what does Christmas look like in the Heeley-Wiggins household?
Food, food, and more food. I’ve already written the menu. I wrote it probably six weeks ago. I’m obsessed with food. So is my little boy and there’s not much he doesn’t eat. We tried him a couple of years ago with caviar and he enjoyed it but we can’t afford to keep him eating like that!
We usually have six or seven courses from nine to nine, so it’s a 12-hour eating and drinking fest.
And matching cocktails?
Yes, everything is paired with a cocktail. So we’ve got breakfast paired with a breakfast martini. Then prawns in a cream sauce with a French 75 (a cocktail made of gin, champagne, lemon juice, and sugar), followed by a tomahawk steak and a lovely bottle of wine from where we had our honeymoon in Bordeaux and then cheesecakes, cheeses and hams. Then it’s total regret at about 9:15 pm when you can’t move on the sofa!
It’s really special to see a local couple build something so successful, through pure hard work, dedication and above all love.
Seb and Jen’s passion for their business and brand made me think about a term which describes the polar opposite, one that has made its way into the mainstream this year. First touted on TikTok, back in March, the term ‘Quit Quitting’ has done the rounds with the recruiter and business media, generating plentiful commentary and analysis. Viral videos describe quiet quitting as delivering just what your job description demands and no more. You’re ‘quitting’ the idea of going above and beyond by doing the ‘bare minimum’ – that’s it. Individuals feel disengaged from their roles or they lack the same energy or passion they once had.
Regardless of your employment status – entrepreneur, perm, contract or otherwise – it’s natural to strive for a sense of purpose. People want to understand their role, have a clear career pathway for growth and can see how their skills align with the outcomes that they – and the business they work for – are trying to achieve.
If you’re an employer, we must embrace differences, build digital literacy, re-skill talent, create a culture of ‘we’ not ‘me’ and much more. Together, these solid principles will help to tackle quiet quitting, quiet hiring, great resignation and whatever phrase hits the headlines next. After all, a survey by LinkedIn said that companies with a purposeful mission reap 49% lower attrition rates. And those numbers simply can’t be ignored.
Jen and Seb provide the antidote to quiet quitting, “If you discover something you love, why wouldn’t you put your all into it?” and since 2016 have gone above and beyond to build their business. Their success is a testament to the power of finding purpose.
If you are seeking a new purposeful opportunity or are looking for ways to keep your workforce engaged or attract and retain diverse, multi-generation talent drop me a message at email@example.com