Women in business Q&A with 58 Gin and Hoxton Arches

This International Women’s Day, we caught up with Carmen from 58 Gin and Laila from Hoxton Arches to talk all things business. 👩‍💻 Find out all about their journeys as women in business and some helpful tips 👇 

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, when did you first decide that you wanted to be a business owner and how did that occur? 

Carmen: I’m originally from Canada 🇨🇦 and have had an entrepreneurial spirit for as long as I can remember. I started my first business aged just six years old, making and selling Christmas wax ornaments to my friends and family – I think they knew then just how tenacious I can be! 🎄 

I’ve always wanted to run a business; initially I wanted to work in fashion, designing wedding shoes 👡, but a chance meeting saw me move into the drinks industry and I haven’t looked back. Drinks are forever evolving as consumers demand healthier and more sustainable offerings, it’s fascinating industry.  

Laila: I’m a mum and an entrepreneur. I first decided to have my own company in my 30’s. I’ve worked in various positions such as sales assistant, personal shopper, commercial agent and art gallery assistant. 👩‍🎨 One day, after all these experiences, I decided I wanted to run my own business. Since 2014, I’ve been the director of Hoxton Arches. 🥳 

Hoxton Arches being used for an art exhibition event

What does your business do? 

Carmen: 58 Gin is a distillery based in Haggerston, beneath the railway arches. 🛤 58 Gin’s philosophy is to do everything from the heart and its was born out of a desire to demystify distillation, craft a sustainable neighbourhood business and to act and think responsibly. 🙌 

As well as producing sustainable spirits, we run an on-site Gin School and an online Make Your Own Gin service.  Add to that the production of our iconic ‘Gin-Itizer’ product and we’re a very industrious bunch!  

Laila: Hoxton Arches is a rental gallery located in the heart of East London, and it is the perfect space to host a solo or group exhibition. 🖼 The Arch is also suitable for a wide range of events like weddings 👰, Christmas parties and product launches!  

What is your role within the business, and what are the pros and cons associated with it? 

Carmen: I’m the Managing Director and my role is incredibly varied and hands-on! We are a small but mighty team 💪 and I’m really proud of how we all support each other. My daily tasks can include hand labelling bottles, experimenting with NPD, liaising with suppliers, marketing, polishing our mini stills, fulfilling orders, admin, applying for accreditation and licences- the list goes on! 😲 The pros of my role include no day ever being the same, working with amazing people and continually learning as I get to be involved in every element of the business. The cons are that it can be pretty tiring 😴 and it’s almost impossible to switch off, so it’s a good thing that I love what I do! 

Laila: I’m the company director, so I’m in charge of all the administration, taking bookings, choosing suitable events for the gallery, and ensuring that they are running smoothly. 

The pros of my role are that I have the chance to meet and host various weekly events and meet a bunch of wonderful and exciting people. 🤗 However, at times it can be stressful as you have to make sure everything is running smoothly, and you have happy clients. 😰 

58 Gin stills

How have you and your business dealt with the pandemic? 

Carmen: 58 Gin became the first distillery to switch production to hand sanitiser when the pandemic hit in March 2020, taking just three days to pivot its operations in order to supply sanitiser to NHS key workers, care homes and hospices.  🧼 

We achieved our aim of producing 3,000 bottles and over the following 12 months we’ve gone on to produce 50,000 bottles of ‘Gin-Itizer’ – a product recommended by WHO and supplied to the Met Police, NHS trust hospitals and Marie Curie Hospices.  🏥 

Gin-Itizer came from an immediate desire to help our local communities and key workers. 🧑‍⚕️ It also provided us with a business lifeline which allowed us to protect jobs.  

I think a huge part of us being able to ride the wave of the pandemic has been down to us being a small, adaptable business. However, we’re also an incredibly passionate team and as such we instantly came together brilliantly to keep things going every day! 🤗 

Laila: I gave birth to my son two months before the pandemic, so in a way, it has been lovely to have plenty of time with my little one. 👶 On the other hand, this pandemic has had a significant impact on the event industry. One of the main challenges was dealing with the constant uncertainty. 😔 

Looking to the future, where do you see yourself and the business going? 

Carmen: My role is to drive innovation. Gin production is an increasingly competitive industry, so we must always be thinking a step ahead. 🤔 A big part of this will be collaborating and learning from ethical suppliers 🌱, neighbourhood businesses and highly established mixologists 👩‍🔬 and industry professionals to help elevate and nurture the brand. 

I want 58 Gin to be a household name. I want everyone to know who we are and what the brand stands for.  

Laila: We hope that we will be able to recover in the next five years. We are renting our space from TfL, and I am grateful for their support. If it were not for their flexibility, we would have probably been shut down already. We hope that business can get back on track and that the art and events industry will recover slowly. 🎟 

Hoxton arches being used for a wedding.

What tips do you have for aspiring women looking to start a new business, or for anyone in fact? 

Carmen: My main piece of advice would be to seek out sounding boards and not be afraid to ask for advice or help.  I’ve always been passionate about the benefits of knowledge-sharing and collaboration.  Gone are the days of people elbowing each other out of the way, there’s much more support from colleagues and peers now – someone’s success doesn’t mean someone else’s failure. 🙌 

Also, don’t be concerned with what people think about you, treat people with respect, understand that there will always be hurdles along the way and appreciate the opportunity to learn and grow from any failures – they do not define you or your capabilities. 

Laila: My tips would be to try to find a business or activity that you are passionate about. 😍 Dream big, don’t be afraid of the difficulties and go for it. 🙌 

Let us know your best advice for starting a new business 👇 

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