Leaving her role as a software engineer in bustling London and moving to rural Cambridgeshire to launch a gin distillery didn’t faze Emily Robertson, co-founder of Roundwood Gin.
“The way the world is now, it’s pretty easy for us to get deliveries daily or send parcels and in terms of being connected in that way,” she says of her choice of location near Huntingdon.
Emily, 28, took out a loan of £25,000 in 2017 through Virgin StartUp to set up the distillery with co-founder Rupert Waters. She used the loan to transform a former barn into a fully functioning distillery with a hand-designed copper still.
However, internet connectivity proved to be an early issue for the rural-based business. “Broadband has been interesting. We’ve got microwave-based dishes on the roof rather than cable, as broadband was hopeless, and we couldn’t get much done initially.”
Another challenge was the Covid-19 pandemic. “It’s made for an interesting year,” admits Emily. “It’s not what we planned or wanted. We’ve simply had to try and make the best out of it.”
The pandemic saw Emily switch gears from pure gin production to creating hand sanitiser for the local community after seeing news reports on the national sanitiser shortage at the start of the pandemic in 2020.
She launched her own range of hand sanitiser and sold individual bottles through her website. She used the proceeds to fund donating supplies of larger volumes of sanitiser to the local community, such as doctors’ surgeries.
Covid has taught Emily that flexibility is crucial: “It’s definitely about being flexible and being a bit more willing to try things. The ability to pivot, make changes and operate a bit more outside the comfort zone. Things change, and we have to make the best of it.”