Starting a business in South London: Morant Bay Distillery

The distillery start-up tells us why accessibility, a growing business network and venture support makes South London a great place to launch a business

Company name: Morant Bay Distillery Co Limited
Founders: Peter and Nicki Townsend
Description: Morant Bay produces and supplies new rum products aimed at the international rum market
Website: www.morantbaydistillery.com

What’s great about starting a business in South London?

We were attracted to the area because it is a very up and coming place on the Purley Way, and the pricing was extremely competitive for rates and amenities. The Croydon tram link is directly on our doorstep and it gives us instant access to all major rail networks serving central London and the South Coast. This area is also close to the M23 and M25.

Another great thing about launching a business here is that the business community is healthy with long established businesses as well as new ventures, creating a good source of support and networking opportunities. For example, Croydon Business Venture assisted us with finding our present office location and all related facilities, which freed up our team to focus on launching the company.

What business support in the area have you used? How was it?

The main financial support was from our local business bank Santander in Central Croydon.  We needed a business account quickly and the account was set up instantly.

Croydon Chamber of Commerce has also introduced us to some of our best contacts, from a legal adviser to a business mentor. Croydon Business Venture also holds regular networking events and meetings that have enabled us to broaden our partnerships with other companies such as UKTI, Andall Legal Service, and Marcus Bishop and Associates.

Name the top three reasons to set up a business in South London:

  1. The top reason to start a business here is that it is a great and affordable place to live too, meaning you don’t have a long commute from home to work.
  2. The second reason is cost effectiveness! As with any new start up, keeping outgoing costs low to allow good cashflow is very important.
  3. For entertainment purposes, Croydon has many attractions from good restaurants to the famous Fairfield Concert halls, which has hosted performances from some of the greatest acts, shows and musicians in the world.

Where could South London be better / what does it need?

It’s hard to say, perhaps more places for a company night out as we tend to go into the centre of London right now; however overall for running a business I’ve found South London to be great. I suppose financial support could be improved, but this is something that is needed throughout London.

How easy has it been to access finance to grow?

We were lucky with our bank and have tried to remain as cost-effective as possible but I believe the business environment could be improved if the venture capital introduced by the government was offered as direct funding to new start-ups based on their predicted business plan and cashflow forecasts.

I find that the available loans/grants only seem to be available to companies that have been trading for 12 months or more, which takes away the help and assistance required for new innovations.

Where do you go to network in South London?

We use the internet and social network sites to communicate with clients, buyers and distributors locally and internationally. This is one of the very best ways for any company to network.  Any contemporary organisation needs to have access to social media as it’s the best way to receive regular updates and feedback from potential and existing clients.

We have also used local facilities to join webinars and seminars, such as the executive circles run by the Croydon and London Chamber of Commerce.

Where do you take a client for a business lunch?

We are genuinely lucky to be able to invite clients direct to our base as the facilities at our office within Weatherill House offer us the opportunity to have boardroom lunches, where the management will cater for up to 24 clients.

There are also two great venues on the outskirts of Croydon; The Chateau Napoleon restaurant, positioned within Shirley Hills, is a stunning and peaceful location perfectly situated to accommodate a business lunch and meetings. The other venue is the Selsdon Park Hotel, which is set within a magnificent golf course and is again perfect for business meetings, lunches and presentations.

Where’s great for a company night out?

Company nights out are generally pointed towards Central London as the city has everything from bars, restaurants and casinos, to theatres and clubs.

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