Living & Working in South Africa

Simone Musgrave, 47, resigned from her corporate job to launch Musgrave Gin. She lives in Hout Bay with her daughters Amy, 20, and Jessica, 18. For 13 years, I was involved in the innovation and development of food products, many of which are household names today. I would drink and eat my way across the world in the hopes of finding the next food trend for the South African market. I would research different global trends and then work with a group of chefs to create a brand-new product – I got to play with my food a lot!

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I really loved my job, but I reached a point where I was tired of working for someone else’s dreams, and started to consider my own. While on a work trip to London in 2015, I noticed that a lot of gin bars had popped up around the city. The years of experience I’d gathered predicting food trends had sharpened my instincts, and I knew that South Africa would be swept up by the gin craze too. When I got back, I realised there was a market for a locally made craft gin – and decided it was time for me to add my own unique product to the mix. I knew I was onto a sure thing, but I didn’t want to risk not having an income, so I kept my gin testing to after hours.

I got in touch with craft distiller Roger Jorgensen who helped me develop the perfect recipe. Happy with the concoction, I turned to husband-and-wife team Lucy Beard and Leigh Lisk – who run Hope on Hopkins, a small-batch distillery in Salt River – to help me produce my creation. After six months of development, I had a product that I could be proud of, and in July 2015, I released Musgrave Gin onto the market. Even though it had arrived on shelf as the gin craze hit SA, it was still a challenge trying to convince stores that Musgrave Gin was a valuable brand that they should stock. Thankfully, I’d made a few retail contacts over the years and was able to persuade them to sell my gin.

At the end of last year, I was retrenched. It came as a major shock, but there was a silver lining: I could put all my energy into Musgrave Gin, and finally be my own boss. As much as I love the product, Musgrave Gin hasn’t been able to pay all my bills just yet. I still do some consulting on the side to help supplement my income, but now I’m able to pick and choose the projects I want to be involved with, which is perfect. Musgrave Pink Gin is now available too, and, in time, I hope to evolve Musgrave into a luxury lifestyle brand that doesn’t only include gin. Some months, I earn a quarter of what I used to, but I can create the future on my terms – and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

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