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.