We've been running a number of articles about starting a food business this week, to share with you some of the tips, advice and insights from food journalist Bruce McMichael's newly-published Cook Wrap Sell. But we haven't heard from the business-owners themselves! Here's the story of Ruth Ball, founder of Alchemist Dreams who's finding a special sort of alchemy in her unique blend of knowledge and passion.
||Chemistry graduate, artist, activist and game-maker, Ruth Ball (pictured, left) is the creative force behind London-based drinks company Alchemist Dreams. But it wasn’t until she was waiting on a grey industrial estate, for an interview for a laboratory research job in the paint industry, that she decided to make her dream a reality. Because artists “don’t make house paint,” she says. “They make dreams.”
Ruth describes her business as: “Artisan liqueurs from the laboratory of a mad scientist”. Founded in early 2011, Alchemist Dreams offers a constantly developing range of liqueurs. At the moment more than 20 are available, with at least one new flavour added every month.
You can design your own flavour or choose from popular house blends like Black(berry) Magic – a mysterious blend of blackberry, ginger and Szechuan pepper. Ruth sells via an online shop and from market stalls dotted around London, including a monthly market in the City at Leadenhall. Weddings, corporate events such as new product launches for a cosmetic company, and hotel and restaurant openings are also a growing market for Ruth.
Ruth is enjoying the journey of creating Alchemist Dreams – within 12 months of setting up the business, she was working on it full time.
Although she doesn’t take part in any formal networking groups, Ruth has a wide circle of friends, many self-employed in the creative industries, who have provided an informal support group. She is a member of the Experimental Food Society
and is planning a number of collaborations with fellow members to develop new flavours and enticing products.
Ruth is developing cocktails to pair with cakes, and hopes to hire tea rooms in the evening to create a ‘speakeasy’ type atmosphere, one step away from the popular Supper Club concept.
Future market development, says Ruth, will take place at independent music and arts festivals identified as having “my type of customers and market”.
Ruth's top tip for food start-ups
“Don’t be intimidated by long, complex-looking official forms. Work away at them, little by little, and they will be less daunting.”
Buy Cook Wrap Sell from £5
Ruth's is just one of many insightful tales of innovative small food businesses in Cook Wrap Sell
. Produced in partnership with Country Living Magazine, Bruce's book is a complete guide to starting, running and growing a home-based food business. It's available as a downloadable ebook for £5 or a print book for £12.99 from the Enterprise Nation shop
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Photo of Ruth Ball: Alexa Perrin