60 seconds with: Cocktail bar king Murdo Macleod from Zest Mixology

60 seconds with: Cocktail bar king Murdo Macleod from Zest Mixology

Posted: Wed 10th May 2017

Murdo Macleod, founder of pop-up cocktail bar business Zest Mixology, is speaking at Show Me The Money in Leeds on 24 May alongside lots of business funding organisations with money to give you!

Ahead of the event, Macleod shares his story including his experience of taking on board seed funding from HSBC in 2011, followed by a larger sum earlier this year to finance his national expansion.

How did you come up with the idea for Zest Mixology and turn that idea into an actual business?

I saw a gap in the market for people that wanted to wow their friends when throwing parties at home. The gap was for quality cocktails of a standard served in top cocktail bars to be available in your home home, shaken up before your eyes by an engaging and charismatic mixologist.

I wrote a business plan, took it to a HSBC relationship manager, borrowed £15,000 to buy beautiful pop-up bars and equipment and started the service. The loan was repaid within 24 months and I delivered 500 bookings within the first year.

What start-up challenges did you face and how did you deal with them?

Building the right team for growth. Obviously I couldn't personally work at 500 events in the first year so I needed a team. Finding people who share your passion, drive and excellence at point of delivery was a challenge and I dealt with it by employing a HR agency to asset me.


A crowd gathered at an outdoor bar tent at Zest Festival


How have those challenges changed as your business has grown?

This doesn't change; building the best team is the most important element. As my business has grown I've needed to employ more people (10 people plus 50 subcontractors)

How have you secured such big brands as clients and what's your advice to other small business owners looking to secure big customers?

I deliver eloquent and elegant business pitches that are clear, concise and super tuned in to exactly what the client needs. The a dive is to do the homework and find out what the client needs.

Have have you managed to convince HSBC to provide funding?

The first loan was £15,000 for start-up and growth and the second was for £80,000 for scale up to open a second warehouse operation (now one in Leeds and one in London). I got the loans because of a compelling business plan and great financial track record (double digit revenue growth for five consecutive years)

What's your marketing strategy and how do you use social media?

We cater business events and decadent private parties, marketing through word of mouth, client recommendation and targeted prospective business meetings. We use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram, with structured content compiled by our marketing agency.

What are your three tips for other entrepreneurs looking to scale a business?

  • Know your numbers and be super clear on what part of the business it is you want to scale

  • Build the infrastructure fast to be able to deliver the growth

  • Think big, win big, anything is possible if you put your mind to it


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