24 / 02 / 2020 / Tagged: News

Exclusive Business & Northern Insight – Nigel Mills CBE February lunch Jesmond Dene

Our February speaker at Jesmond Dene House defied the weather and despite the snowfall attracted a good turn out to hear his presentation and as it transpired sample some very good whisky.

Nigel John Mills CBE, attended Kings School Tynemouth and after a short stint in London with PWC has lived in the North all of his life. He comes from a family with an entrepreneurial spirit his Grandfather and Father were both successful businessmen.

In the mid 80’s Nigel left his chartered accountancy career with Price Waterhouse Coopers to return to Newcastle and with family support set up his own chain of newsagents, success followed until deregulation and Sunday shopping laws changed consumer habits.

The family entrepreneurial spirit kicked in and Nigel steered the business to diversify, adding additional services, lottery sales, post office counters, alcohol and groceries. The rate of change in this sector accelerated exponentially and Tesco Express, followed by Sainsbury’s local made it almost impossible for independent shops to thrive, when a bid was made the business was sold.

After a brief spell on the golf course, Nigel entered the hospitality industry, purchasing a collection of hotels in the Lake District. This business itself was not without problems, foot and mouth and flooding, but if Nigel had not come to own a The Trout Hotel in Cockermouth, the Lakes Distillery would not have been created. After seeing plans for a Whisky Distillery, Nigel made the connection that this would be good for his hotel business. A fortuitous meeting with Paul Currie who was setting up the distillery revealed the plans were on hold as they had lost funding. At this point Nigel stepped in and began the journey to create a luxury global brand with the creation of the Lakes Distillery.

In his presentation of the timeline, degree of knowledge, dedication, not to mention large sums of money, required to create a genuine luxury brand it was clear that all of these things have presented Nigel with many challenges over the last ten years. Listening to his re-telling of events it is clear Nigel is very passionate about the business and it’s success. Having come through the first ten years start up phase, the business is now in stage two, development and scale up, the range of products has increased, the team have grown and growth lies in a global market. The next ten years for the Lakes Distillery will be very exciting.

During his presentation Nigel was honest about his failures and the challenges he has faced and he gave us some key points to take away:

  • The value of good business mentors, whatever size your business is.
  • The value of attending networking events like ours, to grow your network of peers. From this you form friendships and solid business relationships that will provide a support system for you and your business.
  • His life lessons have taught him the importance of having a will in place and robust insurance policies, always important to check both.

This really was an engaging presentation and we tasted an excellent Whisky, thank you Nigel for sharing your story and being an inspiring and informative speaker.

Visit The Lakes Distillery 

Event photographs by Laurence Sweeneyview here 

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