Behind the Biz interview with Katherine Jenner Co-founder of Burning Barn

I hope you’ve all had a productive week. I’m here to share another exciting Behind the Biz interview with you before we begin the weekend.

If you’re new to PGT then you may not be familiar with this series. I created Behind the Biz as a way to highlight interesting businesses, discover the story behind their founders and of course, to inspire you.

In today’s interview, I’m chatting with Katherine Jenner the co-founder of Burning Barn Rum.

Where did the inspiration for Burning Barn come from?

Burning Barn is really a ‘phoenix from the ashes’ tale. On 26th September 2015 flights into Birmingham Airport were diverted on account of a vast column of black smoke rising from a barn on the flight path.  

That barn belonged to my father-in-law, Simon Jenner, and it was his innovative toffee apple operation that was quite literally going up in smoke.

Harry (husband and Burning Barn co-founder) and I were so inspired by the breakneck speed with which Simon picked himself of the ground, dusted himself off and resurrected his business. He had built it up from scratch, single-handedly designing and assembling the bespoke machinery, so was determined to see it flourishing again.

At the same time we’d been sitting on the sidelines umming & ahhing as to whether now was the right moment to launch our very own discovery brand. Simon’s gritty determination to overcome all obstacles was a sign to us that there’s never really a perfect moment to make one’s move, but if you don’t try, you’ll never know!

How did you decide upon the name?

Our name is a fitting tribute to my father-in-law’s unflinching business acumen & tenacity

How did you approach your first stockist?

Pre-official launch, we sent wooden sample boxes with both rums, the story and a photo of us to key buyers in the industry. This personal approach worked really well for some and we secured our first listings! Naturally, we also approached local businesses, such as farm shops and bottle shops, directly.

What did you do before starting Burning Barn?

I have a background in trading fine wine in addition to working for Lidl UK, where I worked in a variety of departments, including Wine Cellar, Promotional Planning & Supply Chain Management.

My goal had always been to gain experience in the food and drink industry before starting my own venture, turns out I was slightly more impatient to get going than I’d anticipated!

As for Harry, he continues to serve as a Captain in the Rifles Regiment in the British Army.

Did you always plan to set up your own biz?

Yes, thoughts of going it alone have always been close to my heart, it was simply a matter of finding the right idea. Both Harry & I were exasperated by the lack of ‘real’ choice in the flavoured rum category, where the vast majority of the participants felt a little too “samey” and overtly sweet. We knew there was scope to showcase flavoured rums in an altogether more authentic and discerning light by focusing on real ingredients, traditional flavouring techniques and a ‘small batch’ mindset.  

We’d observed the renaissance of craft distilling, the revival of artisan operations and a renewed appetite for premium gins and vodkas, and believed we could play our part in rum following suit.

Our Smoked rum, in particular, is a real game-changer, providing a very different take on flavoured rum, best enjoyed as a sipping spirit. The modern trend towards drinking less but seeking out high quality really resonates with us.

Share a business high and low with us. 

High: Either holding our first filled and labelled bottle or receiving the first order from Harvey Nichols spring to mind. But before that, the first sampling our initial batch of Smoked Rum was the exact moment I knew were onto something really special!

Low: Being let down by one of our suppliers in a pretty critical way was a real blow, but also a very good early lesson to learn. Resilience is key in the start-up world and you have to take these kinds of setbacks in your stride.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

See the positive in each and every situation. It would have been very easy to see a burning barn as a setback and become disheartened but in truth the opposite was true. Our resolve to succeed was only heightened; hence our proud strapline ‘Forged from the Fire.’

What are your plans for the year ahead?

Our immediate priority is an e-commerce site and to maximise seasonal sales this Christmas, but looking ahead we want to make significant strides forwards within the on-trade, the gifting sector off-licences, the major mults and the hospitality/independent hotel sector; anywhere in truth where fine whisky appreciation flourishes!

Find out more about Burning Barn, grab yourself a bottle and show support over on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Thank you to Katherine for taking the time to get involved with Behind the Biz. I can’t wait to see the business continue to grow.