How I Got Here: William Lowe

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

How I Got Here with Cambridge Distillery co-founder William Lowe

Related tags: Gin

William Lowe is the co-founder and master distiller for gin producer and supplier Cambridge Distillery.

Why the hospitality industry?  
I started part time in the industry as a bartender aged just 18, and I have never looked back. I didn’t know what it would end up leading me to, but I’m so glad that I chose a bar over anything else back then. 

Tell us something you wish you had been told at the start of your career?
It *is* a real job! In the early days I spent a lot of time being apologetic for the career path I was choosing, but there was really no need. I couldn’t be more proud to work in this industry, and of what we have achieved. That, and trust your instincts – always. 

What’s your favourite restaurant or group of restaurants?
My favourite restaurant has to be the Cambridge-based Vanderlyle. Those guys are doing incredible stuff that is so innovative and ahead of the curve. It even inspired me to go veggie for quite some time.

What time do you wake up? 
5am.

Coffee or tea?​ 
Coffee

How often do you check your email? 
If I’m in the office, my emails are always live, but otherwise I try to check them once in the morning and once in the afternoon. 

How do you let off steam? 
Endurance sports like Ironman and shorter triathlons; paddle boarding; and rollerblading.

What motivates you?
Trying to achieve things that have previously been thought impossible is generally what motivates me. I love challenges that threaten insurmountable odds and then finding ways of surmounting them.

What keeps you up at night?
New ideas can definitely keep me awake at night. If I have germinated a new idea I will often sit and manipulate it until I have got it to a place I’m happy enough to sleep on. Oh, and my three year old often keeps me awake at night too!

Which colleague, mentor or employer has had the biggest influence on your approach to your business?
That would have to be Dawn Davies MW, who was a buyer at Selfridges at the time. She was the first person to really see how different what we do is. She believed in the impact we could have, and that really helped to give us the self-belief we needed. 

Do you prefer a night on the tiles or a night on the sofa? 
Sofa please.

What’s your signature dish to cook at home?​ 
I’m all about the Sunday roast – it’s the meal of the week for me. Roast pork with all the trimmings 

Typical Sunday? 
Sunday roast, of course, plus a family dog walk or a family swim. It’s a real family day for us. 

What’s the most spontaneous thing you’ve ever done? 
I once got on a plane to Milan because it was 99p on EasyJet that day – so I went for two days. 

Worst business decision?
The worst business decisions I have made are always the occasions where I have not followed my own instincts and have continued down avenues that didn’t feel right for too long. We have wasted time and money doing this and so now we always try to follow our instincts. 

Best business decision?​ 
Doing it! Starting the business is by far my best business decision. What we are doing is so unconventional that I had a whole queue of people saying don’t do it, you’ll be bankrupt before you start etc. But we kept going and now I’m so glad we ignored them. 

Favourite holiday destination? 
It has to be Montalcino in Tuscany. Amazing wine, phenomenal food, wonderful people, and stunning scenery. 

What boxset are you currently watching?​ 
Little Fires Everywhere.

What piece of advice would you give to those looking to climb the rungs in the business? 
Look at your motivations – higher up isn’t necessarily better off. Find your sweet spot – what you love doing – and find the job that allows you to do that. You can then concentrate on fulfilling your role to an excellent degree. 

If you could change one thing about the drinks industry today, what would it be?
A lot of businesses have become very finance led - the pressure that we’re all under means everyone is trying to undercut everyone else. I want to see more of the people who come to it with energy and excitement and who want to bring something new to the table, rather than simply duplicating and diluting the category. 

Bio

Having grown up in Manchester, Lowe studied for his undergraduate degree in Psychology at BSC Manchester, followed by a post-grad diploma in Forensic Psychology at Coventry. Having spent several years working in bars, he went on to take on a handful of industry roles including as GM for Po Na Na, and subsequently Bibendum Wine Ltd. In 2012 he founded Cambridge Distillery with wife and business partner, Lucy. As well as a master distiller, Lowe also recently became a master of wine; one of only 409 people in the world to currently hold the title.

Related topics: People

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