Meet Nzeka Biyela, the craft gin entrepreneur


Co-founder of Sugarbird Gin Nzeka Biyela chats to us about venturing into the gin industry.
By Fundiswa Nkwanyana

I ventured into this fast-growing industry because I was excited about the challenges it presented. I had been observing the growth for some time and wanted to be a part of it. I was eager to learn more about craft gin and find a niche market.

Sugarbird Gin is an affordable and delicious gin. It is a lightly floral gin with notes of rooibos, honey bush, rose geranium and the Cape May flower. Many people enjoy it with ice or a mixer. I’m glad that the market has welcomed it.

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A lot of hard work went into starting this business. Firstly, we had to develop a strategy for the business, create a recipe with a distiller, have the label designed, build a financial plan, find distributors, then start selling. All this came with its own challenges, and I had to make it a success.

Using crowdfunding to get financial assistance was a scary and fun experience.
I love that entrepreneurs can use the Internet to raise funds without incurring debt. It’s all about encouraging people to give your business a chance. With the help of friends, strangers, PR agencies, social media and influencers, over one million rand was raised. Crowdfunding also gave me a chance to engage with prospective customers.

I’m glad that I was brave enough to start this business. Though the industry is very competitive, I did not let the fear of failure hold me back. Constant engagement with consumers and use of various mediums to market the product helps a lot. Through trial and error, the business continues to grow from strength to strength.