Marc Bushala had just sold his whiskey brand, Angel’s Envy, for $150m in 2015 when he saw Bob Dylan’s name crop up in the industry, says Ben Sisario in The New York Times. The folk singer and 2016 Nobel laureate wanted to trademark the name “bootleg whiskey”. Bushala and Dylan agreed to work together. “It was a little bit daunting,” Bushala admits, but it worked.
After raising $35m from investors, Heaven’s Door will be introduced this month in the US (the name “bootleg” wasn’t quite top-shelf enough, says Bushala, but will be kept for special-edition whiskies, costing around $300 each). The standard collection of three whiskies comprises a straight rye, a straight bourbon and a “double-barrelled” whiskey costing between $50 and $80 a bottle.
Celebrity-backed drinks brands have become big business in recent years, with, for example, American rapper Jay-Z’s $850-a-bottle Champagne, Armand de Brignac. Actor George Clooney sold his Casamigos tequila brand for a potential $1bn last year. “We both wanted to create a collection of American whiskies that, in their own way, tell a story,” Dylan told the paper. “I’ve been travelling for decades, and I’ve been able to try some of the best spirits that the world of whiskey has to offer. This is great whiskey.”
Entrepreneurial spirit saves eight-year-old from the paper round
Patrick Fisher was just eight when he started selling eggs from the family farm, says Liam Kelly in The Sunday Times. “By the time I was 16, I was supposed to be doing my GCSEs, but I was breeding chickens,” says Fisher. “I was earning a lot more money than my friends who were doing paper rounds.”
His entrepreneurial spirit has endured. In 2010, he teamed up with Damian Cox to launch Wildstone, an outdoor advertising business, which acts as a consultancy to help local-authority and private landowners to make money from billboards. Their advice has helped over 30 councils exploit their property to earn £120m from advertisers. Today, Wildstone has four arms: the consultancy, a specialist construction business, a planning practice and an investment fund.
Fisher and Cox each own a quarter of the shares. In the year to October, pre-tax profits at Wildstone came to £1.8m on turnover of £15.7m, which the firm expects to more than double this year.
Insourced jeans save a town
David and Clare Hieatt sold their clothing company, Howies, to Timberland for £3.2m in 2011, says Hazel Sheffield in The Independent. But before long, David had started casting around for a new start-up idea. “I’d written a plan about making jeans, because that’s something we did well at Howies, but I was wondering if I wanted to run around the same track twice,” says Hieatt. “Then I had a call from… a designer at Howies, and he said, ‘It’s not about you, it’s about the town.’”
For 40 years, Cardigan in Wales had a factory making 35,000 pairs of jeans a week for Marks & Spencer. In 2002, production moved to Morocco. David realised Cardigan was the perfect place to set up shop, as there were hundreds of people in the town with decades of experience. Today, Hiut Denim Company jeans sell for £145 a pair, and since Meghan Markle wore a pair, demand has soared. “The big aim is to get 400 people their jobs back,” says David. “There are things you hope for and wish for, but when they happen you think, ‘Wow’. It’s good for the team [and] it’s good for the town.”
The Tories spending their money on cannabis
Thomas Rowland and Tony Calamita set up London-based Love Hemp in 2015 to sell products containing cannabidiol (CBD), the non-psychoactive part of the cannabis plant (which in most forms is legal), says Alex Lawson in the Evening Standard. Online supermarket Ocado has even started stocking their bottled Love Hemp Water, which contains CBD hemp droplets. Revenues are forecast to hit £6m next year.
So, who are their customers, asks Lawson – “maturing stoners”? “Not at all,” says Calamita. “It’s health-conscious individuals.” Cannabis is “such an incredible product which is going to be making waves over the next five to ten years, and to be part of that movement is big for us”, he adds. Investors agree.
Last weekend, 200 people descended on the Cannabis Invest conference at the five-star Mayfair hotel in central London, says Andrew Ellson in The Times. “Woodstock it was not.” The most exotic items consumed were bottles of mineral water, and rather than partake of the drug, the audience of institutional investors had come to find out about the financial opportunities of a growing international market. Cannabis is legal in a number of US states, and later this year, Canada will become the first G8 country to fully legalise the drug. Britain, meanwhile, is already one of the largest exporters of legal marijuana. Many at the conference believe that legalisation in Britain is only a matter of time.
“You’ve got the Home Office denying that medical marijuana works while you have traditional Tories in this room investing in it,” Steve Moore of Volteface, a drug policy think-tank, points out. Where flower power has failed, financial muscle might just work, says Ellson.