The UK’s first female commercial mead maker has taken inspiration from the world of the mystical and magical to launch the region’s first mead brewery, after securing support from Sheffield City Region wide business support programme, Launchpad.
With a passion for history, folklore and Mythology, Alison Lycett from Worksop made the decision to start brewing her own mead three years ago when she was unable to find it locally. Using her wealth of knowledge in culinary herbs and spices from her background as a restauranteur, she decided to invest her life savings into developing a modern interpretation of the ancient alcoholic tipple for today’s market, and started brewing from her home on the historic Welbeck Estate in Nottinghamshire.
Alison initially balanced her mead-making duties with working full time but like many new entrepreneurs, the 42 year old felt isolated and when she wanted to upscale her business, was unsure where to turn to get the support she needed. After spending time researching the business support available in her area, Alison turned to her local council where she was introduced to the Launchpad programme; a Sheffield City Region wide initiative which delivers free-to-access business advice, workshops and mentoring to entrepreneurs and start-up business owners.
Determined to formally launch her business and seize opportunities to sell her produce, Alison worked closely with a dedicated business advisor at Launchpad to develop her business plan, whilst also learning about environmental and health legislations, marketing and digital growth via a brand new website and harnessing social media.
Brewed using unique, aromatic honey from the Wellbeck Estate and with a pledge to support British bees and place emphasis on ethical, eco-friendly production, Alison’s products can now be found as close as Doncaster and Nottinghamshire and as far as Whitby, York and Glastonbury. Apothecary Mead is now also receiving international export enquiries, particularly within Germany and the USA.
After tasting success in a short space of time, Alison has big plans for Apothecary Mead, including encouraging more women to enter the brewing industry through her Mead Maidens group – which she runs with International Mead Authorities – and becoming the founder of the British Meadmakers Association – a collaborative project run with traditional Meaderies throughout the UK, who work to raise awareness of mead, its origins and the folklore surrounding it.
As well as this, Alison has recently finished filming with the BBC for a documentary which is due to air in September 2018, based on her journey to establish her business, mead and the obstacles she encountered along the way.
Alison Lycett, Apothecary Mead, said: “I have always had an interest in history and I was particularly fascinated by medicinal and aromatic herbs which were used in the production of mead in 5700 BC. Currently, there are only five women in the world who make mead commercially and I am proudly one of them!
“Mead is one of the oldest fermented drinks in the world. Originally and for thousands of years it was the sole responsibility for women to produce, which is why I wanted to bring it to the forefront of the present day; to both bring back a product mostly forgotten about, whilst encouraging women with an interest in brewing to branch out into an industry which is typically dominated by men.
“It’s a lonely place when you have to launch, manage and grow a business on your own and I will always be thankful to Launchpad and my business advisor, Fiona, for giving me the confidence and skills I needed to take my business from home brewing to an international market. The success I have achieved so far in such a short space of time has enabled me to make future plans and look forward to making a mark with my mead!”
Fiona Humpage, Business Advisor, Launchpad, said: “After working with Alison, there’s not much I don’t know about mead! It’s an achievement for Alison, as well as myself as her business advisor, to see how far she has come since brewing mead at home three years ago, to potentially exporting a product with historical significance across the world.
“The Launchpad programme began in 2016 to provide support to pre-start and start-up business owners within the Sheffield City Region when they require it the most. Support is available via one-to-one sessions with a dedicated business advisor, workshops and seminars and also with our Launchpad Mentoring programme.”
Launchpad is the Sheffield City Region Growth Hub’s key business support programme for new business. Financially supported by the European Regional Development Fund and delivered by local authorities within the Sheffield City Region and the Prince’s Trust, the programme provides free help and support to budding entrepreneurs in the City Region who are thinking of starting their own business, or have started trading within the last two years. Further information can be found at www.scrlaunchpad.co.uk