A student at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) has launched a distinctive colour-changing gin, Harbour Lights, inspired by her native Burry Port.
Jessie Wakely is a part time student studying for a BA in Events & International Festivals Management at UWTSD Swansea. She has worked in the hospitality and entertainment sector since she was 18, taking on a wide range of responsibilities, from supervisory roles to promotional roles such as social media and events co-ordinator. She previously founded her own business as a children’s entertainer, making Harbour Lights her second business.
Jessie said: “I felt I knew the starting tools, but that to take it to the next level I needed the education and connections that come with university. For myself UWTSD was the best fit; I loved the modules, the reviews and alumni were brilliant, and most importantly the staff have a great knowledge of the industry. They are dedicated to the course and their pupils, and the support they offer is fantastic.”
Jessie founded Harbour Lights with her husband Darren, who has been working as a distiller for over three years, making a range of spirits for different companies, before eventually creating his own recipe.
“After health scares last year, we realised how short life is and after a discussion we decided to take the leap and to build a business together,” says Jessie. “That’s when Harbour Lights Spirits was born.”
Darren is Harbour Lights’ director and master distiller, and Jessie is the second director and head of social media, marketing and sales. Harbour Lights Sunset Gin is highly unusual as it is one of the only gins made in Wales that changes colour.
“It goes from a deep blue to a bright pink when you add tonic or lemonade, which reminded us of a beautiful sunset,” says Jessie. “This is why we made it the world’s first gin named ‘Sunset Gin’. We were also highly inspired by Wales’ seaside, especially Carmarthenshire’s Burry Port Harbour.”
The brand’s labels and logos include a lighthouse that takes inspiration from Burry Port’s famous lighthouse, near which the aviator Amelia Earhart landed after becoming the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean in 1928. In reference to this, the back of the label carries a monoplane – the same style plane that Earhart flew in.
The business is already proving a huge success: not only did all of batch one sell in less than two weeks; batch two now looks set to be sold out too.
Meanwhile, Jessie is succeeding in juggling the demands of her university studies with running her new business.
“My course lecturers are incredibly supportive and help me with mixing work and studies together,” she says. “They allow me to use my business for certain module essays, such as using the advertising and marketing campaign for Harbour Lights Spirits for my social media and marketing module.”
She adds that her studies have been a huge help to her as a business founder, thanks to the mixture of taught sessions and inspirational speakers who come in to share their advice and experiences with the students.
“The course has shown me ways to develop my business from a marketing stance but also as a brand,” she says. “I enjoy every aspect of the course. The events industry has been hard hit since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, yet the UWTSD staff have taken every step to safely bring the course to life and keep the industry alive. They encourage you explore every field of the industry and to take part when you can, they help you evolve on solo work but also to develop the skills of teamwork and making connections. This course is the most interesting and fun studying experience I’ve had in my educational life.”
Her ambitions now include not only completing the course but also growing Harbour Lights into a popular, widely known brand.
“Our future plans as a business are to grow and become a well-known, house gin, and to develop our gin and create more spirits that will bring you the taste of Wales that everyone loves,” she says.
Jacqui Jones, Programme Manager for International Events, Tourism and Leisure Resort Management programmes at UWTSD, says that she is delighted by Jessie’s success.
“It’s been a pleasure to help and support her with the highly successful launch of Harbour Lights Gin,” she says. “As part of her course Jessie has been studying niche marketing and social media which is a practical skills-based module which has enabled her to use all the project work opportunities to help develop her professional events, marketing and advertising skills to promote her own project launch.”
“We also arranged for the UWTSD Enterprise Team to provide Jessie with specialist support and guidance and are so proud of her achievements. Jessie has applied her academic studies to enable her to effectively utilise the power of social media and assist her in developing a unique product and brand. It’s wonderful to see the incredible success of her promotional campaign as Harbour Lights sales thrive. We wish Jessie and Harbour Lights all the success they deserve.”
Dylan Williams-Evans, Business Development & Enterprise Officer at UWTSD said: “Jessie is proof that if you want something and have the drive to make it happen then you can, she deserves a huge amount of credit for what she has achieved so far in such a short space of time given that she is juggling being a student, running a business and recently becoming a mother for the first time. It has been a pleasure to work with Jessie and I look forward to continuing to support her on her entrepreneurial journey.”
(Lead image: UWTSD / Harbour Lights Spirits)
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