Join Alex Robson co-founder of West End Drinks Ltd, brand owner of the King of Soho Gin and Nick Braund in this week’s episode of Ten minutes with…
Business is in Alex’s blood. Her mother ran a printing and publishing business, which she inherited from her father. And on her father’s side, her grandfather was a bus pioneer, he started with a pony and trap.
Alex is the youngest of eight children – something which taught her determination and tenacity. The North East has shaped Alex throughout her life – she is a traditional Geordie at heart. Blunt and straightforward but also warm and forgiving. Soho is Alex’s adopted home.
Alex’s father was a GP, a good listener and very emotionally intelligent. “See all, hear all and say nothing,” was his motto. His advice was always to listen, it is so important in business, especially when you are selling a product. Which has stood her in good stead throughout her career.
Alex was sent to work in the accounts department at her mother’s business every summer from the age of 11 for 50p an hour. She is a great financial controller. Alex first met King of Soho business partner Howard Raymond 15 years ago.
Like many of the best business ideas, The King of Soho came about partly by accident. In 2011, Alex and Howard were looking at investing in a gin company, but, when they did the business analysis, they decided the product wasn’t right and they could do it better.
They could both see there was a renewed interest in gin and the sector was attracting investment. Both Alex and Howard seized the moment; it was gut instinct, backed up by sound analysis and a martini!
King of Soho was launched in 2013. It’s a homage to both their fathers and to their generation: Howard’s father, Paul, was the original King of Soho so it’s named after him; Alex’s father drank gin all his life – it was his drink.
They have both invested in the company; this is personal to them both.
A good brand needs authenticity. King of Soho is a quadruple-distilled gin, made by an 11th generation master distiller, using 12 botanicals and with nothing added after distillation but water and neutral grain spirit to blend to strength.
It’s a dry gin distilled in London – which is not true of all London dry gins. It has a pure taste, there’s nothing weird about it, and it reflects their own taste in gin. This is what they would be drinking even if they didn’t own the company.
The characteristics of the brand are fun, creativity, hedonism and authenticity – everything that you associate with Soho. Paul Raymond was a big name and King of Soho is a big brand.
That was partly by design and partly dictated by logistics – the bottle is screen printed and, when you screen print, you need a minimum 10,000 print run. That forced them both to take a leap of faith and set their sights high from the start.