Women of GinKirsten Speirs, Scottish Gin Awards.
Published: 4th September 2018
In our latest Women of Gin feature we meet Kirsten Speirs, founder of KD Media, the company who launched Scotland’s first dedicated gin awards event in December 2016 – the Scottish Gin Awards. With a well earned reputation for organising events, they have helped raised the profile of Scottish distillers and brewers across both Scottish Gin and Scottish Craft Beer. We caught up with Kirsten as she prepares for the Scottish Gin Awards 2018, which has seen the team at KD Media dealing with a staggering number of entrants in the categories this year and a predicted guest list of almost 600 people from across the world of Scottish Food & Drink.
What’s your name and what do you do?
Kirsten Speirs and I am the founder and managing director of KDMedia, a PR and event company. In 2016 we launched the annual Scottish Gin Awards, which takes place for a second year on Thursday 20 September 2018 in Glasgow.
When did you realise you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
In my mid-twenties I was working with a lot of young business people who were starting up their own businesses. I found their confidence really inspiring and I remember wanting to break out from being an employee, so I started KDMedia in 2000. We were very successful delivering fast paced corporate PR consultancy and in 2002 created our first awards event. I never did it because I wanted to be an entrepreneur, I did it because I loved what I was doing and wanted to challenge myself.
How did you get into gin?
Through our work launching the Scottish Beer Awards in 2015. Many of our sponsors and judges kept asking if we were going to do gin awards next. We worked hard to engage with the Scottish gin industry and the distillery teams have been incredibly welcoming, so the Scottish Gin Awards launched with great success. It’s such a vibrant and exciting category to be working in. I have met some truly generous and inspiring people who have life-long experience in distilling and who genuinely want to help.
Do you think more could be done to encourage women entrepreneurs?
I think more could be done to help young people have confidence in their ideas enough to take the plunge and start their own business. Whether you are male or female, I am a strong believer that you should measure your career success by first defining what is important to you. I have been fortunate to have three amazing children and I have tried to create a business which is manageable around them – that’s only possible thanks to the amazing team of people around me.
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome?
I’m tempted to say the 2008 financial crisis, winning a court case or even working with Donald Trump but in fact, the biggest challenge lies in the everyday. It is the constant strive to find the right balance between work, family life and time for me. Someone said recently that “pressure is a privilege” and it has really stuck with me. Life is busy but in a positive way.
What does the term Scottish Gin mean to you?
It is gin which is distilled in Scotland of course! But it’s not clear enough yet so I believe that we need to have “Scottish Gin” designated as part of a protected geographical indicator. Meanwhile, while that debate matures what we actually need to talk about is the first-class quality and diversity of Scottish gin on the market. We also need to focus on promoting our Scottish distillers to help them make sales internationally because we aren’t the only country doing it. I truly believe that winning a Scottish Gin Awards medal will help distillers make more money.
What’s the best piece of advice you could give to women who are starting off their career in drinks PR?
Don’t be afraid to approach someone because you think they are too busy or important. I think the drinks industry is incredibly collaborative particularly in Scotland and most people who have reached the top of their careers want to help young people on their way to success.
What do you think is the ‘next big thing’ in the world of Gin?
I would guess it will be a tale of evolution rather than revolution. It’s likely we will see more value offers and product innovation geared towards encouraging the young gin drinker into the category for the first time.
What is unique about your place of work?
Well we have an impressive bar full of amazing Scottish gin and beer which we like to share together on a regular basis! I also think our events are made with genuine love for what we do and that shines through for our guests.
What are the long-term plans for KD Media and the Scottish Gin Awards?
We will continue our work improving and growing all our events while promoting the fantastic range of delicious Scottish Gin. We will also be making our way through the very long list of new gins to try!
You can learn more about the Scottish Gin Awards finalists here.