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Entrepreneur of the week

Copper & Coal Distillery by Andries & Marizaan

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“Exceed expectation. Be the standard others are measured by. ”

Andries & Marizaan van Schalkwyk are an entrepreneurial duo and the co-founders of the Copper & Coal Distillery. Andries was raised in Windhoek, with Marizaan growing up on a farm in the Okahandja district. The pair both graduated from Windhoek High School and went on to pursue their tertiary education in South Africa.

Prior to moving back in 2017, the couple worked in the medical industry. However, they could only avoid their fate for so long. What was initially a hobby turned into a passion, and the pair moved back home where Copper and Coal Distillery was consequently born.

Tell us more about Copper & Coal Distillery, what inspired you to start this business, the services you offer as well as the team behind your startup (if any).

“In 2017, Copper & Coal distillery was founded in Walvis Bay, a small harbour town in Namibia. Our Craft distillery produces premium, handcraft spirits in small batches and creates one small batch at a time. With a passion for quality and craft integrity, we take the finest ingredients and transform them into the ultimate spirits – focusing on quality over quantity. Every part of the process is done right here at the distillery in Walvis Bay, from fermenting to hand bottling, proudly Namibian.

Our small team does all the work by hand, taking hand-crafted to a new level. Our gins are made by one distiller, each drop being done by Andries himself. We then hand-bottle, hand-label and hand-pack each bottle of craft product leaving the Copper and Coal Distillery floor.

Desolate Namibian Gin was launched in March 2018 with our Classic 7 Gin, paving the way into the hearts of Namibians and visitors alike. We have since launched our Devils Claw Oak Rested (July 2018) and Crystal Clear (September 2018) gins, both from the local Devils Claw root, with one being rested in French oak barrels to give it an unprecedented smoothness. We launched our Marula gin in October 2019, from local Namibian Marula, hand-harvested in the north of Namibia.

In August 2020, we launched our Forsaken range. This range includes an Infusion Box to make your own cocktails at home, as well as a Copper Craft Club, supporting local businesses, including other liquor craft products in Namibia. This box brings a craft box filled with not only Copper and Coal Distillery products every second month, but also other local handcrafted Namibian products. For our first box, we teamed up with the Naankuse Foundation, and featured their Neuras wines with their 2015 vintage dessert wine.  

On the 11th of September 2020, we launched our Arid Vodka – the first Namibian made Vodka; fermented, distilled and bottled at our craft distillery in Walvis Bay. Arid can be described as a single grain Namibian Vodka, double-distilled and full bodied, a vodka hand-cut to perfection. Each bottle is filled and hand-numbered in true craft spirit, then included in a small batch distilled in a custom-built column still. This is a true distillers’ cut, bringing out the smoothness and purity in this true Namibian Arid Vodka. We have worked on the Arid Vodka concept for a long time with product integrity and quality being of utmost importance. We are extremely proud of our truly Namibian Vodka, Arid!

We are also excited about our upcoming products to be released in 2021, the first will be early in March 2021. Both the Forsaken and Arid range will see further expansion in the coming months.”

What challenges have you encountered on your entrepreneurial journey and how did you overcome some of them?

“Being a novelty product breaking into the local market and gaining acceptance was our biggest challenge – competing in a highly-contested market space, mostly taken-up by international imported brands.

From day one, we focused on the quality of our products. We simply strive to create a superior product, along with great customer service, and this has served us well.”

Do you have a business philosophy? If so, what is it?

“Exceed expectation. Be the standard others are measured by. Embrace change.  Embrace Innovation. Embrace Knowledge. Be Accountable. Be Human.”

What are the company values that have been integral in getting you this far?

“If I must highlight two it would be Determination and Excellence. It is through sheer Determination that the company came this far in four years, thanks to lots of long hours. We continue to strive for Excellence, and much of our focus is on the quality of products that we produce. We can only be as good as the products we send out the door.”

How significant is collaboration in the growth & scaling of a start-up?

“Collaborations play a significant role in the environment we operate in; it fosters support and unity. We have collaborated with several other proudly Namibian companies with great success. For us it drives our brand and also affords us the opportunity to support our fellow Namibian companies.”

What recommendations would you make towards the advancement of startups, and/or the improvement of their operating conditions?

“I believe that if you have the passion and the determination to take on a start-up, there should be a funding scheme to assist (if deemed viable). It happens all too often that a start-up fails or never gets off the ground due to a lack of funding. Many people lack the knowhow to navigate a start-up process; it would be further beneficial to be able to complete a course or attend a workshop to provide some guidance.”

In 2020, entrepreneurs lived through a tumultuous period with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic; what was your biggest business lesson that you can share?

“With the horrors of COVID-19, many businesses big and small are fighting for survival. Unfortunately, this fight will continue into the foreseeable future, some will win and continue to fight another day, others unfortunately will not be so lucky. The biggest business lesson we learned was to adapt without hesitation to a changing market. Be willing and open to make the necessary change in your company to survive the pandemic.”

Email: info@copperandcoaldistillerynamibia.com

Website: www.distillerynamibia.com

Cell: +264 81 205 3150

Facebook: Copper & Coal Distillery Company Namibia

Instagram: @distillerynamibia

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