Saint Amans is the realisation of a long-held dream by Anne MacColl and her husband, Jean-Louis, a premium craft gin business based in their property in France. Starting up a new business internationally during such a volatile time for the foreign exchange markets meant protecting her funds from risk was crucial – here’s how she did it.
You’ve recently set up a craft gin business from your property in the south of France, and launched your first product, Saint Amans French Gin. How did the business come into being and what are your plans for it?
We decided to realise our dream of creating a craft drinks business, which we thought could work really well, after years of working in the food and drinks industry in Scotland. My husband had a diagnosis of Parkinson’s, and he is relatively young for that, so he decided it was time we stepped back from his full time job and to relocate to what was then our holiday home in France full-time, and focus on this business. We know a lot about the sector, and we thought we could do even better.
It’s been fun and a great journey, and we’re so pleased with the product.
We have renovated the barn beside our house, and that’s where it’s based. We’ve found a local master distiller, and we’re using local botanicals and grapes. So, our gin is very much a French-based gin and most of the products come from our own garden! It’s a pure product – there’s nothing pretending to be authentic, because it just is.
It’s been fun and a great journey, and we’re so pleased with the product. We’re talking to distributors in London – hotels, restaurants, cocktail bars – and it’s already creating a lot of excitement and fantastic feedback.
Setting up a business overseas, one of the big issues is the markets constantly moving. That said, many people don’t necessarily realise that it is an issue – that their money can fluctuate in value by as much as thousands of pounds – and aren’t necessarily aware of how they can control that risk. Was currency risk a big concern for you at the beginning?
That’s a good question: we did have some awareness of currency exchange because we moved money between Scotland and France a lot over the past few years. However, I think, with the recent political and economic uncertainty around Brexit, we felt that it was the right time to find professionals with a focus and expertise on currency exchange to protect our funds as much as possible. We felt that was really important, rather than the traditional exchanging of the currency though a bank.
What we discovered about using a bank was that the commission we were paying was very high, the information they told us on currency exchange was low to non-existent, and we weren’t happy with their service. Having found out about Smart Currency Exchange, we got a heightened awareness of risk and an ability to move much more quickly to protect our funds, which is a really big advantage.
One of the elements of having an account with Smart that our clients regularly cite as a big plus is having their dedicated Personal Trader with them throughout the lifetime of their account. Is this something you’ve found useful?
A hundred percent. He’s really responsive: you phone him up, he always answers or calls me back. It’s just been a very good personal service. With so many other moving parts when you’re setting up a business, having that kind of person who is focused, who is expert, who can move things quickly for you has been a real advantage.
Smart has really helped to manage the risk, which is a really important part of what happens when you move from one country to another.
I think Smart is very good, you provide a really good, professional service, and I think that really helped to shorten the bureaucracy around setting up a business and managing the risk, which is a really important part of what happens when you move from one country to another.
Sounds like it’s been a complete success! What would your tips be for anyone else setting up a business in another country?
Firstly, plan your business or your property project well in advance, budget realistically for your needs and seek currency exchange expertise to help you. When you’re moving country, you can’t use the same old bank services. You’re moving country, culture, language: you need certainty amid the uncertainty. That’s what a good currency company will do for you. That’s the first thing I’d say.
Then, there is some short-term planning and some long-term planning. You’ve got to be able to do a bit of both. When you’re moving, you need to think about your needs during the move, but also after. How’s it going to look when you’re finished? Do you still have interests back in the UK? Will you be switching funds again?
Thirdly, I’d highly recommend a glass of Saint Amans gin, as a relaxing way of contemplating your new business and lifestyle!!