We catch up with Faye Penford, the women behind Lift Your Spirits, about her journey to launching the drinks company during lockdown
Tell us a little about yourself…
Born in St Albans, a mother of two, 19 & 16, worked for St Albans Council for over 16 years while bringing up the children. I pretty much stayed locally. It is a lovely place to live!
I remember being at school and shown around St Albans Council and honestly, with no disrespect, thinking, ‘well, I will not end up working here’. I find this very amusing and ironic that, later in life, I walked through the Council doors from the age of 29 until the age of 45.
Working in one place for this time sounds repetitive and mundane, as we know life gives us many challenges and changes. Unfortunately, like some of us, it gave me a journey of a broken marriage, financial struggles, mental health challenges and, without doubt, some great fun times too. At this point in my life, the fact was that my children were with me and needed me, and that gave me the strength. It was that simple, no other choice in my option. The Council became my safe place, and I kept it very straightforward.
Time ticks by, and you start to think, what other things would I love to do or create. The most significant change for me was when I joined Radio Verulam; this gave me something inspiring and made me smile so much. I was getting creative again!
How did Lift Your Spirits come about?
As the children became older, I became better at understanding myself, growing more and more confident in what opportunities were out there for me in my career world. I could now put my hand on my heart and say I was contented with family life. Being a presenter on our Local Community Radio in Hertfordshire was something very uplifting for me. The council was great, but the ‘exit plan’ to leave the Council felt imminent. I was relaxed by being in a healthier relationship, financially safer, and quickly growing happy young children/young adults and life began to change.
Then there was another restructure in 2019 at the Council, and this time I felt ready to start a new journey. Taking the experiences I had gained, I smiled and was thankful to the Council and took voluntary redundancy.
An events management opportunity came along with a brilliant lady that I truly admire. The outlook looked good; all was on track until we hit February 2020. As we all know, hospitality suffered; we didn’t have hope and Kirsten, of Green Tiger Events, had to rethink her options, as did I.
I found a lockdown position with Perfect Moment Florist as I was getting restless by not working; they were wonderful. I started thinking about what I could sell as I was delivering flowers? A friend, Sarah, was thinking the same. We knew each other as our Dads were business partners. The company was a Bar Supplies business, but was sold over 30 years ago. However, we still had contact with the company, so we thought of ‘home bar’ gifts in lockdown. We spoke to the CEO of the company – and then Lift Your Spirits began.
Why did you launch in lockdown?
As we know, lockdown brought uncertainty, but it also brought us time together. The bar was starting to be put back in the home. If you’re an age that remembers ‘Only Fools & Horses’, then you will remember Del Boy’s home bar. The funny thing is that on my journey to the company, I drove passed Del Boy’s three wheel yellow van – not the real one, I believe; however, this made me smile for so many reasons. I took a photo on the way back, and it felt like a good sign, a nice childhood memory, my parent’s business and my dad making mocktails for us.
From day one, what did you want to offer?
‘Lift Your Spirits’ name had more meaning than different drinking spirits. It was about a gift that would Lift Your Spirits; in return, our spirits were lifted. We would start with the home bar and continue growing our range. We could become creative with our gifts. We had a unique collection of cocktail shakers, Art Deco, French, and Boston Classic Shakers.
We were able to collaborate with other companies. We were only small, but it was growing and developing well. There were struggles, but we could work around them as the company was small and it was easy to adapt.
We started to have a brilliant interaction with communities on social media. The love for home bar life, amazing mixologists and cocktails ideas were endless. My love of cocktails began to grow even more for me.
What has the reaction been like?
It’s been fantastic; the gifts were so well received and enjoyed. Lift Your Spirits branding is subtle and meaningful. This has proven to work brilliantly with the company logo and branding, as intended.
The personal handwritten message connected well with people. Customers are delighted. A few didn’t want to give them away or bought two — nothing like a gift to yourself.
Although, the company, Lift Your Spirits, had a significant change just after nine months. The partnership together was not possible for many reasons, and we had to make a decision that resulted in me going ‘solo’ with Lift Your Spirits.
After this sad huddle which didn’t lift either of our spirits, I continued with the company. It was a change that could happen in business, so I needed to see what could help me in Hertfordshire. I started to contact business support organisations in Hertfordshire, and it’s been unbelievable. Wenta and Stanta have a big part in me continuing with Lift Your Spirits. Friendly and informative from training to business opportunities. I highly recommend them for free business advice and planning. Wonderful support!
Networking has been valuable and enjoyable. Metro Bank was kind enough to hold a networking event; it was a relaxed Cocktail Networking Evening, which was ideal for showing the quality and style of my gifts. I love casual events too! Another support is The Business Community, which is brilliant for small businesses in Hertfordshire. All these have encouraged me to continue.
The next six months are looking positive, discussing corporate/team gifts with clients for company events, even getting ready for Christmas gifts with a business. Sorry to mention Christmas in the summer. Another project with a local company that wants something entertaining and different. It’s great when you work together and find something different and memorable. A team that has cool nicknames have been lasered on their gifts. The gift is growing, and the ideas are flowing even more. When you talk to a client, you find what works for their company, their ethos and drive. It is gratifying to produce a gift that will work its magic. The only aim is to Lift Your Spirits; with that always in mind and understanding your client’s business, Lift Your Spirits should keep growing. I like the idea that Lift Your Spirits has core products, but a personal gift shopper comes to mind…
A gift to another is so important, not its value or cost, but I believe it can impact a team in a good and bad way. Lift Your Spirits understands that, and when a gift from Lift Your Spirits is opened, the person will feel warm and knows ‘they know me’. A gift speaks volumes, and Lift Your Spirits promises to do just that.
Has the offering evolved in the short time since?
Yes, definitely. When we set up the online business, I never thought I would hold Cocktail Events. You grow with a company and find out the ‘bits and bobs’ you need in a business, sometimes on the way. For example, my licence and premised license; it was great to study for this exam, they make me nervous. I think having dyslexia might play a part in that, but now I know I am capable of revising; there are many different tools out there to help you since I last studied. So, for me, it was a big achievement to revise, enjoy it and pass! When you want and need something, I think it takes you to a different place, enabling you to achieve above your expectations. A nice feeling. London Colney Parish Council were fantastic in helping me. Now with my personal licence and premised licence, I can grow my Cocktail Making experience for gifts, complementing our home bar and glassware to suit your gift. The choice is yours. I had my first independent open-air bar event; I am proud of my upcycled bar; it has started the journey of its ups and downs, like any business. I promise myself that this ‘BUBOA Bar’ (Black Upcycled Bar is Out Again!) has to stay with me on this journey. And I hope I will be at the food festival in St Albans in September. It’s going to tour with me. It’s part of Lift Your Spirits.
Where would you like to take Lift Your Spirits from here?
I would like to attend more social events; I love the interaction and banter at the bar. Many new and unique ideas are coming together which is significant for my business, the ever-growing Lift Your Spirits gift.
Whereabouts are you based in Hertfordshire, and what do you love about it?
I am based and live in London Colney. I have to give credit to London Colney Parish Council; as they have been exceptional; they have empathy and understanding to help new and small businesses. They go out of their way to help the community. When I thought my license was incorrect, they put me straight and stopped me from worrying, which can happen when you know you need something to continue your business and help it grow. There is a lot to be said about what is around you locally and the people that care for the community.
Lift Your Spirits looks promising but not without its challenges. If it continues to work for me, then I will be very happy. I live for a good balance in my life, I am working for myself, trying different ideas and embracing the unknown. In times of doubt, I have a good walk and that gives me time to clear my mind. There are many places to stroll in London Colney; we discovered the fishing lakes, a great find during lockdown! Sometimes, I need to tell myself to sleep on it, as it always looks different in the morning, it’s then you can find a solution or more options. It usually works out. Over worrying takes you away of what is possible.
Just a final one I would like to share: drink wisely, savour the taste and enjoy together!