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Case Study

Blair Bowman

Founder, World Whisky Day

Thu, 21 November 2013

Blair Bowman graduated from the University of Aberdeen with an honours degree in Hispanic Studies. He is now the Founder and Owner of World Whisky Day — a day of global celebration for whisky. World Whisky Day is now in its third year, operates in five continents and is going from strength to strength.

 

 

How World Whisky Day got started

Whilst in Barcelona, Blair celebrated World Gin Day and was interested to find out when World Whisky Day was taking place. To his surprise, he couldn’t find any information or website associated so bought the WorldWhiskyDay.com domain quickly afterwards. He then set up a Facebook page and a Twitter account and had 1,000 followers within a week.

 

“That was when I thought, this is it, I’m going to try and make something of this.”Blair Bowman

 

Blair has a background in whisky — he co-founded the University of Aberdeen Malt Whisky Society so had a good network within the industry.

Blair wanted to protect his idea, so in August 2011 he secured World Whisky Day as a registered company, but was unsure what to do next.

He had a meeting with Dawn, an SIE Business Advisor three months before the first World Whisky Day.

He then went on to win SIE’s New Ventures Competition one week before the launch and was awarded £1,000 which he admits was a surprise but perfect timing.

 

“Initially I just thought I love whisky, I want people to drink whisky, I want people to try whisky on World Whisky Day. That’s still the main purpose of it but I hadn’t thought I could turn it into a business.”Blair Bowman

 

Blair asked a friend to make a simple website so that he could place pins on a map of all the different events people were organising around the world. The first World Whisky Day was held in March 2012 and gathered over 20,000 people at 200 events.

 

“I was in every paper, I was being interviewed by television stations, radio companies around the world and it just built it up and up. It was a crazy day. I didn’t get a Whisky until about 11.30pm that night. It was good!”Blair Bowman

 

What happened next

The second World Whisky Day took place days before Blair’s final exams in order to coincide with the Scottish Governments ‘Whisky Month’. The timing proved difficult as there were so many people wanting to talk to him but the Government was impressed and Blair passed his exams.

After graduation, Blair went straight into working on World Whisky Day full time to grow his idea from a website into a successful business. He has been credited with the title ‘Entrepreneur’ many times in the media but insists he still doesn’t feel like one.

 

“Every day is so much more exciting than having to report to an office at 9am. It’s really fun that I can make my own agenda.”Blair Bowman

 

He has been invited to many exciting events like the Bill Clinton dinner and has met a host of inspiring people. Blair maintains it’s important to find time and fit people in or otherwise you can get carried away with work.

Blair was one of five final year students who won the 2013 Young Innovators Challenge and received £50,000 in business funding to help him develop World Whisky Day.

 

Next steps for World Whisky Day

The third World Whisky Day will take place in May 2014 to coincide with Homecoming Scotland. Blair is still growing awareness and is beginning to focus in Asia and America where there are large Whisky markets. He’s also keen for momentum to continue in Scotland.

 

“I don’t want the brand to lose interest here, I want it to be really big in Scotland and hopefully people will start coming to Scotland to celebrate World Whisky Day.”Blair Bowman

 

Blair is helping to put Scotland on the map with his idea and encourages everyone to develop their ideas.

 

“If you’ve got an idea, just go for it. Give it a shot and run with it as fast as you can and as long as you can.”Blair Bowman

 

If you want to find out more about World Whisky Day or host your own event, visit the website – www.worldwhiskyday.com

 

2015 Update: Sale of World Whisky Day

In February 2015, Blair sold World Whisky Day for a reported “six figure sum” to the Edinburgh-based Hot Rum Cow. He will continue to support World Whisky Day as a consultant and his name will remain in place as the founder of the event.

It is a fantastic success story coming from an idea Blair had as a student, and SIE is very proud to have been a part of it through our New Ventures and Young Innovators Challenge competitions and one-to-one support from our business advisor, Dawn Shand.

You can follow the progress Blair made with World Whisky Day as a winner of the 2013 Young Innovators Challenge in a series of videos produced by SIE following each of the winners. As part of the prize package they received funding and extensive support from SIE.