By Marianne Taylor

THOUGH Scotland will always be known for whisky, over the last few years we’ve become almost as renowned for producing another aromatic spirit.

The Scottish gin market is booming, with more than 180 brands - many of them from craft distilleries - competing for attention.

Sonny Charles was working in the Edinburgh hospitality sector when he spotted a niche in the market to produce luxury gin and cocktails sets delivered directly to customers.

And five years later The Tipple Box is thriving, working with premium gin suppliers across the UK, introducing new products and services such as cocktail subscriptions and what is believed to be the world’s first ever yard of gin. The company has shipped more than 50,000 boxes to the tune of over £1m.

“It’s been a challenging but very fulfilling journey,” says 28-year-old Mr Charles. “I packed all the boxes myself in the first year and took no salary. We were fortunate enough to win Scottish Edge money which allowed us to take on our first employee. We also raised capital using seed funding. The challenge now is to innovate in what is a very competitive but exciting market.”

Indeed, the Edinburgh-based businessman believes coming up with new and interesting ways to showcase premium gin to his mostly female customer base is fundamental to the success of the business.

“Every couple of months we have a new competitor,” explains Mr Charles, a medical sciences graduate. “We have to innovate to stay relevant. The yard of gin idea was inspired by the yard of Jaffa Cakes I saw on sale one Christmas.

“We worked with suppliers and realised there was a demand to create branded boxes that could be sold in shops or distilleries. There is a massive demand out there for new gin products, which is why our tasting kit remains so popular. Scotland is the gin capital of the world.”

Mr Charles, who was in his early twenties when he launched The Tipple Box, says deciding to be your own boss requires “a different life choice”. And he has no regrets.

“It’s really matured me as a person,” he says. “You learn new skills from bookkeeping to marketing. You get to meet interesting people. The alcohol industry is great fun - everyone from the bartenders to the producers want to create something new. It’s competitive but collaborative.”

And collaboration is what attracted the entrepreneur to sign up for the RBS Accelerator programme, too.

“Working from the hub opens up so many networking opportunities,” says Mr Charles. “The person you are sitting next to could offer you a nugget that turns out to be key to your business. It’s also important to be challenged by others and held to account. It makes your business stronger.”

Creating and growing a £1m business by the age of 28 is quite an achievement. With this in mind, what advice would he offer other young people hoping to become their own boss?

“Work really hard. It’s going to be a struggle and you’re going to be under pressure to deliver. You have to be tenacious and keep going even when things are hard.

“You also have to know how to hustle. If someone isn’t picking up the phone or answering emails, find another way to get to them.

“As CEO you need to know about every part of the business. Learn everything about your product, whether it’s software, whisky or coffee. The more you can learn, the more successful your business will be.”