Name: Heather McDonald.

Age: 41


What is your business called?

WooHa Brewing Company.

Where is it based?

Kinloss, Moray.

What does it produce?

We brew and package bottle, cask, and keg conditioned ale and lager from our brewery near Speyside. Our beers are brewed from the same fresh water as some of Scotland’s most famous whiskies and we now have five in our core range: Hello Friday Session Pale Ale, Hop Pinata IPA, Rauch N Roll Porter, Northern Mischief Craft Lager, and Rogue Clan Scotch Ale.

To whom does it sell?

We sell to the on-trade, online through Amazon, through our own shop on our website, and through off-trade listings such as Ocado. We also export roughly 30 per cent of our turnover to various countries in Europe, Asia, and North America.

What is its turnover?

Growing steadily.

How many employees?

We started off with just three of us in 2015 and now have a team of 14.

When was it formed?

We first started trading in March 2015 with just two beers. We quickly outgrew our first brewery and moved to a bigger site in 2017. We have just launched our new e-commerce site.

Why did you take the plunge?

My background is in virology and finance. After I took a career break to have my two boys, I wanted to start a company that incorporated the science that I loved, and would allow me to use my experience in finance. I took my husband to a distillery for a tour for Father’s day in June 2013. I had never toured a distillery, which is very similar to a brewery, and I found the whole thing to be fascinating. It also brought back the memory that my Dad used to say to me, when I was working in virology, that I should use my knowledge of microbiology to brew better beer (this was during the boom of craft brewers such as Samuel Adams in the US). In the car after the tour I started thinking that a brewery would be a great opportunity to get back into science, with the potential to achieve growth in the domestic and export markets. I felt it would fit right in with the food and drinks industry in Scotland. Over the next year I learned to brew, incorporated the business in June of 2014, then started trading in March 2015.

What were you doing before you took the plunge?

It’s a bit of leap from brewing, but I started my professional career in a laboratory researching the dengue virus, before deciding to retrain. I then undertook an international business degree which saw me working in finance and building investment portfolios. But during a career break to start my family, I realised that I missed science. While I enjoyed being a stay at home Mom, I wanted something to challenge me mentally and that was when the idea for the business started. The company name actually came from my son, who was four at the time. When I was working on brand development, he was always running around the house shouting WooHa as he had combined the words wooohoo and yeeha after a recent trip to America. I loved it and thought it was the perfect name for the brand as I was searching for something that was short, fun, and didn’t really mean anything in any language.

How did you raise the start-up funding?

I was fortunate enough to be able to finance the initial start up myself from savings. We have since raised further financing via multiple equity raises, including two successful crowdfunding campaigns through Crowdcube. For our latest crowdfunding campaign, which ran in January this year, we actually had to close early as we reached our £600,000 target in only 19 days.

What was your biggest break?

There have been many fantastic things that have happened over the years, but I would say the biggest impact has been felt by our Chairman, Mark Bowers, joining the Board. He has brought so much experience with him and the business has greatly benefitted from his involvement.

What was your worst moment?

I don’t really like to think in terms of worst moments. I think that it is important to look at every situation or outcome as a learning exercise. I am a huge believer in silver linings! For example, the coronavirus pandemic has hit the sector hard with the almost four-month closure of pubs and restaurants and this has obviously had an impact on our sales, but we’ve been able to use this time to progress our rebrand and e-commerce launch. We were also able to ensure we had everything ready to help supply and support the on-trade as they’ve started to re-open over the past two weeks and this remains a priority for us.

What do you most enjoy about running the business?

Working with my team. It is fantastic to see a group of people build something from nothing!

What do you least enjoy?

The stress! Then again, stress gets me motivated to think outside of the box (silver lining!)

What is your biggest bugbear?

Logistics costs. The costs for moving product around the UK are really quite high. Believe it or not, it is easier and more cost effective to export.

What are your ambitions for the firm?

At the moment we are focusing on coming out of the Covid-19 pandemic in a stronger position than we were going into the pandemic.

What could the Westminster and/or Scottish governments do that would help?

If Westminster could negotiate a trade deal with the Asean country block providing zero import tariffs on beer that would be greatly appreciated!

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?

The importance of a strong strategic goal around which the business is built. It is very difficult to get anywhere if you don’t have a very clear picture of where you plan to go.

How do you relax?

I love hillwalking with my family, nothing beats the beauty of the Scottish Highlands.