Name: Nikki Welch.

Age: 41.

What is your business called?


Where is it based?


What services does it offer?

Whet we think is insightful and relevant training for the hospitality industry. Our first product is a wine training app specifically for front of house staff to help restaurants, hotels and bars give their staff confidence and competence, and in doing so enhance their customer experience and their sales. The app provides engaging content with multi-media ‘drops’, using video, quizzes and illustrations. We run online ‘Quench sessions’ that provide front of house staff with a way to learn and connect in an informal way.

To whom does it sell?

The Quenchable app is for hotels, restaurants and wine bars, particularly those with a number of sites or venues where it’s harder for the wine specialist to be on hand with the staff. We work on a ‘pay as you learn’ basis where the whole team has access to the app but the business only pays for the staff members who have used it that month. When somebody leaves the business their licence can be transferred on to the new member of staff.

What is its turnover?

We started trading formally in May so don’t have turnover figures just yet, but our forecast is £145,000 in year one.

How many employees?

My co-founder Blair Bowman and I make up the core team. During product development we have used specialist local businesses for the technology and visual elements. Our designers, Neu from Glasgow, have all worked in bars. We use a local Edinburgh College of Art graduate Ella Bruty for all our illustrations. She works in hospitality as well, so knows the target audience.

When was it formed?

We started working on the product in 2018 and spent 18 months developing the app before launching in May this year.

Why did you take the plunge?

I fell in love with wine when I worked in France whilst studying French and Economics and was lucky enough to join a wine company as my first job. I met producers, tasted with experts and there was always someone on hand to answer my naïve questions. Most people aren’t so lucky. They work in hospitality and are suddenly expected to be able to talk about wine to their customers.

I was already working for myself and had created the WineTubeMap, WhiskyTubeMap and BeerTubeMap. I was also running lots of events, pop ups and promoting my books, often in hospitality venues as well as developing my academic work around the language of taste and flavour.

How did you raise the start-up funding?

We have had a huge amount of support from Miriam Smith and the Business Innovation Zone at Queen Margaret University, where I had attained my MSc in Gastronomy. They have helped us make connections and access funding, specifically from Santander that has allowed us to continue to innovate and support our customers during the pandemic.

We have learned that creating digital tools is about iterating and testing our assumptions with our potential audience. So at every stage we have funded the minimum viable product and got it into people’s hands. At each point we have had some help, a Scottish Enterprise grant kickstarted our initial prototype (along with our own investment) and on the back of this we won the Wildcard round of the Scottish Edge awards in 2018, which allowed us to develop the first version of the app we took to customers.

What was your worst moment?

Probably the realisation that the hospitality industry was being closed down in March. Wine training seemed totally insignificant at that point!

What was your biggest break?

Lockdown has meant a lot of hospitality staff have been on furlough with time on their hands. We adapted our system and created a special £1 offer so individuals could download the app and build their own wine skills and knowledge. By doing this we were able to directly connect with our users and this has provided us with a new market and a direct conversation with the people who need the app.

We also won the Herald Scottish Digital Business Award for Education and Training in 2019, which was a huge boost.

What do you most enjoy about running the business?

I love the fact that we have combined creativity, design, technology and communication to solve a problem and need to use them on a daily basis. I also really enjoy the contact with our customers and their teams.

What are your ambitions for the firm?

To transform the experience of wine for front of house staff across the world! We plan to launch a whisky version in the near future and to roll the app formats out internationally once established in Scotland and the UK.

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

Hospitality is still not considered as valuable work in the UK despite it being such a fundamental part of our economy. We need to invest in changing how hospitality careers are positioned, how training is funded and how businesses are supported in order that people see the potential benefits of working in the industry.

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?

Getting something into our potential users’ hands to test assumptions and learn as early as we can in every stage of the development process has accelerated our process and cut out so many unnecessary diversions.

How do you relax?

Dinner with friends in a restaurant is high up my list, with a walk the next day on the East Lothian coast.