Katie Read has the spirit of success
Katie Read went to school in Durham and is now Senior Account Manager at The Lakes Distillery, Cumbria. She explains why we’re now in the midst of a global whisky revolution.
What did you want to be when you were young?
I wanted to be an actress but lacked confidence at 17 so I studied Business Studies, Advertising and Marketing and it opened up the world.
How did you end up in your job at The Lakes Distillery?
I have had many amazing jobs, working with Royal Marines, Engineering (slitters and rewinders for paper plastic and the foil industry) but it is the visitor economy where I found my niche.
My first job in the industry was Tourism Assistant at Portsmouth City Council, then Tourism Officer for Taunton Deane Borough Council which is the role which brought me back to the North.
Following foot and mouth I worked on a 2.6 million farm recovery project for five years (I’m a bit of a farm girl at heart), which led me to working with Natural England to form partnerships with environmental groups.
Eventually I ended up in the position of Tourism Director for the Western Lake District which is now the home of The Lakes Distillery. I was part of a recovery group during the catastrophic floods in November 2009 that devastated the town of Cockermouth.
It was at the food festival Taste Cumbria, which was launched in September 2014, where I came to the attention of the North-East Entrepreneur Nigel Mills who is Chairman of The Lakes Distillery.
It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to be part of whisky history, to support the destination I fell in love with – the Western Lakes District – and to be at the very start of something so unique and special.
It’s also special to me to support and champion Cumbria plc around the world through The Lakes Distillery and our range of spirits The ONE, the first ever British Isles blended whisky, The Lakes Gin, The Lakes Vodka and The Lakes Malt.
Have qualifications got you where you are, has it been sheer hard work and talent or a combination?
I have an HND in Business studies, marketing and advertising but it’s passion, hard work, and the ability to engage people, taking them on the journey with you, which has been really important.
Be an ambassador for your industry, the place you work, the place you live and the community you enjoy. An excellent sales aptitude, thirst for knowledge, ability to network effectively and communication skills of the highest calibre as well as fire in your belly also helps.
What advice would you give someone else just starting out in your industry?
Be committed, passionate, exceed customer expectations, prepared for long hours, don’t live by your job title, 110 per cent team effort.
Do you feel pressure being a role model to others?
I endeavour always to give something back to my community either talking at career days for schools and colleges, or presenting to my peers, supporting organisations and businesses that I have engaged with during my various roles.
I want to inspire others as I have had mentors throughout my career who continue daily to push me to exceed and succeed in different ways and in areas I never thought possible.
Do you prefer networking on social media or meeting people in person? I am a Twitter girl but nothing means more than a face to face meeting.
What is a very underrated business skill that you thing should be used more?Presentation skills, the ability to communicate verbally with an audience, either one to one or to 200.
How will your industry evolve in the next five years?
We’re now in the midst of a global whisky revolution as sophisticated consumers look for something new and different – there’s no reason why it has to be Scottish anymore. English malt whisky is now taking its place amongst the finest whiskies of the world.
The English distilleries are perfectly placed to take advantage of this continuing move towards premium products and, as products reach cask maturation, we’ll see spirits produced which will rival the world’s best.
It’s always going to be highly competitive market place but true artisan production, provenance, quality, and a great story of faith, hope, luck and love will see The Lakes Distillery make whisky history and be on the shelves, behind the bar and be the beloved tipple for years to come and I am honoured to be a small part of that amazing team.
Which three people (alive/dead celebrity or not) would you like to work with? Lord Coe, Audrey Hepburn and Richard Branson
What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you? I achieved up to gold medals standard in ballroom and Latin American dancing.