NLOWE Member Spotlight: Katherine Lane-Bartlett
Dungeons Distillery “let the spirit take you there”
Incorporated in 2017, Dungeons Distillery Ltd. opened its doors to the public in July 2021. We spoke with owner Katherine Lane-Bartlett about her passion, business plan, and journey, which involved a move of seven thousand kilometres from Vancouver back home to Newfoundland and Labrador.
Hi Katherine, thank you for talking with us today. Tell us a bit about Dungeons Distillery.
Our goal is to open a distillery and a lounge with a casual atmosphere that serves quality food paired with our own distilled spirits, in the Bonavista area.
We lived on the mainland and wanted to return home to Newfoundland and Labrador. We knew we wanted to manufacture something and considered a brewery, winery, or distillery. Once we settled on distilling, we took a distilling course and loved it. From there, we put together a business plan and never looked back.
We have encountered a few setbacks, including Snowmageddon and, of course, the pandemic. Still, this past July, we were able to open the lounge and kitchen, which is called the Keep.
Once we have our inspections, classifications, and permits in place, we’ll produce vodka, gin, rum, whisky, and poitín, an unaged, Irish distilled spirit. We’ll also give tours, tastings, and workshops in distilling; provide corporate retreats; and have a retail space to sell our products.
How did you manage these challenges and still move your business plan forward?
Initially, the production of spirits and providing workshops on distilling was the first phase of our business plan. However, because of delays with classifications and permits, as well as the pandemic, we had to pivot. As a result, we refocused on opening the Keep, the restaurant component of our business plan, while working on obtaining our distillery license.
We’re also very grateful to NLOWE Business Advisor Betsy Saunders. She has been an incredible resource and helped us identify funding and programs that we used for our export marketing plan.
I love the name Dungeons Distillery. What is the story behind the name?
My husband is from Catalina, and the Dungeon Provincial Park in Bonavista is a favourite place. We wanted a local connection to our business and our products. The inner stronghold of a castle is often called the keep and was usually a refuge when inhabitants were defending the castle during a war. We decided that was the ideal name for our tasting room and lounge.
Men have historically dominated this industry. Have you encountered any barriers or stereotypes along the way?
It’s certainly been that way in thepast. But still, I think we’ll see more women business owners in non-traditional industries like manufacturing. The world is starting to change, and people are more accepting of gender diversity.
A few years ago, at an NLOWE conference, I enjoyed attending Manjit Minhas’s keynote. Co-founder of Minhas Breweries, Distillery, and Winery, she’s also one of Canada’s Women Executive Network’s Top 100 Women Entrepreneurs. She truly inspired me, and I knew in my heart that I was on the right track.
How are you developing your brand identity?
Our dream was to open a distillery that had a strong connection to our community, and we wanted our brand to reflect the area. So our name is Dungeons Distillery, and we’ve chosen the tagline “let the spirit take you there.”
We also wanted to involve residents in building our brand. We engaged the community in a facilitation exercise to choose names for our product line, and everyone loved it!
Do you have any business tips or takeaways?
A plan is a plan. It’s not written in stone, and sometimes you need to adjust it to react to the challenges in front of you. It wasn’t always easy, but we knew its bones were good, and we just had to focus on the parts that we could do. We took it day by day. Remember, the glass is half full, not half empty.
What’s next for Dungeons Distillery?
We anticipate the distillery will open at the end of this year or early next. Then I’m looking forward to holding workshops and teaching others about our production and the process of distilling.
Anything else you’d like to share with us?
We realize our business plan was big when we took it on—but we felt it was achievable. We’ve always tried to remain optimistic and look at what we’ve accomplished and not what we haven’t.
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