Young Innovators Success Stories: Matthew Walker, Savora Drinks, Scotland
The Scottish innovator making waves in the tequila market
For a long time, tequila has been written off as just a shot. Savora Drinks founder Matthew Walker has set out to change that perception, with a range of premium mixers specifically crafted for pairing with tequila.
Matthew won the Young Innovators Award right after launching his first product, a zesty lime and sweet agave mixer. It aims to take the familiarity of tequila being served with lime and transform it into a premium “long serve” drink.
“We spent 18 months playing around in the kitchen before we arrived at a flavour profile we were happy with and decided it was ready to take our idea to the masses,” he remembers.
“I was still working full time, having just qualified as an accountant with a Big Four accounting firm. My business was very much just a hobby and an idea of what could be.”
Fast forward a year and Savora Drinks is already on the path to success. The business has grown to a team of five and Matthew is looking for investment to take the business to the next level.
“Savora is now an economically viable business, which is something we could not have conclusively said 12 months ago,” he says.
“We’ve been able to increase our volume of production, which has resulted in negotiating a 50 per cent cost decrease. That means we can now sell at a positive gross margin. We’re also in the process of raising investment, accessing multi-venue operators with national distribution, and further expanding our product range.”
Taking a chance
The support of the Young Innovators programme has helped Savora move in “leaps and bounds”. Matthew praises the funding for giving him the freedom to test new ideas and understand where to spend his budget in the future.
“We’re hosting a tequila cocktails and painting class at an art gallery in Edinburgh in two weeks. There are a lot of upfront costs, whether we sell tickets or not. Young Innovators has given me the opportunity to take a chance on opportunities such as this, which we could not otherwise financially access,” Matthew says.
“We now have a much clearer idea of what works and doesn’t, and where to invest our budget in the future. Equally, the living wage for two days per week has been invaluable. I could not have dropped down to part time at work without the support of Young Innovators.”
Matthew’s hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed, and Savora is already making a name for itself in the industry.
“We were named Scotland’s Food & Drink Start Up of the Year 2022 and Scotland’s Best Confectionery & Soft Drink Product 2022. These awards provided brand recognition, opened doors and put us on centre stage. For the first time, business customers were reaching out to us, rather than us looking for them,” he says.
Another achievement for Matthew was creating 5,000 hours of paid internships over the last 12 months. As he explains, the internships helped young people kickstart their careers but also brought specialist knowledge to the Savora team that they didn’t have access to.
His plan for the next year is to cement Savora as the “go-to mixer” for tequila.
“In the same way that you think of Gin and Tonic or Rum and Coke, we want you to think of Tequila and Savora. Whenever we get customers to try our product, the response is overwhelmingly positive. Our aim over the next 12 months is simply to get our product into as many customers’ hands as possible,” he says.
Highs and lows
During the Young Innovators programme, Matthew believes his biggest area of growth has been his confidence and self belief.
“The entrepreneurial journey is full of highs and lows, but in the words of Ronan Keating, ‘life is a rollercoaster and you’ve just got to ride it’,” he says.
“Working with my innovation champion gave me the confidence to keep pushing on through the lows, and gave me someone to celebrate and reflect on our highs with. We have so much fun at Savora and I wouldn’t change it for the world. Bringing people along on this crazy journey with me makes it all that bit sweeter.”
He also singles out his fellow Young Innovators as a source of inspiration, and plans to stay in touch with many of them when the programme ends.
“It’s great to be surrounded by so many inspiring young people doing such amazing and diverse things,” Matthew says.
“For future applicants, my overarching piece of advice is just to go for it and throw yourself in. The best way to learn is by doing, so get yourself stuck in, make mistakes and move on. I came into this as an accountant, but now I am a much more well-rounded entrepreneur. I feel prepared to navigate the future with Savora.”
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Read the other Young Innovators’ success stories here.