Exeleon Magazine

Jane Peyton: Meet the Drink Expert who Built a School of Booze

Jane Peyton_Exeleon Magazine_School of Booze

In this exclusive interview with Exeleon Magazine, Alcohol Expert and Founder of School of Booze – Jane Peyton – talks about her ideas of building a company, her journey over the years, garnering global accolades, and her vision going forward for her brand.

What according to you makes one a transformational leader? How do you integrate the same thought into your leadership?

To me a transformational leader is a person who is driven, inspirational, and recognizes that employees are a company’s most valuable asset and must be treated with respect. A transformational leader has a vision and can make that vision a reality.

When I founded School of Booze my vision was to build a unique business that was a one-stop destination for corporate events, education, writing, consultancy, and communication focusing on a range of alcoholic drinks. I’ve succeeded but could not have done so without several super-talented people to help me. I’m considerate and supportive of them, pay well, and always show enthusiasm and gratitude for their work.

Talk to us about your growing up years. What is your earliest memory as a leader/ entrepreneur that you can remember?

I was born in a small market town in the north of England. My first memory of entrepreneurial leadership was producing and directing a talent show featuring siblings and friends and then charging adult family members to watch us perform.  Thankfully there were no theatre critics in the audience!

What prompted your interest and subsequently your foray into the alcohol and drinks space?

I’ve always enjoyed socializing in the pub and am fascinated with the role of alcohol in society and the way that it unites people regardless of whether they can speak each other’s language. I am fascinated at how barley and other cereals, grapes, honey, apples, and pears can be coaxed, with the transformational process of fermentation, to create such a diverse range of alcoholic drinks. Alcohol also has an incredible history that spans thousands of years, and it has been central to human culture for millennia.

What was the idea that led to the formation of School of Booze? What is your vision through this business?

My dream was to combine being sociable and going to the pub, with my interest in celebrating and teaching about alcoholic drinks, including all its incredible historic and cultural stories, plus my professional skills of producing events, teaching, writing, and public speaking so that is why I founded the School of Booze.

I aim to enlighten people about the different styles of alcoholic drinks, how they are made, where the flavors come from, how to taste like a professional, how to match with food, and to appreciate its social and cultural history. At the heart of everything I do is the sociable aspect of alcohol and how it brings humans together to have fun.

Being the Founder, what role do you play in the day-to-day proceedings of the company?

I am the main presenter-host for School of Booze events and teaching. I am also the main point of contact for clients. I negotiate deals. I write social media content rather than outsource it so it is authentic and in my voice. It’s important to keep up to date with developments in the drinks industry so I do lots of reading and listening to podcasts and attend trade events.

School of Booze_Logo_Exeleon Magazine

What is the approach followed by you in order to provide best-in-class training and education?

It’s essential to be engaging as a presenter and to keep the learner’s attention. Ideally make them laugh at the beginning so they know they are going to enjoy the learning. Be as interactive as possible. I speak and write in clear, easy-to-understand language – no jargon. Using analogies of something commonplace to explain a concept is very effective. Make it fun.

What has the journey been like for Jane Peyton over the years? Looking back, what would you have done different when starting out?

I founded School of Booze during the banking collapse of 2008 but was confident that even in a recession people still want business entertainment and events. Thankfully I was right. It helped that my USP was beer and cider tasting events and at the time no other corporate events companies offered that service the way I did. Over the years I diversified the School of Booze offering to include consultancy and copywriting for drinks brands. But there was me thinking I had a recession proof business and then the global pandemic started. All my in-person group events and training ceased so I had to scramble to replace that income.

I started doing events and training on-line and video conferencing kept the company going although nothing can replace the atmosphere and engagement of being in-person with a group of people. In the early weeks of the pandemic, I developed an e-learning platform for beer, cider, and wine knowledge and that is aimed at people who want to learn more about their favorite drink, and also at hospitality and retail staff. The past two years of the pandemic have definitely been tricky, but I am so thankful I offer several different services, and that alcohol has global and enduring appeal.

Over the years I have won lots of awards and it’s wonderful to be recognized for what School of Booze does. My most recent accolades were for my entrepreneurial spirit, and I was a finalist in the Great British Entrepreneur Awards, and School of Booze was included in the Top 100 Small & Medium Enterprises in London & Southeast England.

Looking back on what I would have done differently there are several things. If I was starting the company now, I would not bother with a business plan – it took me ages to compile and was no benefit whatsoever to how I ran the business or grew it.

I would also be more strategic in the business networking I did. At the beginning I wasted so much time and money attending networking clubs for small businesses. It took me a while to realize that my potential clients were not there because I needed to target large companies with big budgets for corporate events.

I have always been a person led by my instinct but a few times at the start of the business I ignored it and regretted it soon after. Now I always listen to that little voice because it knows best.

Finally, what does the future look like for you and School of Booze?

It’s very exciting because business travel is starting again now that the worst of the pandemic is over. The majority of my corporate events clients are incoming groups from overseas that are in the UK for conferences and other business reasons. In the next month I have bookings from American, Canadian, Brazilian, and Argentinian groups. I’ve missed so much hosting that type of client, so I am really looking forward to giving them a great time and good memories of their visit.

I am also planning to build up demand for the e-learning platform side of the business in other English-speaking countries apart from the UK. They include USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and India. The courses have already been written and recorded. Pandemic proofing the business and passive income is the aim!

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