Covid-19 has had both a collective and individual impact on everyone working in the drinks, retail and hospitality industries. Whatever your role very few people, if any, have come out of the last 12 months unaffected by the slings and arrows that the pandemic has thrown at us. Throughout The Drinks Trust has stood firm providing front line support for those who needed it most. It has now set up The Drinks Community to act as an online support platform open to anyone in the industry to share experiences, advice and act as a networking service to help us all for the long term. The site’s community manager, Millie Milliken explains how it works.
It’s good to talk. It really is. But with so much of our time spent on our own, or in our own family bubbles it has been hard to do just that. That is what The Drinks Community has been set up to do. To provide a space, a platform and an opportunity for us all to share our thoughts, ideas and offer practical and emotional support to each other, says Millie Milliken.
Tell us about yourself and your route into the drinks industry?
I started writing when I was working in hospitality myself, at the Coach & Horses on Greek Street in Soho back in 2011. I got myself a temp gig at The Good Food Guide, filing and sorting the menus sent in for review and from there, I landed an editorial assistant job at SquareMeal, which then was also part of the same company as Imbibe. I spent the next seven or so years writing about food and drink in the context of events, festivals and weddings and when a role at Imbibe came up, I jumped ship and loved every minute of it.
When Imbibe closed down at the end of last year, The Drinks Trust got in touch with this exciting new role and it didn’t take long for me to snap it up. When I’m not working on Community, I’m also writing for a number of consumer and trade publications – it’s a lovely, complementary balance.
Many people will know you from your time on Imbibe – what did you most like about your role and responsibilities there?
I took on quite a few roles at Imbibe during my time there including managing editor, acting editor and deputy editor. All these roles have their own nuances, but one thing stayed constant – the fostering culture of the industry. I was welcomed with open arms and have formed relationships with so many talented and wonderful people – including people I’ve never even met. This industry really sweeps you up with it – it’s become my life.
What is your on the Drinks Community?
I am the community manager which means I, alongside Gigantic Creative, have built what the Drinks Community looks like. I am also working to create inspirational, personal stories with people in the industry and am in the process of getting our online form programme underway. Each month, I’ll be producing a range of different resources to keep people educated and engaged, working with industry experts to create videos, how tos and Q&As about all parts of the industry. I’m also the person posting on socials and answering messages on the site. So please come and say hello.
Now that The Drinks Community is up and running can you tell us what it is all about and how it came to being launched?
Yes, we are officially live which is very exciting. The Drinks Community is a platform from The Drinks Trust which has been created to help support the drinks industry get back on its feet after what has been a devastating year and continue to support them for years to come. People can interact on it by asking questions, sharing knowledge or simply networking and connecting with other people in the industry. We’re also working on creating some pieces exploring the personal stories of people in the industry, as well as a programme of webinars and some fun social media interviews to give as many people as possible as much guidance as we can, especially as they navigate coming out of lockdown.
So it is open to anyone working across the drinks industry at all levels?
Definitely. We want this to be a space for people from all parts of the industry, hospitality or supplier side, freelancers, distributors, marketeers, entrepreneurs, everyone. It’s cross-category as well, so beer, wine, cider, spirits and no & low are all represented. Of the people already on the platform we are already seeing a broad range of career backgrounds, specialisms, and experience – some people have been in the industry their whole career, and some have only just entered it.
Is that a key feature of the “community” in that you can find people you relate to and are at similar levels in the industry?
It is certainly a key feature in that this is a platform for people to learn from each other, and what better way to do that than with your peers? However, as I mentioned we have people from all parts of the industry on the Drinks Community. We have journalists in the same space as small startups; big-name bartenders being able to network with Masters of Wine; beer brands chatting with sommeliers, and more. Members will get an insight into other professions, making the industry more dynamic and more flexible, plus it will give people more information to upskill in other parts of the drinks world and build a raft of knowledge that will stand them in good stead for years to come.
Are you also able to lean on the tools and support the Drinks Trust gives through its Wellness support services?
You certainly can – we have a specific Wellness area on the Drinks Community where we will be posting helpful content provided by our partners, such as Sleep Station and Club Soda, that anyone on the Community can read and find out more about. We are hoping that through the Drinks Community we can make more of our industry aware of the fantastic resources and services we offer at The Drinks Trust, so the more people we can get that information across to the better. We’re also encouraging people to share their own tried-and-tested tips too.
You are also looking to run mentoring scheme through the site – how does that work in terms of being a mentor and applying to be a mentee?
We already have the ball rolling on our mentor programme, with our first round of mentors and mentees underway with their sessions. We are recruiting mentors and mentees on an ongoing basis and matching them as and when the perfect pairing comes along. We have had huge uptake from the first tranche which proves just how needed something like this is – learning from each other has never been so important. People can sign up to be a mentor or mentee on the website under ‘Services’.
The site is also a place for people to start and take part in forums and discussions – how is that working and what sort of issues are being debated?
The site is interactive meaning that people can chat, raise topics, join relevant spaces and engage with other as much or as little as they want. Topics raised so far have been around looking after staff on furlough, dealing with redundancy, planning for reopening, issues around wine wastage, giving agave spirits the respect they deserve – and lots, lots more.
We will also be kicking off a programme of forums in April featuring some of our esteemed founding committee members and experts from across the industry. So far issues such as learning from failure, promoting empathy in the workplace, the power of communication and understanding your consumer are in the offing. We have our schedule planned all the way to July, with the hope of running one a week – keep an eye on the Community and our social channels for their announcement very soon.
What sort of response have you had so far?
We had 700 people signed up before official launch and now we’re steadily growing as more and more people find out about it. Now is a fantastic time for individuals to get onto the platform while people are preparing for the reopening of hospitality. There will be plenty of questions in peoples’ minds and the Drinks Community is the ideal place to ask them and, crucially, have them answered.
How do I sign up?
Easy. Head to www.drinkscommunity.org.uk, click ‘sign up now’ and you can choose which membership level you’d like. The platform is free but if people want to become a Donor (£5 a month) or Super Donor (£10 a month) there is that option too. The funds will go towards our Drinks Trust services to continue to help us support people in the industry – you’ll also get one of our branded masks and/or pins depending on which donor level you choose. Oh, and a pretty cool medal emoji on your Drinks Community profile too. Who wouldn’t want that?