Catie Fry is based in Burleigh Heads, QLD. She is the co-founder and master distiller of Clovendoe Distilling Co., Australia’s first all-female distilling company, creating low- and no-alcohol spirits.

I started in the distilling industry in 2016 when I co-founded a rum and gin distillery with a bunch of men. I was the only female in the business and was very proactive in the creation of our gins, but I found myself doing more of the prepping of the botanicals and the recipe side of things. We’d be in a business meeting and I’d get introduced probably eight times out of 10 as, ‘This is Catie, Warren’s wife.’ I was part of the distilling team, I had the same amount of shares in the business and I was a co-founder, so how did I become Warren’s wife? At the time, I had two really small children so it was maybe a little bit of unconscious gender bias where it was just a given I’d be primary carer of the children while juggling all the other sides of the business.

I started seeing a gap in the market for non-alcoholic beverages, and, as there was barely anything around on the market, I thought, what’s stopping me doing it? I figured that the best thing for me to do was buy my own little copper pot still and get to work, so, when the kids went to bed, I put on some jazz and set it up in my kitchen and started playing with it. The year of 2017 was the year of the evening air being filled with perfumes from my still.

The passion to create these products was so strong in me. I was so overwhelmed with how little time I could put into it – juggling children, helping with a small business, doing a part time job to pay rent and still be making the products that I wanted to make. I woke up on International Women’s Day 2019 and decided that in order for me to keep doing what I liked doing and make money out of it, I had to go and create my own business and if I had to do it on my own, I had to do it on my own. I had something to prove and maybe some it came out of ego and stubbornness and that feminist streak in me – but that’s not such a bad thing.

I found Global Sisters through the Marketplace as I wanted to find another sales stream. I didn’t realise there was all this support if you reached out to Global Sisters. It’s a really encouraging place. There are women from all walks of life and at all stages of their businesses and you’re all in it together. It’s nice to know that there are women who are just like you, in their pyjamas, packing orders, while their kids are screaming at them to get them some toast! There’s some solidarity in that.

I was part of the last Sister Pitch and needed to make a five-minute business pitch to a room full of CEOs. When you start a new business, you start with all this passion and you know the direction you want to go in. But, as you go along, other aspects of the business can sometimes dilute the reasons you started. It can be a very muddling time. Stripping it all back for the pitch – looking back at why I started it, what I’m doing it for, who I am and what our message is – was nice for me. I’ve learnt to stay in my own lane and maintain my integrity.

Running my own business has given me more flexibility. I’m still not in a position where I can say I’m better off running my own business than I am going out and working, but I am a lot happier and what I’m doing is no longer seen as a hobby. I’m a businesswoman and I make great stuff and I stand up as an equal to any other male distiller.

I wanted to teach my two young boys that mum can have a successful business and be something in the industry.

When the kids say their parents are distillers, it’s nice to hear, ‘My mum’s a distiller, I’ll probably be a distiller like her.’ There are probably not many kids who can say that.

Catie FryClovendoe Distilling Co