Lothians rum distillery co-founder criticises 'huge barriers' faced by black women in business

The co-founder of a rum distillery has criticised the “huge barriers” black women face in business as she launched a drive to help her firm secure the investment it needs to expand.
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Jacine Rutasikwa is believed to be the UK’s first black female distillery owner after setting up the Matugga Distillery in Livingston, West Lothian, with her husband Paul.

She has now launched the distillery’s first crowdfunding campaign, with the aim of raising £300,000, which would go towards expanding their team and purchasing additional equipment for the distillery so it can increase production.

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Paul and Justine Rutasikwa of Matugga Distillers. Picture: Stewart AttwoodPaul and Justine Rutasikwa of Matugga Distillers. Picture: Stewart Attwood
Paul and Justine Rutasikwa of Matugga Distillers. Picture: Stewart Attwood
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The distillery is operating at “full capacity”, she said, as she revealed how the firm plans to become a “cane to cask” producer by establishing its own sugar cane plantation in Uganda – her husband’s home country.

Mrs Rutasikwa, whose grandparents were part of the post-war Windrush generation who migrated from the Caribbean to the UK, said while there were “barriers” to running a firm as a black woman, they had found a “highly supportive community” in Scotland.

The Matugga managing director said: “When starting a business, black entrepreneurs, female entrepreneurs and particularly black female entrepreneurs face huge barriers, and often struggle to get to the next phase for a number of reasons – whether it’s access to finance, networks, education or mentorship.

“There are still, sadly, systemic inequalities and individual and institutional biases at play.

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“But we’re lucky that since moving to Scotland we’ve encountered a highly supportive community who value our craftsmanship and are as excited about our growth plans as we are.”

She continued: “It’s not very often that you see black-owned businesses on equity-based crowdfunding platforms and we’re looking forward to launching our campaign to the general public.

“It’s an exciting time for our distillery and we’re inviting rum lovers to back our business and help us take Scottish rum worldwide.”

Meanwhile, Mr Rutasikwa, the head distiller, said the company had “substantial ties to Uganda” and was looking to “support the livelihoods of sugar cane growers in east Africa”.

He said: “With this at the front of our mind, we are developing a sugar cane plantation on our family land in Matugga that will employ and train local agricultural workers.”