Father of Irish whiskey revival shares secrets to success

John Teeling speaks to Lynn students and alumni

John Teeling, serial entrepreneur and “non-drinking whiskey distiller,” knows a thing or two about how to start a successful business (and the sleepless nights that go with it).  In a recent address to Lynn University students, alumni and community members at the Indimi International Business Center, he said, “The world is going to be very different with vast opportunities over the next 50 years.”  He pointed to changing demographics and advancements in healthcare, global tourism and artificial intelligence as creating new frontiers for young entrepreneurs.

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John Teeling with Donald Ross, Lynn University President Emeritus

Teeling founded Cooley Distillery in Dublin, which was the first new whiskey distillery established in Ireland in 100 years. At that time, Irish whiskey had declined from its prominent position in the world, and Teeling believed he could do a better job meeting modern tastes.

He was right. Over time, Cooley earned an impressive reputation, including a trophy at the International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC) for outstanding quality. Teeling sold the successful venture to Jim Beam in 2012.  Today he runs oil, mining and industrial ventures around the world. 

During his talk at Lynn, he advised young entrepreneurs that four things are necessary to set up your own business:

  1. vision
  2. resources
  3. the ability to handle uncertainty
  4. energy and perseverance

“Resources are money, people and technology,” said Teeling.  “You can buy the technology, you can recruit people who share your vision, but there are only three sources of money for entrepreneurs: family, friends and fools. Start-ups typically only see a six percent return, so you need people who believe in you and that you will look after their money.”

According to Teeling, that’s why vision is so critically important: “You have to believe that it will work.”

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