Barrelling ahead: women need to step up to the plate

Janet Docherty of Merridale Ciderworks in Cobble Hill has made her dream a reality

Janet Docherty of Merridale Ciderworks in Cobble Hill has made her dream a reality and is passionate about helping other women realize their professional potential.

Docherty owns and operates Merridale Ciderworks with her husband Rick Pipes, where they produce cider and spirits and enjoy hosting visitors from near and far for fine dining, tours and weddings.

“It was just always clear I would be an entrepreneur. It was more I would always work for myself, mostly because I’m driven,” said Docherty, who is originally from Vancouver and moved to the Island 24 years ago. “I like putting things together and I like being in control of my own destiny.”

Starting Merridale was about Docherty and her husband’s shared vision.

“We wanted to do a business that we worked together in and we wanted a lifestyle that was going to embrace our values and our philosophies. We wanted something that would work for our families,” Docherty said.

Docherty holds a commerce degree from the University of British Columbia and has worked in a variety of fields including accounting, being a singer and dancer, and running a residential construction company. Now putting her talents into Merridale, Docherty has built a prized Island destination that sources much of its ingredients from its own 20-acre grounds including apples and herbs.

“So we start with agriculture, then we move to manufacturing. We do all of our own ferments and distilling for our cidery and our distillery,” Docherty explained. “We are also a wholesaler. We sell to private liquor stores, to pubs and to restaurants. Then we are very much hospitality, because we have a restaurant where we do events and food, seven days a week. And experiential: we do weddings, large gatherings, tours, tastings, and we also have a bakery.”

Merridale is in its 26th year of operation and employs up to 50 staff during the busy season. They produce over 200,000 litres per year of cider and have also been producing spirits including gin, vodka and a line of brandies since 2007, soon to hit the market.

“We haven’t moved forward in a strong way in terms of supplying the market because it was always unprofitable to do so until relatively recently,” Docherty explained. “We’re going to start releasing this year and we’re going to really focus in on the sales of our spirits.”

Women succeeding in business is a goal close to Docherty’s heart.

“I’m pretty passionate about this whole thing, women in the workforce. It’s kind of one of my pet things of how do we change some of the ways things are viewed for women? It’s always a very difficult thing for women in the workforce, particularly with having children and still trying to maintain a career,” she added.

Young women’s potential is something Docherty is enthusiastic about.

“I like to support young women in realizing that they have a voice at the table and that they need to step up to the plate because there’s room there for them and they need to go after it.”

To find out more about Merridale visit www.merridalecider.com.

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