VP Merchants

             VP Merchants ValentinaVP Merchants LOGO

The Women in Business Network Entrepreneur of the Year, 2021

Valentina Makarova, winner of The LEO Dublin City Women in Business Network, Entrepreneur of the Year 2021 is the owner of VP Merchants, who import and distribute alcohol products, such as wines, liqueurs and spirits to on and off-trade around Ireland.

VP Merchants started diversifying into foods in November 2021 by importing premium Italian confectionery Mandrile Melis. They have expanded to make premium ready-to-drink cocktails named The Jar Tales which are aimed towards fast paced businesses and the events sector.

VP Merchants are continuously looking at future growth and possibilities: providing jobs to their commission-based associates full time, expanding into the food sector, exporting Irish products abroad and making donations to charity. 


Valentina is inspired by her personal interest in the hospitality industry and alcohol in particular.

“It is a very peculiar business, large, and highly invested in. I used to work in bars   and restaurants when I lived abroad to support myself and it gave me a broader insight into the industry’s potential. When I moved to Ireland, one of the first things I noticed was the limited wine offers and inconsistent pricing on them.”, Valentina explains.

Valentina and her partner, who is originally from Piedmont, Northern Italy, started to import the first pallet of wines and liqueurs from little family-owned wineries and a distillery that they knew personally.

The idea to support smaller producers and bring authentic Italian quality to Ireland boosted the inspiration. Now we are working on bringing other types of products from the Piedmont region.”



There was no quantitative or qualitative research regarding wines done at first.

Valentina’s partner worked as a manager in a bar in Dublin City and knew of the suppliers’ ranges, their pricing, and how bounded the venues were by the largest suppliers’ contracts. “The bars couldn’t afford to bring in new interesting products. From here we learned on the go, we went to each restaurant and bar, giving a taste of our products, and getting direct feedback. We are still overcoming the reluctance of some venue owners to experiment and simply try out new products. It could be for different reasons, but we are constantly learning as we go”


Making the decision to become self employed

Valentina made the decision to become self-employed just over a year ago.

“I finally quit my full-time job in a large company as I could not combine working for my own business and doing 8 to 5 anymore. Moreover, I started noticing slower growth of my business, to me, this was a big indication that the man-work was limited and a lot of time was spent on routine paperwork. It was clear that I had to dedicate myself to the business 24/7 or it would stagnate.”


Challenges & Opportunities

For VP Merchants, the biggest challenge to date has been the Covid 19 pandemic. With the pandemic, came tough restrictions that affected the hospitality industry and caused unsteady trading within.

“Inflation increased cost of dry and wet goods, which in turn raised the prices much more than was expected. It may be hard be able to justify the price raises to your customers.”


Adapting to the Covid-19 Pandemic

During the pandemic, Valentina launched The Jar Tales - premium cocktails bottled in jars. Venues needed cocktails for their take-away services and specialty shops and off-licences were also looking for new products to offer their customers.

Valentina tells us; “I found that there wasn’t a huge amount of venues went that far as to make their own cocktails and very few people would splash out on full bottles of liqueurs to make cocktails at home. I have done a great deal of research with The Thinking House (Bord Bia) and found a massive gap in the market. I researched cocktail trends all over the world and for some reason Ireland was late to hop on the trend train, there are only a small number of local competitors.”


LEO Supports

“We obtained a Trading Online Voucher to be able to set up and display ourwines and other products online. I am looking into separating The Jar Tales cocktail production into a different company and LEO has advised grants andother aid will be available to us as food producers.” Valentina says.


Winning The LEO Dublin City Women in Business Network, Entrepreneur of the Year 2021

“The award has a personal impact mostly: a lot of people struggle with motivation, confidence and self-esteem. I am not an exception. Being a foreigner in Ireland is not an easy thing, but being a female foreigner aspiring to grow her business is even harder. I hope this award will give me enough confidence and strength to move forward as well as a motivation for the new-year coming. Work-wise, it was an indication that our business did something great and it has been recognised for it. It might also be good PR for our business- we are always looking for new ways to advertise”

You can read more about The Women in Business Network Awards and winners here; https://www.localenterprise.ie/DublinCity/News/Press-Releases/Women-In-Business-Network-Awards-2021.pdf



Next steps: 2022 and beyond

Valentina, an ambitious entrepreneur with fantastic business acumen, has lots planned for 2022. She is eager to expand her business and move into new sectors.

“VP Merchants are working on diversifying into the all-food sector. This December we imported our first batch of premium Italian confectionery. With time, I’d like to bring a wide range of food and beverages to Ireland. We are also working on setting up agreements for redistribution of Bordiga - our major Italian brand of authentic Alpine liqueurs, in Ireland and the UK. Further on, I’m interested in working major nationwide retailers to redistribute all our products, including The Jar Tales cocktails, which I am planning to separate from VP Merchants.

 2022 will be a big year for VP Merchants!

The Women in Business Network is a business support network for all female entrepreneurs. Members can use the network to promote their business, create alliances with other members, learn new skills, get help from members with similar challenges that they may face in their business and increase your contacts to encourage business development. To join the Network, please visit here.

                                 VP Merchants DrinksVP Merchants Cocktails in a Jar


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