Sarah Leonard, the 405th person I’ve met on my quest to have lunch with 500 strangers, moved to Australia for the whisky. 

Sarah, who’s from Ireland, developed an appreciation for whisky from observing her grandfather’s love and respect of the beverage and later working in bars.

After completing a university degree in food marketing and entrepreneurship, Sarah spent almost two years living in Milwaukee, where she worked as a brand ambassador for an Irish whisky. Sarah then moved to London, but moved into sales for William Grant & Sons where she expanded her knowledge of whisky into Scotch. 

In both cases, her job was to travel the country, promoting whisky to different venues, which involved telling the story of the brand and explaining how it developed its unique taste. Convincing clients to stock the whisky was only half the battle: she also had to persuade them to give her drink as much visibility as possible, and educate bar staff about the product so they felt confident recommending it to patrons. 

Sarah then dived deeper into the world of whisky by taking a role with Cask Trade, a marketplace for whisky connoisseurs and investors to buy, sell and bottle (with their own branding) casks of whisky. Initially based in London, Sarah later moved to Sydney to set up the company’s Australian operations.

Sarah continues to have a freelance sales role with Cask Trade and also works as a senior account manager for HeadBox Australia, which is an events agency that supports organisations to deliver their annual program of events, whether that be just venue and supplier sourcing or full end-to-end event management. Their main point of difference is the technology: their software enables organisations to plan, build, manage and track their entire meeting and events program in one place.

One thing I quickly learned during my lunch with Sarah is that she’s passionate about whisky and has acquired deep knowledge on the subject. She’s also made for sales – she’s an extrovert who gains energy from meeting people, building relationships, and attending and orchestrating events. I was also struck by Sarah’s positive approach to life – while most people’s default mode when confronted by potential new experiences is to say no, she believes in saying yes and going with the flow.