CEO & Managing Director - The Wine Collective
Interview by Tim Carroll
What ignited the spark in you to start a new business venture?
I have always had a deep passion for the wine industry and have long held a strong belief that structural reform was required to improve access to market for small-medium sized producers. I’d been working for one of the major supermarkets and observing the business go in a direction that I didn’t believe was in the best interest of the industry or the consumer. I knew a technological solution was required and I thought I had the answer. It was also time to stop telling people how to run a business and to actually start my own!
How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
I found a concept I liked in a parallel industry and started researching it. I found that someone had tried a concept similar to the one I had and so invited him for a coffee. Two hours later, we had agreed to collaborate and the “business” was born.
How did you choose your company name and why?
Our first concept was live “in market” and so it already had a name. More recently, we have launched a new brand and that name was chosen through a combination of consultation (I have a team in place), investor discussions, my creative input and the stark reality of IP constraints.
Where did your organisations funding/capital come from and how did you go about getting it? How did you obtain investors for your venture?
My first venture was essentially funded through philanthropy – a wealthy private individual who wanted to help improve the space. We then rolled up our concept with another funded by a separate wealthy individual who was also working to improve the industry but from very much a venture capital perspective. We then rolled up a third time with another large VC (original backers of carsales.com) who were already investing in the space and were keen for scale.
How do you go about marketing your business? What has been your most successful form of marketing?
We are very much a direct to consumer business focused on direct digital marketing. Our recent forays into more general (print) marketing space have not been particularly successful but our strategy is emerging as a multi-channel paid SEM and social strategy that is starting to look promising. A lot of our new business comes from SEO and we are looking to amplify this through paid methods.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
It is in an area of the world that I am incredibly passionate about. I genuinely love the physical product that we sell and I’m incredibly engaged in why we are doing what we are doing. I have a deep connection to the “why” as it is a space that is long overdue innovation.
How do you conquer those moments of doubt that so often stifle or trip or stop so many entrepreneurs with great ideas...what pushes you through?
I find it exceedingly difficult to “conquer” the moments of doubt - I don’t think it’s possible in fact. So instead I focus on decreasing my level of stress about that doubt – pushing it to the background and trying as best I can to stay focused on the vision and my passion for that vision. I’m personally very heavily invested (physically, emotionally and financially) so that helps to push me through. I also have a high degree of faith that what we are working on is required for the industry. We may not be the ones who solves the problem, but someone will no doubt develop a solution and I’m banking on us.
Excluding yours, what business or organisation do you admire the most?
I like disruptive digital business models and for me some of the cleverest ones are marketplaces. I am also really fascinated with the whole marketplace development so obviously E-bay, Amazon and the likes really interest me. I also worked on the development of Redbubble (an artist marketplace) and so I’m very proud of that one.
Besides money, what are your favourite ways to compensate people?
Wine, love and coaching – I think letting people know they are valued with small, everyday actions really trumps large, infrequent rewards when you are in the start-up space. I am also a fan of “ownership” for longer-term incentives for key senior team members.
If you could offer a first-time entrepreneur only one piece of advice, what would it be?
You’ll never know if you never have a crack
Where you see yourself and your business in 3 to 5 Years?
I’d like to think that we have a very strong P/L and that personally I can tell the story of the business from a position of strength. I’d love to have helped solve a significant industry problem and be in a position to accelerate not only our own success, but also that of our supplier partners.
In one word, characterise your life as an entrepreneur?