You’ve heard the saying “Do something you enjoy”? Like many journeys, my latest business adventure started with something I am passionate about. As an avid wine enthusiast, and after collecting for more than 20 years, I decided to join the Waiheke winemaking community and create my own wine label. The experience has taught me valuable lessons, not only about the wine industry but also about doing business in general. I am a great believer in the mantra “one to sell, one to drink”. I became interested in understanding more about the production of wine (rather than just drinking it), so I invested and nurtured a small vineyard near our home on Waiheke. The brand is called Postage Stamp, reflecting the small size of the vineyard. The next step was taking over the View East and Arae vineyards on the island. We have a philosophy of investing in other small vineyards both on Waiheke and other areas of New Zealand. Wine is a journey and a story. Here are some lessons I have learned from winemaking that can apply to your business journey:
1. Follow what makes you passionate
This is not new advice, but when it comes to creating a business it is very important. Starting a business from scratch is a labour of love and it is hard to imagine doing so in a field you do not care deeply about. You do not need to be an expert in the topic, provided you follow my second piece of advice.
2. Surround yourself with the right people
In all my businesses I have always believed that success is about the team around you. Wine is not a journey of one person but of the various artists involved. One is our vineyard manager, Matt Sloan, who both runs the team that manages the vineyards and helps us source new vineyards; another is talented winemaker, Michael Wood. For the strategy and brand, I have Charlotte Lockhart, who spearheaded the rebrand of Perpetual Guardian. They know far more about their respective areas of expertise than I do and I trust their judgement. Your people need to have both the right skills and also be the right fit.
3. Don’t lose your nerve when things get hard
Business is never easy and winemaking can be particularly fickle. How you respond to these challenges will be the difference between whether you fail or succeed. Also remember, in business things can happen slower or faster than you expect. Be ready for either scenario to occur.
4. Focus on the journey, not the destination
Although it can be useful to visualise what your business will end up looking like, do not get too fixed on this as things will probably turn out different to your dream. Being too future-focused could see you miss out on opportunities in the present. You need the flexibility to change direction as you learn along the way.
5. Expect the unexpected
I have been in business many years, but I have still been surprised by what my winemaking adventure has taught me. One thing that has been a delight is how friendly and supportive the Waiheke wine community has been to us. From day one, they have embraced us and treated us like family, which is not what we expected in a highly competitive industry such as wine.
The best thing about making a business out of my passion is that making money is not the only goal. It is just as important to enjoy it and get to work with great people in a family atmosphere. When you love your business like I do, you do not feel you are working. I am hoping you never ‘work’ another day in your life.