The taste of success

Vinomofo is all about selling premium wine to our members-only database. We‘re not into the bowties and BS traditionally associated with the wine industry. As Co-founders and joint CEOs of Vinomofo, my partner (and brother-in-law) Andre and I, specialise in selling the wines we love (only the top 5% make it onto our site). Over the last six years, we’ve grown to a tribe of more than 500,000 members and operate in three countries – Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. But it’s not how we started out…

My passion is building businesses. I’m a start-up guy. I’ve always been inspired by other entrepreneurs like Richard Branson and Gary Vaynerchuk. From a very early age I was selling Christmas trees and mowing lawns, not because I wanted money, but because I loved watching those businesses grow.

My passion for wine started early too. Wine is in my DNA. Literally. My ancestors were amongst the first people to plant vines in the Barossa (Shiraz no less). I’ve always loved the whole experience that wine is a part of; time with people you love, great food and awesome conversations. Some of my favourite memories are from times like these.

For my 18th birthday I asked for a bottle of Penfolds Grange from my birth year, ’77, instead of a party. I spent hours and hours decanting it and tasting, waiting, tasting, waiting etc. It was a truly incredible experience to see it evolve over the evening. I was hooked.

It seems only fitting I’d end up a wine retailer, right? Actually, Vinomofo wasn’t the first business we had in the tech wine space. After a few too many wines one Christmas day, Andre and I sat down and shared our plans for a business. The ideas were very similar, so we combined to create Qwoff – the wine industry’s answer to Facebook.

We thought it was a really cool idea, but it was a pretty ordinary business model and the market was too niche for it to work. We then pivoted the business four times over the next few years, before launching Vinomofo in early 2011. That’s when some very lean times began.

The Vinomofo journey has been a bumpy one. I’ve learned so much about myself personally, other people and business in general through the tremendous highs and lows. We’re now six years in, growing fast, in three different markets and have more than 100 employees. We’ve had challenges aplenty, but I’ve learnt from each of them along way…

Get over your fear of failure

Seriously. There is no place for it in business. No one I know has ever had true overnight success. Once you scratch the surface of most successful entrepreneurs, you quickly find out about all the missteps, failures and sleepless nights they’ve had. What sets successful entrepreneurs apart, is they spin it so it’s no longer considered a failure, rather a lesson that provides an opportunity to improve, change direction or start something else. If Andre and I had buried our heads in the sand when it came to failure, we’d still be working on Qwoff. And we’d still be broke.

A true pivot in business provides learnings. And nine times out of 10 can be the catalyst of future success for a business. The greatest successes I’ve been lucky enough to achieve have always been on the other side of this fear.

We were broke for four years before Vinomofo happened. The fact Andre and I are brothers in law, just accentuated the stress. My sister would go to the shops for groceries and her card would be rejected. We juggled bills daily and almost gave up so many times that I’ve lost count. We were not what you’d call a success for many years and that’s the stuff lots of people don’t tell you. It’s hard. Really hard.

You have to back yourself, because no one knows your business like you

We always thought there were super-human business people out there. You know those larger-than-life people who are always one step ahead of everyone else and have their act together. But every time we’d meet someone new in the business world, they were just regular humans. They had strengths and weaknesses just like everyone else.

Whenever we would meet someone amazing, and enter into a deal with them, we thought we were going to learn this secret that would blow our minds and multiply our growth instantly, but it doesn’t exist. At the end of the day, it’s just you, your business partners and your business. It’s in your hands to make it work.

There is experience that certainly helps, patterns you start to recognise, lessons learned (plenty of them, trust me), but usually it comes down to hard work, preparation and a little bit of luck. And you definitely seem to get luckier the harder you work and the more you face your fears..

You have to put in the work. You have to trust your gut. You have to believe in yourself. You have to realise there is no secret. You are the one who is going to make this a success. It’s always been You.

Believe in yourself… question your idea

You have to back yourself, yes, but the business idea is another playing field. Don’t let pride stop you from questioning your product or your business model. It’s essential to be able to see when something needs work (or actually sucks) and make the changes necessary.

Always question. Don’t attach self worth to an idea, make the distinction between the two. You have to be open and willing to adapt to get ahead. Create, make mistakes, listen, learn, implement and change.

With Qwoff, it was our passion that started it. We loved the idea of connecting wine lovers with producers, it was a hell of a lot of fun, but it didn’t work. We had to change (it took us a while). We listened to our customers, looked at the data, learned from smart people and listened to our gut.

Vinomofo is an evolving beast. We’re constantly looking at what does and doesn’t work and ask, “how do we disrupt ourselves?”. No longer are we turning and looking at competitors as a benchmark, we look at ourselves. We stay in our lane and disrupt what we’re doing to keep ahead.