When my parents told me that they wanted me to take over the family winery I was a little shocked. It was this tiny vineyard, producing only a few hundred bottles a year, and while I loved wine and loved the vineyard, I had no idea how to run a business, or even how to run a tiny winery.
So I made a choice when control got handed over to me. I decided to grow the business. From my parents’ savings over the years, they had more than enough to buy out other small wineries, increasing their vines and the variety of vines. Next, getting them set up with a functioning website, and an effective marketing campaign to grow the customer base.
To be honest I was almost surprised when it worked. We started having more frequent visitors to our winery, more purchases in-store and online and we even started getting interest from people overseas. Big buyers were desperately looking for affordable yet high quality wines, and wines from Australia are often very highly regarded.
So then came the big move. Sure buying vineyards, getting stocked in big name bottle shops and having the business turn a profit was an amazing feat. But it was nothing in comparison to exporting wine to China.
China has one of the largest growing demands for wine, especially Australian wine. It is the biggest international market for our wine, and while France holds first place in term of demand, Australia makes up 12% of Chinese wine imports. So the biggest move I could make for the business was to go out and get a slice of that 12%.
And this was more ambitious than it sounded. No one in my family had ever been to China. My father had never even been overseas. And yet there I was, boarding a flight to Beijing, dressed as a fancy businessman, ready to wine and dine and impress these Chinese buyers.
Unsurprisingly, I just about made a fool of myself. Despite my trying to learn the cultural norms and some key phrases before my trip, I managed to lightly offend one of the possible big buyers. It all ended up okay in the end, but it sure was tough and go there for a while. My saving grace was a man named Ling. He spoke more English than the others, and had lived for a while in the US. He saved me from a lot of embarrassment.
And while it was embarrassing, the trip was overall a success; we are now exporting wine to China. So just wait and see where the business goes next, it’s sure to be exciting.