Attending a festival in Melbourne, Georgia Beattie was struck by an unusual idea – why not try to sell single-serve portions of wine to consumers?
After plenty of hard work, Beattie’s resulting business, Lupe, is set to launch this week, with four initial pre-packaged types of wine.
She speaks to StartupSmart about how the venture is faring.
What gave you the idea for the business?
I was at a festival in Melbourne in 2009 and I wanted to get a drink. The line was 100 metres long and all they were serving was beer and Smirnoff pre-mixed drinks.
I wanted a glass of wine, but it would take them far too long to pour the wine, so they didn’t have any. I just thought I wouldn’t bother, as I didn’t want to drink beer or lolly water.
I realised that spirits and beer come in single serve, but why not wine? There’s no reason that wine couldn’t fit into that outdoor lifestyle in the same way.
Once I found out that you have to serve drinks in plastic after 10am, I realised that there was an opportunity to do something different in the marketplace.
What kind of market would this appeal to?
Wine is a lot of people’s drink of choice, if they can get it. A lot of are moving away from lolly water. They have a more refined palate and want another option.
I see it at the retail level as well as outdoor events. I’d like to see single serve products in Dan Murphy’s alongside regular bottles of wine.
If you’re having a picnic, taking a glass is a bit too hard – you can grab a single serve and wine. Also, if you’re going to a social occasion, you can know exactly many drinks you’ve had. Each single serve is 1.6 standard drinks. That’s a good point of difference.
So, what did you do next?
I’d always wanted to start my own business and I’d studied entrepreneurship. My family is in the wine business, so it just seemed ideal.
I realised that it would take a lot of time and money to do it myself due to the cost of the very specialised machine needed to make the single serve products. It would’ve taken me years.
So I partnered with a guy called James Nash, who provides single serve brands Italian Job and Le Froglet in Marks & Spencer in the UK.
He had a tailor-made machine that could manufacture the product. A lot of people said it couldn’t be done, but I used my last $1,000 to fly over to the UK to meet him.
How did you pitch yourself to him?
I found that we have very similar views on business. I explained that I came from a wine background, that I’ve got drive and enthusiasm and that I’ve got good connections in the industry.
He did due diligence, came over to see the wine and stores in Australia and then gave me the rights for Australia, New Zealand and Asia Pacific under my own brand, Lupe.
I’m glad I got in there quickly as he’s already sold the rights in countries around the world.
Was it a nervy time?
Yes, it still is, every day! When you have a lot of people saying that it won’t work, it does play on your mind. There is a tall poppy syndrome in Australia.
What drives me is that I studied in the US and the kids there were such go-getters. They had the true spirit of entrepreneurialism. We need that attitude here.
How did you go about setting up the operation then?
I signed a contract where I will pay a royalty on each unit. Negotiations took awhile to finalise.
We plugged the bespoke machine in and ran it through the family business. We used wines from wineries we’d dealt with for a long time. They were very excited that they are involved in something new like this. I wanted quality wines – I wouldn’t sell bad, cheap wine.
I am talking to big wine companies to open it up so that we can repackage their brands as single serve.
Have you had a lot of family help?
Yes, my dad looks after the quality control side of the wine and my brother has come on board to help with sales and marketing.
My uncle in New Zealand helps with the financial side. My family is incredibly supportive.
How is distribution going?
We are working with independent owners initially and we’ll speak to the big supermarkets next year. We are launching at the Melbourne Music Festival and then in areas predominately near beaches and parks in Victoria.
It has already launched in Japan and Singapore. It suits the Japanese buying culture and it’s stocked in high-end supermarkets there.
I spend a lot of my time on Skype speaking to my business partners in Singapore and Japan.
What are the biggest challenges you are facing?
It’s introducing a new product that is very different to what people are used to. The good thing is that I don’t have to worry about the product and machinery and the reaction has been good so far among people.
Of course, some people won’t even look at it, but generally the feedback has been good. We’ll be pricing it at $4.50 each or $16.99 for a four-pack.
Generation Y are open to new things and I think they’ll take to it.