Justin, what’s Vinomofo all about?
It’s easy for me to say Vinomofo is the most epic wine site on the planet – it’s true, but what we really are is an experience. All about democratising wine, we connect our members with good wine at good prices, and without any of the bowties, BS and snobbery sometimes associated with the grape industry.
From a logistics point of view, we’ve managed to disrupt the traditional supply chain to open up a viable independent channel for our producers and a better way to buy wine for our members. We only sell wines we love, and because of this focus (and our 500,000 vino-loving members), we can offer the most epic deals on the planet.
How did you get the idea?
I fell in love with wine in my late teens and soon discovered it was in my DNA – my ancestors had actually planted some of the very first vines in the Barossa. I ended up studying wine and marketing at uni whilst working in the industry. Once the real world set in, I started stockbroking with a focus on tech, but I’d always wanted to get back into the wine industry so my brother-in-law Andre Eikmeier and I started the wine review site Qwoff – which would later become Vinomofo – in 2007.
Whilst we built a great audience and network of wine producers, we needed to find a way to make money. We wanted to stay true to what Qwoff was all about – sharing our love of really good wine – and democratising the wine experience. After many pivots, we finally and officially launched Vinomofo in 2011.
My mistakes always happen when I go against my gut.
What’s the biggest win you’ve had so far?
From a very young age I set big goals – I’d write them down, visualise myself achieving them and then trust that one day they would happen. However, you can get caught up in continually chasing the next goal, rather than enjoying the ride. My biggest win has been that realisation – you have to enjoy the journey.
And your biggest mistake?
My mistakes always happen when I go against my gut. My biggest would be not starting Vinomofo sooner.
How’s your experience been funding Vinomofo?
When we started, we funded everything ourselves – we launched in Andre’s garage and performed every role. If we couldn’t do something, we’d outsource to a family member who would work for free (thanks Mum). After a few months and rapid growth, we found producers who loved what we were doing and customers who loved the wines we were selling, but some of the bigger retailers were making it hard for us on the supply side.
Enter Catch Of The Day, who took a majority stake, which meant we had an even bigger audience, and the buying power to order enough wine from producers to give them a secure sale. After a year as part of Catch Of The Day, we bought our company back and ran it independently once more. In April this year, we received a $25 million investment from Blue Sky Venture Capital to help bolster domestic and international growth and acquisition.
Have you had any challenges sourcing and growing your team?
You need a great team – it’s impossible to build a super successful business without them. But this was way more complicated than I ever imagined, especially when scaling fast. You need to hire quickly enough to not hamper growth but slow enough to get the best people possible. We spend time working out exactly what we need in terms of the role and the person, and we make them work for it. We test and retest, get credible references, have a great induction process, set expectations for the role and act quickly if it isn’t working out. We want and need people who are just as passionate about our business as we are, and we’ll do just about anything to ensure we’ve got them.
We want and need people who are just as passionate about our business as we are, and we’ll do just about anything to ensure we’ve got them.
What needs to change/improve for Australia to become a leader in tech and innovation?
We need to change to our education system to have more of an emphasis on tech and innovation. We also need to remove the layers, and make it easier and more attractive to invest in this space. Finally, we need to live and breath a culture that celebrates success and rejects the tall poppy syndrome.
Do you have any tips for acquiring new users and/or scaling your business?
Marketing starts with product. Get that right and the rest is a lot easier, and a hell of a lot cheaper.
If you could turn back time, what are two things you’d do differently?
Always trust my gut and surround myself with amazing people sooner.
What’s the best advice you could give to someone starting out?
This path isn’t an easy one but if it’s your passion and you’re willing to risk facing many failures along the way, then it’s ultimately one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. Dig in for the long haul, learn, iterate, learn some more and always do the right thing by your customers, your team and the world.
Dig in for the long haul, learn, iterate, learn some more and always do the right thing by your customers, your team and the world.