In November WIW LDN hosted our Industry Mavericks and Creative Entrepreneurs panel discussion with speakers Charlotte Wilde (formerly of Sager + Wilde), Corinna Pyke (Borough Wines) and Maggie Campbell (Privateer Rum) at SW4 wine bar in Clapham.
The evening offered an informal conversation about what led to success, the challenges they faced, their career progression and their businesses. "'Entrepreneur' wasn't a word association I ever expected, but I was always trying to increase my value as I progressed [through my career and my studies]' says Maggie Campbell, Head Distiller and Vice President at Privateer Rum, Director of the American Craft Spirit Association and Master of Wine Student. This was certainly one of the themes that resonated throughout the evening: Find your niche and develop your offering. As Charlotte explained of Sager + Wilde, arguably one of London's first and most successful modern fine wine bars, 'No one was doing it. And we thought, there's demand here. We just need to do it right'.
They also spoke in depth about the dedication of the teams around them, the importance of hiring - and keeping - individuals who believed in the value of the business. 'It's so important to us that our sales team is on board with the buying decisions we make' commented Corinna, who is a partner and Marketing Director at Borough Wines. Aligning their product with customer feedback and their sales teams knowledge has been imperative to growth. Charlotte echoed this sentiment saying that for her, it was the people who worked at Sager + Wilde and the customers that shaped the business to be what it is. She learned quickly that the decisions they made had to have a net positive impact: 'from the wine list to the type of loo roll we had, any decision to spend an extra pound had to benefit the customer'.
Each highlighted key aspects for success in their business: the importance of strong distribution in the US (Maggie), the need for great communication to customers to make wine accessible (Corinna), and growing in a sustainable way (Charlotte).
They also spoke about how influenced they were by colleagues, friends and peers and how this now shaped their careers and professional outlook. Maggie spoke about a decision made by Privateer's president to delay building a tasting room at the distillery until they had stronger distribution across restaurant/bar customers. As the tasting room would have been an easy and quick revenue channel to set up, '[Everyone said] he was wrong and it was crazy and in actual fact, it was one of the soundest decisions we made. You can't grow that much in sales volume with a tasting room, but you can with better distribution; that was the important thing to focus on first. It was a learning experience [for me]'.
Thank you once more to our panellists and to SW4 for hosting us. Please watch this space - 2018 events are in the works.