Love wine? Then this is for you.
Vinomofo is a members-only wine selling community celebrating a love of the beverage while revolting against the “bowties and bullshit” of the pretentious collective who believe wine is for the chosen few.
Curated by the Vinomofo team, only 5% of the wines submitted to the company are selected for their tribe of nearly 500,000 ‘mofos’, ensuring they receive the best every time.
We talked to Justin Dry, CEO and co-founder, about how Vinomofo came to be, why it’s a game-changer for the wine industry, and what comes next.
How did Vinomofo come about?
I’ve loved creating businesses since I was a kid. My first was starting a car washing and lawn mowing round when I was about 8. A few years later, I was selling Christmas trees pre-holidays at busy intersections.
I fell in love with wine in my late-teens and soon discovered it was in my DNA, with ancestors planting some of the first vines in the Barossa. I ended up studying wine and marketing at uni whilst working in the industry. However, after a few years I was questioning whether it was a passion or profession so I decided to study financial markets and move into stockbroking with a focus on the tech space. Riding the tech boom in the late 90’s was awesome, the crash in early 2000’s, not so much.
I had always wanted to get back into wine, so my brother in-law Andre Eikmeier and I started what would later become Vinomofo back in 2007. We just wanted to do something cool for the wine space – something a little disruptive, different and that would help democratise good wine.
I was inspired by discovering Facebook while travelling in South America in 2006 – I decided I wanted to create the Facebook for wine and Andre had independently started working on a customer review wine site so after a few bottles over Christmas, we decided it was a good idea to combine them and go into business together. Qwoff was born.
While we built a great audience and network of wine producers, we needed to find a way to make money because that was the thing lacking from the original model. We wanted to stay true to what Qwoff was all about – sharing our love of really good wine – and democratising the wine experience.
After four business model pivots, a cease and desist letter, and a name change, what we now know as Vinomofo was born.
What makes Vinomofo so unique to the industry?
We’ve disrupted the traditional supply chain to open up a viable independent channel for producers and create a better way to buy wine.
Our core proposition is super strong: Curation, Value and Culture. We curate and sell only the wines we love, and because of this focus (and our 500,000 wine-loving members), we can offer the most epic deals on the planet. Finally, we believe in loving our Mofos more than anyone else. We’re all about opening up the wine world and removing the bowties and b.s. that has been traditionally associated with it. Oh and having fun; lots of fun.
What were some of the toughest challenges you faced when starting?
Lack of money and time – Vinomofo was our fourth pivot of what was a relatively unsuccessful business four years earlier. We were constantly broke, time poor and exhausted but as any entrepreneur can tell you, it’s about finding the right formula and providing what your customer wants, not want you think they want. Thankfully, we finally worked that out.
Anything you wish you’d known when starting out that you learnt the hard way?
Hire great people. It’s impossible to build a super successful business without them.
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. So we would spend time working out exactly what we needed in terms of the role and exactly what we wanted in terms of the person. We’d make them work for it, test and retest, get credible references, great induction processes, set expectations for the role and act quickly if it wasn’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.
What do you think it takes to remain at the top of your industry?
Care more than anyone about your business, team and customers. Also, you need to always be looking for opportunities to grow, improve, disrupt and stay ahead. If something hasn’t been done before, ask yourself why hasn’t it been done before – is it an opportunity or is it actually a bad idea? And remember this answer can change over time, so keep asking the right questions.
Considering the radical change in the workforce we’re currently experiencing, how do you see the industry evolving over the next 10 – 15 years?
Consumers can and will expect more. They’ll demand personalised service, on demand delivery, and all at the best price available.
I also see our industry niching further, so you’ll have a whole lot of interesting small producers with a strong direct relationships with their customers. The artisanal movement is well and truly here and people are willing to pay good money for it.
The move to online will continue to grow rapidly, and the data around that ever-increasing, giving those that make the most of it a real advantage.
Finally, I see a lot of awesome opportunities opening up through VR.
How will Vinomofo specifically adjust to meet these changes?
We will continue to invest a lot of time and money in pushing the boundaries of what is possible in regards to both personalisation, delivery and technology. It’s all about delivering the best possible experience for our Mofos.
I’m super excited about VR, so watch this space.
Do you believe in ‘ultimate success’? If so, what does it look like for you?
From a very young age I set big goals. I would write them down, visualise achieving them and then trust that one day they would come true. It’s amazing when I go through all of my old goals, how many of them have come true. There is something very powerful about the process.
One danger in living this way though is believing that you’ll only be happy when you achieve a certain level of success. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realised that you can waste a lot of your life focusing on what you don’t have yet; the next goal.
And there’s always another bigger one to achieve when you get there. Then you wake up one day having achieved lots of cool things but realising you never really enjoyed any of it. So now I set big goals but also try my hardest to enjoy the ride because in the end that’s what life is. One big bumpy journey full of amazing people and experiences.
If I had to choose an ultimate goal, it would be a lifestyle rather than a destination and it would look a lot like Richard Branson’s. I love tropical islands, family, and friends, and tackling big challenges.
What advice would you share with entrepreneurs hoping to follow in your footsteps?
This path is not an easy one, but if it’s your passion and you are 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, team and the world.