No bowties and bulls**t – the Vinomofo story
Last week I went to a masterclass with Andre Eikmeier, hosted by Glen Carlson of Dent Global (which is an awesome organisation and one you should check out – here). Andre, like so many successful entrepreneurs, is a straight-talking, high-energy, shoot-from-the-hip kind of guy. Five years ago, he co-founded Vinomofo with his brother-in-law, Justin Dry.
Vinomofo has come a long way, and it’s clear that it’s just getting started. In July this year, Andre and Justin announced Australia’s largest ever Series A capital raise, a cool $25M to fund the company’s global expansion.
With a team of 150 people and more than $100M in revenue, Vinomofo today is a far cry from its humble beginnings in an Adelaide garage. But success hasn’t gone to Andre’s head – he rather disarmingly describes himself as having ‘failed at six businesses and three careers.’ He’s living proof that painful, gut-wrenching failure often comes before massive success.
Andre’s masterclass was a masterpiece of storytelling. He took us on a journey, full of twists and turns, highs and lows; as he described his long pathway to success. The session allowed for complete candour, behind closed doors and between entrepreneurs – so I’ll leave the majority of what was said there to your imagination. Suffice to say he was brutally honest, searingly insightful and laugh-out-loud funny.
The following is a little of the Vinomofo story, as it relates to business storytelling. You can read the rest on their website (and it’s well worth a read).
Building a community based on quality content
In what turned out to be a genius move – and the foundation of their subsequent success – Andre and Justin set out by building a unique and loyal community of Gen X and Gen Ys, who loved wine but hated the ‘bowties and bullshit’ that went with it. Under the auspices of their first company, Qwoff, the duo bought a VW Kombi van that they found in a lemon orchard in Adelaide. They toured Australia in it, filming a show called ‘Road to Vino’. Watch it here.
In their words, the show is all about ‘Two scruffy winelovers, a VW kombi, 35,000 miles and some bloody good wine’. The combination of their unstuffy attitude and great content quickly attracted a loyal community of around 5,000 wine lovers.
Being brave and being different
Qwoff had several revenue streams based around reviewing and recommending wines, plus producing videos for wineries. But nothing was bringing in enough money to make them a decent profit: until Justin had the bright idea of selling wines, not just recommending them.
Initially, Andre admits to not being keen, but when they asked their tribe of loyal members whether they’d like to buy wine from Qwoff, the answer was a resounding ‘yes’! Duly persuaded, Andre was then also convinced to use the awesome domain name he’d parked – ‘Vinomojo’. A trademark dispute and a late night brainstorming session (with wine) led to the big and bold name we know them by today – ‘Vinomofo’.
Taking it to the next level
After some initial success, Vinomofo partnered with the Catch of the Day group, who loved what Vinomofo stood for, and brought a huge audience of their own. A few years later, Andre and Justin could have sold their share in the company and made their personal fortunes. But, hankering after that unique Vinomofo vibe and culture; instead, they jumped in and bought the company back. They brought back that same down-to-earth wine-loving passion that had attracted their loyal audience in the first place.
Today, thanks to their commitment to authenticity and value, Vinomofo has a tribe of more than 300,000 ‘Mofos’ and ‘Mofettes’; and is set to become a global phenomenon.
The value of storytelling
Meeting Andre in person was too good an opportunity to miss. I jumped at the chance to ask him about the value of authenticity, personality and storytelling.
Andre told me, “Wine is all about stories. There are stories in the bottle – about the heritage and origin of the wine and the people who created it. Then there are the stories that you share around the table as you enjoy the wine. Stories are how we share history, how we connect, how we learn.
“People love stories. So, I like stories and I don’t like marketing messages. I mean, Vinomofo has marketing messages; but to me that’s not really what it’s about. Story is everything.”
In-text photo credits: Jason Malouin