Wine retailer Naked Wines has recruited more than 2,000 “angels”, who have raised $1 million to fund wine made by up-and-coming independent winemakers.
Naked Wines, founded in 2008 by former Virgin executive Rowan Gormley, has sought to reverse the traditional wine business model by using “angel investors” to finance winemakers.
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The business says this enables the winemakers to focus on quality and reduces the overall cost of wine production. Naked Wines then passes the savings back to the angels, typically generating discounts of 25-50%.
Angels are typically wine-lovers who invest a monthly amount of $40, which is transferable and redeemable for wine purchasing in future orders.
The Naked Wines business model is also focused on interaction, enabling customers to chat to one another and with the actual winemakers.
To date, customers have logged more than 6,000 ratings and posts on the Naked Wines website and mobile apps, while the Facebook page has attracted more than 4,300 “Likes”.
In July, the company launched Naked Wines Australia, encouraging wine-lovers to become angel investors and help independent winemakers crack the market.
In three months, Naked Wines Australia has recruited more than 2,000 angels, resulting in $1 million in funds for direct investment in Australian winemakers.
“We took a chance and entered a market dominated by the big Australian supermarkets, and did so with a completely new and innovative business model,” managing director Luke Jecks says.
“Entering such a cluttered market was a risk but we knew we needed to take the muscle out of the hands of the behemoths and put it back in the hands of the consumer.”
“This risk has paid off, with customers totally embracing our concept.”
Jecks, who has described Gormley as a “good friend”, brought the Naked Wines concept to Australia to level the playing field between the supermarkets and independent winemakers.
“I knew winemakers were getting fewer opportunities and customers were getting fewer choices. The Australian wine industry needed a rapid change,” he says.
Naked Wines entered the Australian market with an initial kitty of $1.5 million to invest. Half of that has already been invested in seven winemakers from different regions.
Over the next six months, Naked Wines Australia will go in search of 13 more winemakers to fund. It will continue to offer winemakers direct interaction with customers and followers.
“It’s great to be able to talk direct with consumers,” winemaker Sam Plunkett said in a statement.
“I think people enjoy knowing where the wines are made and that there is a winemaker who thinks, ‘This wine is my baby’.”
“It’s a stark contrast to the impersonal buyer’s own brands driving the big wine retailers at the moment.”