By Cue Sibiya
Amid concerns around the productivity of wine farms due to economic challenges and unpredictable weather patterns, the South African wine sector continues to rise above the waters. startupAFRICA sat with Nkonzo Mbetha, Director of the Black Space Group, to tell us more about his involvement in this space.
Mr. Mbetha, could you tell us a bit about Wine Column?
Wine Column is a premium wine and bubbly merchant group, with a strong focus on the middle class market in South Africa and the African continent.
What inspired you to start your business?
South Africa is one of the biggest wine producing countries in the world competing with the best. There’s a shortage of wine entrepreneurs who truly understand the African palate and preference; we believe Wine Column is well positioned to fill this gap. What inspired us to start was the opportunity to educate the consumer about wines and educate wine-makers about the African consumer.
How did you come up with the name?
Column is a supporting pillar or structure. We believe that the wine industry needs a supporting pillar of wine merchants truly representative of the African population.
After couple of wine glasses we felt that this was the right name.
How much did you start off with?
We had no capital. We had to convince supportive wine estates to get on board. Through our holding company, a lot of money has been pumped to the business and we still continue to invest as we build. No institution wants to invest in a wine business of this nature and the government development finance institution does fund alcohol related businesses. Through that, we have realised that there’s no short cut to success, and business discipline is the cure.
Do you have some exciting moments so far?
We have had a pleasure of serving wines to Hollywood stars, well-known businesspeople, and politicians. In addition, we have educated wine novices to wine connoisseurs in our short existence and inspired people not exposed to wine to consider wine careers.
Any misconceptions of being in business?
Business is not about getting rich quickly. I have also learned that we don’t account to anyone; we only account to our clients, staff, revenue services, Liquor Board and our wine partners.
What are your African ambitions?
Wine Column is an African business based in South Africa, currently we are exploring possibilities with a number of like-minded entrepreneurs in Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria. The focus is to look at partnership models with established lifestyle businesses in various markets within the English-speaking parts of the continent. South Africa is the only recognised wine region in the continent, and we want Africans to have access to the best of wines produced on the continent.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to start a business?
Think through about what you want to start. Do research, business planning (not copying someone else), get mentors and just do it!