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Dec 6, 2012

Independent Australian Winemakers Get Support via Crowdfunding

Australian wines are turning into a product for the future, with the help of over 2,000 crowdfunders and the Internet. The initiative belongs to a company called Naked Wines. Naked Wines operates from the United Kingdom, it sells wines online and it comes from reputed lineage – specifically, it was created by the man who formerly helped tycoon Richard Branson run and grow his empire, Rowan Gormley. Its aim is to encourage young, independent Australian wine producers by helping them sell their wines online. It specifically targets producers who have no label of their own and has brought in support from an impressive host of investors. The next stage of the funding drive is to rally up three times as many such generous, independent business-oriented donors by the time Christmas rolls in.

Australian Winery

Naked Wines Australia managing director Luke Jecks states that the effort has been prompted by the wine distribution system currently operating down under. This system forces winemakers sell their products through third-party marketers, which provide nothing more than a label and a brand-name and, in return, cash up on more than 50 per cent of all profits. This arrangement sees both the customer pay more than what the product is worth, as well as the producer lose what should normally be a fair share of their income. Through crowdfunding, aspiring and emerging winemakers in Australia would be enabled to cut out the middleman. This, in turn, would lead to the creation of better quality wines, all delivered to the customer at a far more affordable price.

At the moment, it seems that Australia’s main focus, economy-wise, is helping out the entrepreneur, the small business and the innovator. While Australia has been recently dubbed the second most favourable country in the world, in terms of ease of setting up a new business, the reality is that small businesses have a rough time surviving and making a profit. On the one hand, the current legal framework imposes numerous taxes, such as the much discussed carbon tax. On the other hand, as the electoral race for the country’s new Prime Minister heats up, promises are flying left and right, in terms of which party would be more supportive of fresh small businesses. All the while, products offered in the private sector are also trying to address issues that entrepreneurs have to deal with on a daily basis, such as flexibility, mobility and increased overheads. 

The Naked Wines initiative also targets a younger buyer demographic, by taking the products online. According to Jecks, online buyers are aged 25 to 40, on average, and can provide an infusion of new money into an otherwise middle-aged, somewhat stolid market. The venture has rallied up twenty winemakers from around the country, including Jock Harvey from South Australia, Geoff Merrill and Hamish Maguire. The perks of buying from independent winemakers largely focus on quality over marketing, as well as on providing a buyer-tailored experience through the product. Hamish Maguire, a winemaker from McLaren Flat, is actually counting on the feedback to be provided by buyers that Naked Wines will draw to his products. He says that demographics count to a large extent, and that he will be approaching next year’s vintage with the specific aim of satisfying the new buyers that the online sales experience is bound to bring in.

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