From no cash to over 400,000 of the most awesome wine loving mofos.

What do wine, a garage and a passion for community all have in common?

They’re the perfect ingredients to forge an unlikely $50M wine business.

Andre Eikmeier, co-founder of alongside his brother-in-law Justin Dry, launched Vinomofo in 2011 and it has become an iconic online business in the wine industry.

Of course, the beginning was a different cup of tea (or glass of wine). What started back in 2007 as a community for wine lovers to rate and review their favourite wines (Previously has gone through numerous iterations to become the e-commerce powerhouse it is today.

From no cash, to seed capital raising and angel investment, to road trips around the country YouTubing wine growers and and makers, to no cash again, Vinomofo’s story is one that ‘makes a splash’.

The business really took off when they asked their community, ‘How would you feel about us not only rating and recommending great wine, but selling you great wine as well?’. The response was a resounding ‘Yes!’, so long as they only recommended and sold wine they truly loved themselves. So they did just that.

The more powerful, less told story is how Andre has leveraged his personal brand and applied the Key Person of Influence principles to build the company to what it is today.

Communication is everything

First and foremost, they’ve got a killer pitch. With an irreverent style and a clear value proposition they’ve managed to keep a simplicity and authenticity to their communication that makes you instantly connected to the brand. This the opening of their ‘About us’ page.

“And welcome to the most epic wine site on the planet, if we do say so ourselves. And we do, I suppose, since it’s our slogan. Awkward.” — The Vinomofo Website

“We created the ‘Fo in a little garage in Adelaide back in 2011, and in just over 4 years we’ve grown to a tribe of 400,000 of the most awesome wine loving mofos in the country. And it’s quite fun.

We love wine, and we wanted to build a place we thought we’d love to buy wine from, and hang out with other people who love wine.”

The market wants to hear your opinions

Well before Vinomofo was Vinomofo, the ‘fo boys jumped in a Combi van and toured the countryside in search of the best wines, the best stories and the best people in wine to not only learn from but share with the world. Camera in hand, content was always a big part of how they connected with their community. In fact, it’s what built the community in the first place. It was only once they had a community that trusted their thoughts, opinions and advice could they…

Sell what the market wants

One of the biggest mistakes I consistently see small business owners making is they don’t really know what their market wants from them. They struggle to make money because they don’t have a remarkable value proposition in the first place. One of the best ways to sharpen your value proposition on the market is to combine both your intuition with asking the market what they want.

For years, before they started selling wine, Andre and his brother-in-law were talking to their market (through the medium of forum and content) and getting an intimate understanding of what they wanted. When they asked if they could start selling them stuff, they knew exactly what to sell and how to pitch it.

Maintaining the exclusive feel of being in the ‘the club’ (you can’t buy wine directly from the site — you need to become a cult-member first) — they’ve gone on to effectively commercialise their fan base by offering what their market wants, with a humanness that most big wine distributors just can’t match.

A great product ecosystem isn’t enough on its own, you need to build a profile around it too.

Andre isn’t one to shy away from media and from winning awards…

  • Fastest Growing Company at the Deloitte Tech Fast 50 Awards 2013
  • Online Business of the Year at the Australian Startup Awards 2014
  • Best Website at the SmartCompany Web Awards 2014
  • Best Startup at the SmartCompany Startup Awards 2014
  • Online Retailer of the Year 2015 at the ORIA’s

To being featured in some of the major publications like Huff Post, Smart Company, TechCrunch, BRW, The Age and the Australian — profile is a major part of Andre’s strategy. And why wouldn’t it be? Because even with a remarkable product and community, it’s not going to get found by a broader audience all on its own. If you’re not actively reaching out to the people and platforms that are going to connect you with media and hoping you just get ‘approached’ for having a great product, that’s wishful thinking…

He also regularly speaks at major conferences and with the who’s who of the small business world. In fact, he’d agreed to come speak at Dent LIVE on the 23rd of Nov in Sydney (see what I did there?).

Over drinks and nibbles, and exclusively for established business owners we’re going to be exploring:

  • Solving cash-flow crunches
  • Refining his early pitch (his approach comes from far left field)
  • Finding and maintaining a point of difference
  • Managing partner and supplier relationships
  • Finding (and retaining) top talent
  • Working with family (his brother and co-founder)
  • Maintaining work-life balance

And loads more…

Hope to see you when Andre Eikmeier speaks live, on the 23rd of November in Sydney. With standing room only and limited spots left, this event is going to be a cracker. Get in quick before tickets sell out…