I posted on Linkedin and twitter(X) when it actually happened, but with half an hour of spare time I thought it might be worth explaining further.
Precisely 2 years ago myself and 2 business partners bought a wine business. I written a bit about this before, but for those that don’t know, this was a combination of my desire to grow something of my own, and coincidence in some old friends owning a number of pubs. Bring together the ecommerce and digital marketing side of the wine business, and some guaranteed wholesale trade, and we had the bones of a plan.
2 years down the line that plan is in place. Turnover has grown 5X and the business is profitable, largely down to a low cost base. We’ve learned a lot, rode numerous waves thrown at the wine industry, and held our nerve. No doubt there is more ahead which will present both threat and opportunity, but we are in a stable position to make plans.
Our business is build solely on ecommerce trade, no costly sales, minimal marketing expenditure, just organic reach and resulting business. So why now a pub?
Well, my main active partner in the business, and a friend for over 20 years lives in the world of the physical. He struggles to conceptualise things unless they have a physical presence. A website isn’t a business to him, it is a website. Unless you can touch it, see it, walk into it, he struggles to see it.
Since day one he has raised ideas about making it physical. Concessions in his existing pubs, shops attached to his units/offices, anything that gives it a physical face and presence. It has been talked about for a while, but it never quite materialised.
Then coincidence reared its head once again. Back when we originally talked about buying the business, he rang me out of the blue after 6 months of not really having much contact. No reason, no agenda, just called. Right at the time I was looking at a wine business. Coincidence was back again.
We were chatting on the phone about the wine businesses, and his growing pub group which had added 3 venues in the last 18 months. He mentioned one he had just taken a call about he thought had promises. Good country pub, popular with walkers, a number of obvious ways to grow turnover. He was keen. I was being bought by a group he had 2 pubs through already and a favourable relationship. It was a bit far out from his base though, some place called Tockhouse? Tockhome? Tockles?
After we finished chatting I looked it up out of interest, they would be a new wine customer if he got it so worth having a look. Tockholes was the name he was looking for, and as coincidence would have it, 15 minutes from where I live. I text him, “you do know that’s 15 mins from me?”, “really? fancy running a pub?” I responded with an emphatic “No!” But that started a chain of conversations that ended with use taking on the pub together, with a view to growing its traditional base, but also as a test bed for creation of a wine focussed venue.
The pub (The Royal Arms) will be run by his staff, with a newly appointed Landlord. I certainly don’t expect to be serving behind the bar any time soon. There a re big plans, but all in good time. Traditional pub things like better food, theme nights, live music, and of course an excellent wine list…It is just the start of the journey.
Much like I have always said with BonCru Wines, I don’t know where it’s heading, I don’t know the end goal, but whatever happens it’s going to be an enjoyable journey.