The wine industry has evolved, with women stepping up in the industry, Business Essentials spoke to Beverly Farmer to get a better understanding of Women in Wine and how it came about.
A career in marketing and media, Beverly is a co-founder and CEO of Women in Wine and drives the vision of being a recognised wine producing company. So how did it all start?
How did Women in Wine come about? I understand you were a founding member so what did you do before, where did you get the idea, how did you create the company?
Women from the Cape have always worked in large numbers on farms as seasonal workers during harvesting and pruning on or as permanent labour in the vineyards. These women are making a significant contribution to the production of quality South African Wines, but their contribution was never recognised. Through the establishment of Women in Wine (Pty) Ltd this contribution is recognised and honoured. Women in Wine also creates a second income for this women with the Women in Wine brand of wines.
My work at the NGO, whose focus was the skills development and training of farm workers, made me realise that there are many people living on farms who are passionate about wines, working the lands, and looking after the vineyards. I have also met the most amazing women who are committed to the upliftment and development of their community by establishing crèches, youth development programmes, etc. These women give unconditionally of themselves to their community without ever expecting something in return and in most cases without the assistance of the owner of the farm.
What are you most proud of?
Women in Wine played a significant role in the establishment of new criteria for Fairtrade Certification in South Africa. South Africa is the only country where the principles for Black Economic Empowerment and Fairtrade were combined to form the new criteria for Fairtrade Certification. This opened the doors for a large number of farm workers to participate in the economy of the wine industry.
We have also shown that women can do business in the wine industry and can add value as business partners. Women in Wine is South Africa’s first wine producing company that is owned, controlled and managed by women. Since the company’s establishment other women-owned company were established by black women. We also work in partnership with these companies on various aspects like marketing and access to markets.
What obstacles have you faced?
The wine industry is still white male dominated and the challenge for Women in Wine is to change people’s perceptions. Access to markets, finance and changing perceptions were some of our biggest challenges. We have come up with creative solutions and have positioned the company higher-up in the value chain towards marketing and distribution. This allowed the company to invest in the building of the Women in Wine brand without having the traditional vineyards and cellar.
How many people do you employ, and what would they be doing if Women in Wine hadn't opened up opportunities for them to work?
Women in Wine have a small dedicated team who operate in Administration, finance, marketing and wine sourcing. I am mainly responsible for marketing. The company has build strategic partnerships with industry partners for the supply and bottling of wines.
What is the 'message' of Women in Wine - i.e. To empower women whatever their background/ to bring wine to everyone/ to give women a working environment where they feel safe and happy - that sort of thing. Are we okay to say those things?
1. Wines of excellence are being produced to satisfy discerning palates.
2. Company ownership is inspired by the vision of women’s leadership in the wine industry, communities and business.
3. Women who have contributed to growing the South African wine industry will participate in the rewards of the industry by sharing in the industry’s value chain.
4. Women in Wine is investing in skills transfer and helping to make transformation happen in the wine industry. People think ownership of land and cellars is the only entry point to the industry; this is a practical and creative alternative.
How have your wines been received by consumers and trade? Any glowing references, reviews etc?
Consumers identify with the brand and in general like the wines. Women in Wine has two ranges of wines: a premium range and reserve range for the more sophisticated palate. The quality of the wines is a constant in the company and something that we will not compromise on. The Women in Wine Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 and the Chardonnay 2013 were recently listed by South African Airways to be served in their Business Lounges.
How do you feel now the UK market has been opened up to Women in Wine? What new products are you excited about sharing with the UK market?
Women in Wine is extremely excited about the opportunities in the UK market. We have been exporting to Ireland, but up till now the England market was a closed door for us. We are positive that the brand will be received positive and we believe that the women consumers are ready to embrace their sisters from South Africa.