Having a palate for the challenges of a start-up

If a close family member described it as an “awful idea” for a new business, would you continue?

What about if you were a 20-something year old and it was your Father using those words?

Fortunately, Georgia Beattie persisted with her idea for a single serve package of ready-to-drink wine, even dragging her Father along to meetings to help overcome some of the cultural hurdles that presented themselves when doing business in Asia.

Addressing Entrepreneurs Geelong’s most recent seminar, Georgia exuded the energy and animation that saw her turn a simple idea into a business which she sold last year to international interests.

Now, barely five years after she launched that business, she is bringing the same sort of motivation and enthusiasm to her role as CEO of StartUp Victoria, the organisation whose mandate is to establish Victoria as the number one tech start-up destination in the Asia Pacific region.

Growing up in a wine-producing family Georgia discovered that no wine was being served at a local festival because there weren’t single serve, ready-to-drink solutions. At the time she was studying entrepreneurship, so she decided to create her own brand in a single serve package, as well as manufacture and pitch the packaging concept to a cross section of major Australian wine producers.

While beer and spirits had been the subject of packaging innovation over time, wine hadn’t, remaining “very traditional” she said. A conceptually simple package- a peel off foil lid on a rigid plastic glass-Georgia’s first manufacturing efforts at ironing a foil top onto a glass were not successful and in fact ruined a friend’s iron.

Citing Steve Jobs oft-quoted comment about the background to the iPhone, Georgia could see no point in researching a product that didn’t yet exist.

But she said you should subject your ideas to feedback from others even if her Father’s initial negative response reflected his identity “as a serious wine person”.

“By doing so you don’t risk others stealing your ideas because no one can actually see your vision of what you are aiming for. They may not see its potential and how you are able to realise it,” she says.

In the journey to create a viable business on the foundation of her idea, Georgia says her biggest and it turns out most expensive mistake was to accept a small amount of seed capital from an organisation in the injection moulding sector.

Georgia’s business quickly began to outgrow that organisation which could not see beyond Australia. When its pricing became uncompetitive she had to buy them out.

“So look for the sort of business partners who share your vision and can offer the capability to scale up over a five to 10 year period,” she advises.

Having secured a commitment from catering outlets of major event venues in Australia to carry her single serve wine package Georgia found the multi-brand wine company Treasury Wine Estates receptive to the concept.

In Australia it was a case of aiming for the volume sales typically made at events such as concerts. In Japan it was the need to get the product onto retail shelves. Those who championed the one glass cause in new markets typically shared a similar entrepreneurial mindset to Georgia’s.    She also notes that in Asia, Japan and Korea are “influencer countries in which you have to establish a track record of 12 months or more.

Cultural differences can be critical in some markets, especially for young females, so on occasions “when I needed some grey hair in the room, I would borrow someone or drag my Father (by then a convert) into the negotiations,” Georgia said. 

She notes that different countries and cultures dictated different approaches to marketing. Entering overseas markets she was actively in trade shows, ahead of which she chased media coverage, even writing stories for reporters.

“I did all the media relations which for a fun product made it easy,” Georgia recalls. 

Last year she exited the business and was appointed CEO of Startup Victoria. Its mandate is to encourage more people to make the jump into entrepreneurship and support the development of a sophisticated high growth start-up culture. She is responsible for the launch of the new digital platform for the community and Australia’s first in-depth start-up data collection.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *