Founder of Imvula Wines Siyabonga Mvula tells us how he started his busi­ness

Founder of Imvula Wines Siyabonga Mvula (34) ven­tured into the world of wine with­out any ex­pe­ri­ence. He shares how he started his brand.

Bona - - Contents - By Kwanele Mathe­bula

I have al­ways wanted to ven­ture into busi­ness.

I com­pleted my na­tional diploma in ac­count­ing at the Dur­ban Uni­ver­sity of Tech­nol­ogy in 2002. Af­ter grad­u­at­ing, I started work­ing in var­i­ous gov­ern­ment de­part­ments as an ac­count­ing clerk. I wanted to start a busi­ness, but didn’t know which one. This was un­til I dis­cov­ered my love for wine. I en­joyed drink­ing it, and wanted to know how it was made. This trig­gered my de­sire to ven­ture into wine­mak­ing. At the time, I was work­ing at the Na­tional Trea­sury in Pre­to­ria. I quit my job to pur­sue my busi­ness ven­ture, Imvula Wines, in 2016.

I started by re­search­ing how wine was made.

I trav­elled to Cape Town where I met wine som­me­liers to learn how dif­fer­ent types were pro­duced. I then did a three-day, small-scale wine­mak­ing course at Stellenbosch Uni­ver­sity. This pro­vided me with the in­for­ma­tion I needed to pur­sue my busi­ness. I came across a web­site on South African wines, and made con­tact. It pro­vided me with a list of wine­mak­ers I could reach out to. I con­nected with Jo­hann duP­lessis, a wine es­tate CEO in Robert­son, who was will­ing to help.

Imvula Wines was of­fi­cially launched in 2017.

I don’t make the wines my­self; Jo­hann’s es­tate pro­vides them. I se­lect what I want for my brand from his es­tate. I then sell it with my brand­ing. Jo­hann was in­stru­men­tal in help­ing me get my busi­ness off the ground. Through work­ing with him and his guid­ance, I was able to de­sign a logo, choose a se­lec­tion of wines and pick the bot­tles for them. I cur­rently sell the wines directly to my cus­tomers, with the prices rang­ing from R70 to R130. Once a pay­ment is made, the es­tate de­liv­ers. My com­pany is based in Jo­han­nes­burg, but we de­liver na­tion­wide via courier.

Ac­cess to fund­ing has been an enor­mous chal­lenge.

Very early into my busi­ness, I wasted a lot of money try­ing to mar­ket the busi­ness. I sent out sam­ples of the wines to restau­rants and ho­tels with the hope of se­cur­ing deals to sup­ply them. But, I didn’t get any feed­back. I also quickly learnt that get­ting into re­tail spa­ces wasn’t as easy as I had thought. The stores I ap­proached ei­ther re­fused to sell the wines be­cause I didn’t own the es­tate or re­quired that I have a mar­ket­ing bud­get to pro­mote them. Al­though this has made it dif­fi­cult to mar­ket the busi­ness, it has also pushed me to be cre­ative in get­ting the brand out there. I cur­rently fund my busi­ness through di­rect sales and sell­ing the wines at mar­kets.

I am ex­cited to grow the brand this year.

In 2018, I found out about the seventh an­nual Lilizela Tourism Awards that hon­our in­di­vid­u­als and busi­nesses that el­e­vate South Africa as a tourist des­ti­na­tion. I wrote to the or­gan­is­ers re­quest­ing to be­come their of­fi­cial wine spon­sor. They re­sponded pos­i­tively, and Imvula Wines part­nered with the awards. I also got to at­tend the cer­e­mony where I net­worked, and this re­sulted in busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties that I hope will ma­te­ri­alise this year. I am also plan­ning on cre­at­ing a life­style mar­ket around the wines, which will help to mar­ket the brand.

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