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.
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.