Alumni Interview Series – Five minutes with… Sam Willard
Masters student Tavishi Khanna had the opportunity to sit down with wine entrepreneur and BMIHMS graduate Sam Willard. Sam has been involved with many business ventures during his career, and is currently the Senior Business Development Manager at The Wine Quarter – Endeavour Drinks Group.
Armed with his bachelor degree, Sam worked in various hotels before launching himself into the wine industry. Sam shares with us his professional experiences and challenges, and explains how an education at BMIHMS paved the way for his entrepreneurial success. He even had some timely advice for budding entrepreneurs.
T.K. When did you first realise your passion for wine could be turned into a career?
“My first business venture into the wine industry was during the early 2000’s. I co-founded Naked City Wine with a friend. I fell in love with the stories, the heritage, and the flavour of good wine. The business allowed me to launch my career as a wine professional. “
T.K. Can you please tell me a little more about the start-up ventures you have been involved with?
“Certainly, the three I am most fond of include:
Naked City Wine
Naked City Wine was a premium online wine store, selling fine, rare and collectible wines. Unfortunately in the early 2000’s people were very cautious about online shopping and the authenticity of premium priced wines. With price and trust large barriers for consumers the company has since closed. You live and learn!
Cellar Force (now branded Langton’s Winery Direct) was a telephone marketing business. With a fundamental desire to succeed as an entrepreneur I created a business model that required very little capital. It was at this point I realised that wineries had everything I needed to create a successful business – wine, loyal customers and emotive stories.
Wine IQ, developed a database of wine consumers and profiled their wine buying activities. We approached consumers with products, which we felt met their preferences.
Wine IQ and Cellar Force are now both completely owned by The Wine Quarter (Endeavour Drinks Group), and trade under the Langtons Winery Direct brand. Coincidently, I now work for The Wine Quarter.
Would you be able to help us understand what makes The Wine Quarter different?
The Wine Quarter is a collective of digital & direct marketing brands within the Endeavour Drinks Group. Each brand focuses on the liquor space, and is customer driven at the core. Brands include Dan Murphy’s Online, Cellarmasters, Langton’s Winery Direct, New Zealand Wine Society, Winemarket & Nexday Logistics.
The Wine Quarter was conceived as an entity within Endeavour Drinks Group. The idea was to enable the brands to capitalise on their collective digital capabilities; allowing the various businesses to thrive in a digital & direct hub.
What did BMIHMS instill in you that you apply now in your day-to-day business life?
“BMIHMS taught me that I could accomplish anything if I was prepared to commit to the time required to complete the task. Studying teaches you how to research and gather information to make informed decisions and choices. BMIHMS also taught me that there are many ways to tackle a problem, task or issue.
My time at BMIHMS was great! I was taught to be consumer focused. The courses provide great training across key disciplines, and allow students to be successful in many different areas of business.”
What advice would you give others looking to be upcoming entrepreneurs?
“If you dream of owning your own business you can do it. There are plenty of entrepreneurs out there making lots of money, so don’t think you can’t do it. You will need to have some courage, and the ability to ignore all the people telling you otherwise.
Before starting your own business, I would recommend working for someone else first. When you do, choose one that you’re passionate about. You need to be single-minded in your idea. Try and test your idea in a beta version before going all out. This can help you fine tune things before investing significant amounts of time and money. A business partner is always a good idea too; they will share the tough times and the good times with you, and if you choose well, your skill sets will compliment each other.”