Entrepreneur Andre Eikmeier has plenty of reasons to crack open a bottle of wine and celebrate.
The online wine retailing website he co-founded, Vinomofo, recently celebrated its first birthday and passed 100,000 members.
It has made a deal with Catch Of The Day and increased its potential customer base. And last month broke its previous record to move 2500 cases of wine in a single day.
Overall, it is not a bad outcome for someone who initially had no plans to sell wine online. “It’s been a whirlwind time,” Mr Eikmeier says.
Vinomofo works using the daily deals model popularised by group buying website Groupon. Every day its subscribers receive an email offering a small selection of wines at discounted prices.
The daily deals website grew out of Qwoff, an online wine community that the 39-year-old started with his brother-in-law Justin Dry in 2006. Qwoff was set up to enable its users to rate and review wines, and used the burgeoning power of social media to become Australia’s largest online wine community.
The duo also wrote for the website, building up a reputation as wine communicators, which helped when it came to launching Vinomofo. They wrote blogs posts and filmed their own web series, in which they travelled around Australia in a kombi visiting vineyards and interviewing wine industry figures.
“It was a lot of work but it was really fun. We’d get people saying to us ‘Wow, you’ve got the best job in the world',” he says.
Members of the Qwoff community soon started asking them whether they would begin selling wine as well as providing a forum where people could talk about it. “It sounds really simple but it came as a bit of an epiphany to me,” Mr Eikmeier says.
Instead of opening a traditional wine shop or a standard online store, they decided to try out the daily deals model, which was able to leverage the online community and contacts that they had built up through Qwoff.
Vinomofo launched in April 2011 offering daily wine deals six days a week. Over the last year it has averaged sales of around 4000 cases a month and has built up a base of 200 suppliers. Last month a revamped version of the website was launched to cope with the increased traffic and they are planning to launch a mobile app in June.
Mr Eikmeier says the response of wineries to Vinomofo has been largely positive and has helped some smaller producers receive extra exposure.
“We’ve had the pleasure of being able to help kick-start a couple of brands that we believed in. For a small producer that might be making 1000 cases of wine, if we come in and have been able to sell 300 cases for them, it’s a big portion of their inventory,” Mr Eikmeier says.
The website has also shifted wines from larger wineries such as Yalumba. “We were really honoured when a company like Yalumba really gave us a chance with a lot of their great wines, stuff that they wouldn’t normally seek to move online or through any deal channels,” he says.
Early this year, Vinomofo caught the eye of the James Packer-backed Catch Of The Day, which last month acquired a majority stake in the company. On the day of the announcement they sold 2500 cases of wine and their subscriber base grew from 30,000 to 100,000 overnight.
The Adelaide-based company currently employs eight people, with a core team consisting of Mr Eikmeier, Mr Dry and chief buyer Leigh Morgan. With the increased demand as a result of the Catch Of The Day deal, Mr Eikmeier expects the team will grow to 12 in coming months.
Having built up an online community of wine enthusiasts, they maintain a role in communicating with their audience. Mr Dry oversees Vinomofo’s social media presence while Mr Eikmeier writes all the light-hearted copy that appears on the website.
Mr Eikmeier says the social nature of the business has been a factor in the website’s success with wine lovers. “I really like business when you can just communicate as yourself,” he says.