Written by Laura Boucher from King St
Taste testing wine for living sounds like a dream job to many – and for those of us that would like to turn After 5 drinks into a 9-to-5, Yvonne Lorkin is living that dream.
Drinks writer for Dish magazine, wine writer for NZ Herald, regular wine columnist for a number of other publications, a regular guest on top-profiling radio and TV shows and with her own series she affectionately calls the “Country Calendar of drinking” Thirsty Work, Yvonne’s life and livelihood is wine.
But, like any good entrepreneurial story, Yvonne’s is no overnight success, with plenty of hard work and hard times along the way.
It won’t happen overnight…
Hastings-born Yvonne had a series of jobs from her teens to her early twenties in the entertainment industry, from record store clerk to account manager at radio station bFM, a booker for talent at BigMouth Vocal Talent Agency and sales executive at MTV.
Ticking off her life goals, suddenly redundancy hit, and the change of circumstance meant a return home to Hastings to regroup. Unemployed and feeling lost, Yvonne noticed the region was on the cusp of change in the late 1990s and decided to embrace her side passion and her heritage: wine.
She made two big moves: She put herself through a wine marketing course and saw an opportunity at her local New World to revitalise an otherwise (ironically) abandoned area of the supermarket. Convincing the owner to let her take control of the department, she introduced tastings, new wines and made it a feature.
It paved the way for Wine Friend, which she co-founded with Debbie Sutton in 2016. A personalised wine delivery tool, it is made for a world where we want services tailored to our needs and available at the click of a button for our convenience.
Customer needs, our solution
Starting with an eight-question quiz to get to know you, Wine Friends creates a unique taster profile and from that selects five wines that it believes would suit you best based off your answers, plus one Wild Card.
These are no ordinary bottles of wine from your local supermarket. From boutique, predominantly organic wineries from New Zealand and overseas, each one has been personally tried by Yvonne and Debbie, and comes with cleverly crafted tasting notes and nuggets of information about the winemaker and the winery that will help you dazzle guests at your next dinner party.
It’s a win-win, enabling users of Wine Friend to form a personal connection with that winery and its makers, and also elevate the profile of smaller wineries that may otherwise not get the attention they deserve.
Delivered to your door, once you have tried the wines you can then rate them online so Wine Friend can fine tune your profile and give you the ultimate selection that’s 100% tailored to you.
Spreading the word
When she and her co-founder Debbie began, they relied heavily on social media and influencers, as well as a good dose of PR when she insured her tastebuds for $1 million with the same company that looks after Beyonce’s legs.
But their biggest marketing asset has been, and continues to be, their customers, thanks to their “fanatical” customer service. Going above and beyond, Wine Friend works hard to ensure their customers are the biggest ambassadors for their brand. You feel like, as the name suggests, a friend of the company.
Listening to Yvonne share her rollercoaster ride from redundancy to being “a couple of million bucks” in revenue in three years, the dynamic presenter makes you immediately feel like her closest friends – and that’s where the success of her business Wine Friend lies.
From the moment she stepped up to the podium, she was instantly engaging with her humour, down-to-earth nature and unrelenting passion for wine lighting up the room.
She’s the first to admit times were tough and the first too to congratulate herself on how far she has come, something that made her even more likeable and inspiring.
Finishing the night off with one of her expert wine tastings of two very unique ‘Wild Cards’, there’s no denying Yvonne – and her wine – was a hit with the crowd.
Key take away
‘Keep things simple’. Don’t over complicate how you describe your business to the end user. Call it what it is. E.g. If it is warm water, it is warm water, not tepid water.
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