Natalie features in the above named article regarding UK businesswomen in the drinks industry after covid and we are so proud!! Written by Natalie Sellers from Wine-Searcher. Cover photo taken @ The Winery.
For many businesses, Covid spelled the end – but for three UK women, it was a catalyst for change.
For the world’s drinks and hospitality sectors the last few years have been extraordinary, and the UK has had a double dose of upheaval with Brexit thrown into the mix.
However, out of the chaos has come opportunity for some. Inspired by desperation and innovation in equal measure, while Covid has seen businesses go to the wall, it has also seen others adapt and survive in these uncertain times. Out of the debris left by lockdown, new businesses have blossomed in – and inspired by – adversity.
Here is some of the interview:
Another business that has had to make changes to cope with the pandemic is online wine store Sippers and Spitters founded by South African-born Natalie Davids. Sippers and Spitters specializes in boutique South African wine and, in conjunction with the store, Davids also runs wine tasting parties that have proved popular among professionals who appreciate more exclusive wines.
Davids had the initial spark for the business back in 2015, as she says: “I started it firstly hosting wine tasting parties. Being from South Africa, I thought we have such a lot of amazing wine that is not in this country.” While on holiday with her family in South Africa, Davids visited various wineries that did not yet have representation in the UK, eventually settling on a select few boutique wineries and 50 of their wines to begin importing.
Before Covid came Brexit
Whether for or against, the effect of Brexit on British business has been enormous.
Brexit has also forced Davids to reassess her plans to expand her largely South African range to include wines from Europe. After attending a European wine fair, Davids says “there were all wine producers looking for representation in the UK”. However, Davids now fears bringing in European wines may mean more complicated and expensive transport and import tax.
As Davids sums up: “I mean Brexit, you know, it is what it is, we have to deal with it. It’s happened, unfortunately, and we are just going to have to accept it and deal with it.”
The arrival of Covid saw the country descend into lockdown. Initially, alcohol was not considered an essential item, although that did change, and businesses had to find smart workarounds.
Davids also found it financially difficult. “In the UK, the competition is fierce, really really fierce. And I feel like a lot of people find it convenient to get their wine in the supermarket, which are the stuff that’s mass-produced. My warehouse where my wine is kept in storage is a monthly expense… so there’s things I always need to consider.”
Lockdown also put Davids’ plans to network more within her local community on ice. “Before the pandemic, I really wanted to go to hotels and restaurants and pitch my wine to them. Especially being in Surrey – there’s a lot of South Africans here, a lot of independent restaurants that have great wine lists, but there’s hardly any South African wine represented.”
Unsurprisingly, lockdown changed the online world at a rapid pace and new platforms were emerging for online stores like Sippers and Spitters.
“It definitely created new opportunities, because I started doing my tastings virtually.” Marketed as virtual wine tasting parties, Davids was able to conduct tastings between various households by sending over the wines and then arranging a Zoom session to taste them, with snack pairing suggestions.
One benefit, as Davids’ describes, was “when I moved to the virtual wine tastings, people were wanting to connect with friends and family but we couldn’t see each other… [the virtual tastings] was a great way of seeing your friends, family or even clients and doing something fun and interactive and sharing some nice wines.” As well as connection, the tastings also offered customers the chance to try hard-to-find, boutique wines before buying.
In a bid to capitalize on the times and boost her online presence, Davids “put a lot of time, effort and money into the marketing of it”. And social media has become increasingly important.
However, there is a flipside. “The competition has become quite fierce because there’s so many people doing online stuff these days. I think people get to a point where they’re just sick of all the video calls as it can become very draining.”
to be continued……