Connect with us


Wine Business Services: Wendy Burridge

A start-up business harnesses technology and CRM to create stronger connections between wine producers and the people who love their tipple.

Juliet Pitman



Wendy Burridge of Wine Business

Sometimes it’s the simplest ideas that have the biggest impact. Ask Wendy Burridge, founder of Wine Business Services and recent winner in the 2008 FNB Enablis Business Launchpad Competition. Her business is based on a simple customer relationship marketing concept, but it’s unique in that it targets the wine industry, offering it something no other business has before.

Using a combination of bespoke technology, electronic database management tools and targeted marketing suss, the business offers wine producers a service that enables them to market directly to a database of customers drawn from visitors to the wine farms. Burridge has over 15 years’worth of experience in the wine industry. Having previously produced her own wine, she worked for five years as wine buyer for the Wine of the Month Club. She holds a post-graduate diploma in Wine Business Management and is currently completing a Masters Degree through UCT Graduate School of Business Management.

Seeing the gap

“The degree is done in conjunction with the University of Adelaide in South Australia,so I’ve been exposed to a lot of their wine industry thinking, which sparked the idea for the business,” Burridge explains.“While South African wine farms usually distribute their wines to restaurants and the bottle store trade, very few of them have ever marketed directly to the people who visit their farms on wine tasting trips.

When an individual visits a wine farm, they usually leave their contact details in the visitors’ book, but after they taste and maybe buy some wine, they never hear from the wine farm again.”In Australia and the United States, wine farms actively target this market, but the idea has been slower to gain traction in South Africa.

“I think it’s because our wine farmers’ core competence is making great wine,but not necessarily marketing it, so this opportunity has been overlooked,”Burridge explains. It was a missed opportunity she knew she could rectify. “We help wine farms use and manage this database, and we market the individual farms’ wine club to people on their contact list. This helps to increase their sales in a market sector they previously hadn’t tapped into, and it builds a relationship with this market over the long-term,” she explains.

Drawing on experience

Burridge’s experience as Wine of the Month Club wine buyer gave her an in-depth knowledge of what a wine club needs, which approaches work best with customers and how to manage a database to optimum effect.“It’s not that some wine farms don’t already have wine clubs, but most of them lack the technological infrastructure, staff and expertise to manage them professionally.

What we offer in services like bulk sms’ing, newsletter capacity and online mailing adds a whole new dimension,”she says. If wine farms don’t yet have a database, Wine Business Services helps them to create one.

Conducting research

Burridge’s experience also gave her a solid contact base within the wine industry and when the time came to test her idea, she conducted research among various top-end wine farms to gain their opinions. “I had put together a basic business plan of how I thought the concept would work, and what the benefits to them would be, and I tested the waters with it.

The response I got was very positive. In fact, of all the wine farms I approached when conducting research, only two did not sign up in the end, and this was only because they didn’t have enough stock for wine club purposes,” she explains.

She invested 15 months’ worth of research into the concept before deciding to leave her job and open her own business. “While I looked at the international market, I also spent a lot of time considering how it needed to be tweaked for the local wine industry,” she explains.

Developing the business model

These adaptations make Burridge’s business model unique. “We use a basic wine club model in which members sign up and agree to make a certain number of purchases each year. That’s standard but our approach is far more personalised.

We operate as an extension of the wine farm’s marketing function, and our concept gives people far greater choice in the wine they receive,” she says.The business’s operations are geared not only towards marketing and delivery, but also towards getting to know customers really well.“My IT knowledge is very limited, so I partnered with an IT expert, George Bottome, who developed unqiue software that meets all our needs,” says Burridge, who describes the partnership as “the smartest thing I could have done,”.

The system is a one-stop database management and marketing shop – it allows us to do everything, from making personal notes on conversations with customers, to doing direct invoicing, sending out newsletters and tracking the activities of call agents,” she adds.

Internal growth

Burridge currently employs three full-time call agents to conduct marketing and sales calls, an office support manager to handle the logistics operations of the business, and a temporary sales agent and data capturer. Wine Business Services, like many small start-ups, had humble beginnings, but this hasn’t hampered its growth.

“I started the business with just R20 000, which I used to buy a computer and printer, and I operated out of my mother’s garage,” Burridge explains. She resigned from her full-time job in March 2008 and had signed up her first client by May in the same year.“I didn’t take a salary for five months – all the profit I made was ploughed back into the business.” This gave the business the crucial capital it needed to develop bespoke software and invest in more sophisticated systems.

Capturing the market

Because she’s offering something unique in the South African market, Burridge has found it relatively easy to sign up clients. “Other than the research I conducted among various wine farmers, I never marketed the concept. But I’ve managed to sign up 12 clients in the first seven months,” she explains.

These clients include some of South Africa’s best-known and prestigious producers – Spier, Rustenberg, Glen Carlou, Rupert &Rothschild, Lanzerac, Graham Beck and Simonsig are just some of them. “South Africa has around 4 000 primary wine producers and over 780 cellars crushing grapes, but only 15% of these are really high-end producers.

We’ve targeted this upper-end segment of the market for a number of reasons. Firstly they are already well-known and have a good reputation, and they make a product that’s of the highest quality. This is very important because if I am to promote their wine, I need to believe in it.Secondly, their size means they are more likely to have the capital to invest in the monthly retainer we charge,” Burridge says.

Benefiting from Launchpad 2008

The FNB Enablis Business Launchpad Competition will open new doors for the business. “I’ve never entered anything like this before, and it was really exciting to be nominated first as a finalist and then to be chosen as a winner.

In addition, the process has been very valuable as we’ve been exposed to some fine entrepreneurial minds,” Burridge says.This network will continue to widen. In addition to a package of technology prizes that include a laptop computer, cell phone equipment and software, all winners have been offered a free year’s membership in the Enablis network of entrepreneurs.

This membership brings with it the benefits of business training and online resources and support. All winners also benefit from 12 month’s worth of high-level mentorship support from an experienced business achiever. As a winner, Wine Business Services will also receive a profile in The Sunday Times.

Although competition winners do not receive a cash prize,they are allocated to a funder who will work with them as a funding partner to tailor-make appropriate funding. This could take the form of a loan guarantee,a loan on special terms, or an equity investment. Businesses such as Burridge’s are typically unable to get funding from banks on ‘standard commercial terms’.

Consolidating and looking to the future

“Our biggest challenge at the moment is to consolidate, to fine tune our systems before we grow,” says Burridge, who’s well aware of the dangers of growing beyond the business’s capacity.“Our goal is to remain small enough to be able to offer our unique personalised and niched service, but to be large enough to have the infrastructure to deliver and get the job done,” she explains.

She’s also looking at opportunities in the wine distribution market through direct marketing and telesales and has already signed up one distributor. With increased call agent capacity the business will be able to market special offers and new releases to distributors’ restaurant and bottle store clients, thereby boosting the services of their representatives.

“The next exciting thing on the horizon involves marketing to wine farms’ international visitors. We’ve installed a VoIP system and will make use of the farms’ existing overseas distribution networks. The international visitor is not just a pop-in guest. These are usually people who’ve done research, and carefully selected which wine farms they want to visit.

They’re an interested, motivated, ready-to-buy market and one loses out on such a great opportunity by not tapping into this,” she concludes.

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.



Joel Stransky Shares His Insights On What Makes A Great Leader

Enter Joel Stransky just as friendly as the rest of the team, also casually dressed, also wearing a smile. As a founding director of the innovative Pivotal Group, he explained that their value proposition particularly in Pivotal Talent.

Dirk Coetsee




Posters displayed on companies’ walls representing the business’ Vision and value system are a common occurrence. A general value that numerous companies share is to be client centred and to provide excellent service. Yet, unfortunately a proportion of companies do not live according to their values as tools to actualize their collective Vision.

An observant individual would take only a few seconds to notice that the Leadership group at Pivotal has gone to great lengths to establish a definitive and value driven culture as well as a motivating climate for their team members. As I waited in the reception area I was met with smiles from several people passing by and there was generally no way to assess what their position was as they were all casually dressed, friendly and approachable.

Related: 5 Things Businesses Can Learn From Rugby

Enters Joel Stransky just as friendly as the rest of the team, also casually dressed, also wearing a smile. As a founding director of the innovative Pivotal Group, he explained that their value proposition particularly in Pivotal Talent, is the use of Augmented Intelligence and data analytics within the “human capital space”.  The application of AI and data makes talent acquisition and career guidance much less of an enigma and challenge as opposed to the recent past where traditional talent acquisition and career guidance methods became less and less successful and more and more time consuming.

The “pivot” of the 1995 Victorious Springbok world cup team shared that he always starts off an employee-employer relationship with the assumption of mutual trust and respect. He believes that once you have put in the sincere effort to understand people better, bigger belief in them is a natural result.

“The greatest asset in business is people,” Joel passionately explained and added that it is possible for a brilliant product to fail in the long run when the wrong people are employed.


“Hiring the right people that would not only help sustain the current culture but add more value to it is critical to any team or companies’ sustainable success,” Joel explained. The Millennial generation think differently and have different expectations from a working environment, therefore it is a critical factor for any manager and/or Leader to understand what drives the emerging generation and also how to manage the polarity of generational gaps.

Related: Servant Leadership – Will You Serve?

As a result of diversity and generational gaps Leadership and management has become a fascinating space to operate within South-Africa as not only cultural and language barriers might offer a challenging HR environment, the millennial generations unique behaviours amplify the need for useful adaptations within all spheres of work.

As a practical example, employee X is twenty-three years old. Some of the key questions that management needs to figure out, that is if they sincerely want the best for, and the best out of employee X, are:

  • Is X motivated by monetary rewards and/ or does she/he need a regular hug to feel part of and add to the company culture?
  • Does X need to interact with management socially for example be taken out do dinner?
  • What skills does X have or lack that impacts his/her performance?
  • It is impossible to motivate someone else. In what way can I create an environment for X wherein he/she can motivate himself/herself and excel?

How you satisfy Xs’ needs and manage all related factors to his or her needs has become critical success factors in how we as leader’s approach career development in general.

Reflecting on the development of his own sports and business career, as well as his family life Joel is adamant that whatever drives you in sport also drives you in business and within your family life. Whatever he has achieved within all aspects of his life came as a result of setting goals and making those goals a reality.

Both in sports and in the business world within South Africa there is a general tendency towards over structured management and coaching. Although a structure and daily management is an integral part of business and sports, a paradigm shift towards inspirational Leadership that empowers other leaders to succeed is key in terms of serving others and creating a motivating and sustainable environment within which all team members can thrive.

Reflecting on Joels’ observation: “Our countries’ value chain is broken” the moment has most certainly arrived within which more and more value driven and ethical Leaders, emerging from all generations must arise and collectively work towards an improved future.

Critical to the actualisation of a collective future vision is the development of Leadership skills therefore one of the keen interests of the author is to recognise and learn from other Leaders’ character traits. Joel’s’ highly effective communication skills underpinned by the core people skill of active listening quickly came to the fore as he could quote part of my question and comments in each of the very insightful answers that he provided. His keen willingness to innovate and to create inspiring working environments makes his enthusiasm and skill as a Leader tangible.

Let us all challenge ourselves to learn from prime Leadership examples offered by individuals such as  Joel Stransky and leave more and more Leaders behind for only in such a way can an inspiring future be built.

Continue Reading

Company Posts

Nhlanhla Dlamini Not Only Has Guts, But Grit – In Spades

An alumnus of WBS and Harvard Business School, Nhlanhla Dlamini did some soul searching when he was doing his MBA at Harvard, and knew that the corporate ladder, although tempting, was simply not going to be enough.

Wits Business School




It takes guts to venture into entrepreneurship. And when you’re in a ‘cushy’ job with a top global auditing firm who are grooming you for partnership, it takes even more guts.

Nhlanhla Dlamini not only has guts, but grit – in spades.

An alumnus of WBS and Harvard Business School, Nhlanhla did some soul searching when he was doing his MBA at Harvard, and knew that the corporate ladder, although tempting, was simply not going to be enough.

“I started thinking, ‘what is the best thing I can do with my life?’”, recalls Nhlanhla. “I always felt a pressing need to get involved in lowering the unemployment rate in South Africa.  It’s a notoriously difficult space, but entrepreneurship is the real engine of job creation and I felt compelled to rise to the challenge.”

When he left his job at McKinsey in March 2015, Nhlanhla decided to explore the agricultural sector – having no idea what product or what part of the value chain he would end up in. He spent until December that year exploring the agri-food sector, gaining as much understanding as he could about the entire industry by talking to famers, co-ops, agricultural associations and various other stakeholders.

Related: 10 Young Entrepreneurs Under 30 Share Their Start-Up Secrets

“I wanted to export products to the US and I looked at tree nuts, blueberries, dairy products or meat. Because of stringent FDA regulations, meat wasn’t an option – but a friend of mine from WBS days suggested meat in the form of pet food.”

And so Maneli Pets was born, and Nhlanhla moved his fledgling business into a factory, which he re-purposed for meat processing, in October 2016. By June 2017, he had started operations with 30 employees on board, and by September he had 50 employees.

Maneli Pets

What makes Maneli different from other US-bound pet food products in an already saturated market? The answer is high protein meat from animals that are unique to South Africa.

“I discovered a market for the off-cuts of meat  from specialist butcheries – so crocodile, warthog, ostrich etc,” Nhlanhla explains. “The result is a very high quality, high protein pet snack with a difference – and US pet owners are willing to pay for the best they can get.”

Under the brand name ‘Roam’, Maneli Pets products are exported to a pet food wholesaler in Boston, US, owned by the family of Nhlanhla’s former WBS classmate, who had planted the seed of the idea in the first place.  Nhlanhla is now preparing to launch the products under another brand name for distribution in South Africa and export to the EU.

But pet food is only the start. Maneli Pets is an offshoot of the Maneli Group, a diversified food company which is looking ooking to build further businesses in the green energy sector, while boosting black entrepreneurship.

According to a City Press report, South Africa has relatively few black-owned food production businesses, which is why government is actively promoting agro-processing and the manufacturing sector in general to spur economic growth.

Nhlanhla has worked tirelessly to secure government funding, and was thrilled to obtain R26 million from the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC). Just last month, he received the news that Maneli Pets had been awarded grant funding of R12.5 million from the Department of Trade and Industry’s Black Industrialists Scheme (BIS).

Nhlanhla, who was also a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University, considers his PDM at WBS a “superb” way of preparing a student for the real world of work. “The group dynamics was an essential learning experience in terms of delivering on a mandate with a group with entirely different skill sets.”

Related: Edward Moshole Founder Of Chem-Fresh Started With R68 And Turned It Into A R25 Million Business

Describing himself as a “passionate and active WBS alumnus”, Nlhanhla still stays in regular contact with a core group from his PDM class, proving that one of the enduring benefits of a PDM (and an MBA) is the opportunity to connect and network with like-minded people and form life-long friendships.

Apart from what he learnt in the Entrepreneurship Management module of the PDM, such as the pillars of entrepreneurship, macro trend support and financing an idea, Nhlanhla considers the keys to success are threefold: Recognising the value of a social network, tenacity – and just a little luck!

Continue Reading

Company Posts

See And Malcolm Gladwell Live In South Africa

The BCX Disrupt Summit has gathered some of the world’s most innovative and disruptive thinkers to guide you and your business into the future.



See And Malcolm Gladwell Live In South Africa

As one of the largest technology players in South Africa, BCX embraces disruption. As an organisation, one of its primary focuses is to move its customers into the future, not just with products and services, but a shift in mindset as well.

What tools and ideas do we need to embrace today to be ahead of the curve tomorrow? With this in mind, BCX has partnered with BrainFarm to launch the inaugural BCX Disrupt Summit.

“The BCXDisrupt Summit is a platform for South African innovators and businesses to learn from and be inspired by some of the greatest examples of possibility in the world,” says Dean Carlson, founder and CEO of BrainFarm, the event organisers.

A gathering of minds

The BCXDisrupt Summit is bringing some of the world’s greatest minds together under one roof for two days. The speaker line-up includes, Malcolm Gladwell, Rapelang Rabana and Nick Goldman and topics covered will range from where technology is heading, to how playing games can extend your life expectancy by up to ten years.

Seven-time Grammy award winning hip hop artist is also a significant player in the tech and entrepreneurial space, as well as a philanthropist. He was a partner in Beats Electronics, which was sold to Apple for $3 billion in 2014. “When was 16 years old, music was where it was at,” says Dean.

“And so, he focused on building a music career, and creating products for that industry. Today he’s learning to code, because that’s where it’s at. He’s got an unparalleled handle on where the world is moving to, and so many insights to share.”

Dean has built BrainFarm on a portfolio of incredible local and international speakers, each of whom he’s seen live. “I regularly attend international conferences to get a sense of which speakers and idea-shapers I’d like to bring to South Africa,” he explains.

“ is one of those global shapers whose ideas take everything to the next level. To get maximum value from him for our delegates, we’ve chosen an interview set-up instead of a key-note talk. Local tech expert Aki Anastasiou will be interviewing him, and the audience will be able to ask questions as well. This will give us an opportunity to localise’s knowledge and ideas.”

Related: 10 Young Entrepreneurs Under 30 Share Their Start-Up Secrets

Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell

Author of five New York Times bestsellers, including David and Goliath and Outliers Gladwell is well known for introducing the concept of the 10 000-hour rule, which states anyone can become an expert in anything given enough time and practice. Dean first brought Malcolm Gladwell to South Africa in 2009.

“When I dropped him off at the airport, Malcolm signed his book for me with the words ‘Please invite me back,” says Dean.

“We’ve tried to bring him out a few times since then, but the timing hasn’t worked out. This was the ideal summit for Malcolm’s ideas, and this time, the timing worked.”

Having seen Malcolm in action many times over the years, Dean knows that he’s a speaker that always leaves his audiences wanting more. And so, the BrainFarm team thought about the best way give their delegates exactly that.

“Malcolm has developed a masterclass for the second day of the Summit that will focus on what makes a person successful, both in life and business. He’ll be unpacking tools our delegates can use to personally drive success.”

Nick Goldman

Nick Goldman

Nick is that rare breed of academic who is also an engaging and entertaining speaker. A UK-based mathematician and genome scientist, Nick is passionate about how we can store and preserve digital data.

“If you want to feed your brain, Nick is the person who will do that for you. His team recently coded five documents of historical significance onto a strand of DNA,” says Dean.

Each day, what we thought was possible changes. What does the future look like, and are you ready for it?

Related: 10 Inspirational African Entrepreneurs

Marieme Jamme

Marieme Jamme

Born in Senegal and sold into sex slavery, Marieme Jamme refused to accept the lot life had given her, and instead taught herself to code. It was a skill that enabled her to change her conditions and life. Today, through her latest venture, iamtheCODE, she has one giant, global goal: To teach one million women and girls to code by 2013.

“Marieme has a consultancy that helps tech companies get a foothold into Africa, the Middle east, Latin America and Asia, and she’s also focused on her mission to help other women and girls escape their fates by learning to code,” says Dean. “She’s one of the most interesting and inspiring people I’ve ever come accross.”

Sipho Maseko

Sipho Maseko

Heralded as the controversial CEO and saviour of Telkom, Sipho has helped the company rack up gains of 150%, making Telkom one of the best performing companies on the JSE. “A major focus of Telkom is getting businesses across Africa ready for tomorrow’s customers,” says Dean.

“To be ready for tomorrow’s customers though, you need to know who they are, and have a sense of what the future will bring.”

Jane McGonigal

Jane McGonigal

A game designer, Futurist and New York Times best-selling author, Jane’s TED Talk, The Game That Can Give You Ten Extra Years of Life, has over six million views to date.

Related: The 10 Strangest Secrets About Millionaires

Rapelang Rabana

Rapelang Rabana

Local tech-star Rapelang Rabana is the CEO and founder of Rekindle Learning, a company she has positioned at the crest of a rapidly rising online community across Africa.

Her mission: To deliver learning in bite-sized chunks across the continent.

Ian Russel

Ian Russel

CEO of BCX. BCX has invested millions in computer programming education so that young people from all social and economic backgrounds have the opportunity to become programmers at no cost to them.

Lars Silberbauer

Lars Silberbauer

When Lars joined LEGO as Senior Global Director of Social Media and Video, the company didn’t even have a Facebook page.

“Today LEGO has well over 12 million followers on Facebook and more than three million on YouTube where they’ve just knocked up five billion lifetime views,” says Dean.

“The big idea behind their social media campaigns is to leave the thinking to their fans. Lars understands the creative power of the crowd, and what harnessing that power can do for your business.”

Related: 8 Things Exceptional Thinkers Do Every Day

Bringing it all together

Dean Carlson

Dean Carlson

“We focus on projects that excite us, and that will change the perceptions and world views of our delegates,” says Dean. “We’ve partnered with BCX to put together an incredible event that will leave you inspired, amazed and driven to change your life and organisation – with the tools to do so.”

To find out more about the BCX Disrupt Summit or to book a seat, visit

Continue Reading


FREE E-BOOK: How to Build an Entrepreneurial Mindset

Sign up now for Entrepreneur's Daily Newsletters to Download​​