Carlos De Haan and Jamie Graham founded Brunswick Fine Wines in March 2016. Both had been directors of established, large wine companies and had left their roles at around the same time, with a common ambition to start up a wine business. It took a mutual friend to make the introductions…
Without funding the first year was all about leveraging their own wine collections and dealing in secondary market stock, selling to consumers in Asia, and generating cash. Such was their reputation, other private clients soon made contact. When the chance arose to buy a number of substantial cellars, they backed their collective judgement and committed to purchase them. By the end of the first year’s trading, Brunswick had invoiced £4M and turned a healthy profit.
With cash in the bank, Brunswick was now in a position to start stockholding. Kenny “our man in the vineyards” Stewart joined at the start of the second trading year, building a solid Burgundy and Piedmont portfolio and attracting an enviable list of private clients.
The business had started off with Xero as its accounting package, with the expectation that it would also serve inventory management needs. It was obvious fairly quickly that inventory and purchasing functionality within accounting software tends to be rudimentary, which inevitably meant the business was run on spreadsheets.
By 2019 Brunswick had more than doubled turnover. If the business was to continue its growth trajectory it was going to need a proper business management system to support De Haan and Graham’s ambitions.
Wine Owners showed they understood our market. We felt we could grow with the Hub.
The Wine Hub was on a shortlist of three systems that included Netsuite and a wine sector specific application.
Selection criteria included a connection to their warehouse, functionality for managing client storage and Liv-ex integration. Integration with Xero was desirable since it was already serving Brunswick’s accounting needs well.
More fundamentally, the founders were looking for software designed specifically for independent wine operators. De Haan and Graham had previously used business (ERP) software that had been adapted to fine wine, and they had found those systems to be awkward to use. The Wine Hub had the sector-specific focus they wanted.
“Wine Owners showed they understood our market” explained De Haan. “We felt we could grow with the Hub.”
Brunswick first deployed the Wine Hub platform, followed by Private Client Reserves Management Lite (a client-facing stored wine application with advanced search and delivery request functionality; available as a Wine Hub add-on).
Initially the focus was on driving business efficiency.
“The business was creaking,” admitted Graham. “The Hub enabled us to grow through being much more efficient. It enabled that growth.”
“Coming on board (the Hub) was attractive because it made it possible for us to scale the business on the back of becoming more systemized rather than having to add more people. It’s notoriously difficult to make good profits in the wine business,” added De Haan. “Well, we’ve doubled the company turnover since 2019, doubled profits, doubled everything.”
The expectation is that the business will continue to grow. With the imminent addition of the Hub Webshop, an e-commerce (based on WooCommerce) that tightly integrates with the Wine Hub, a new phase of customer acquisition is due to begin.
“Multi-channel selling with the addition of e-commerce fits very well with our stockholding model”, noted Graham.
“The Hub is a system that can be easily used by all staff and that drives value in the business. We’re looking forward to the future and excited to learn about new, coming functionality on the roadmap. It’s become a long term relationship.” concludes De Haan.
As we speak, we’re sitting in the Brunswick offices above the recently opened fine wine shop in the centre of Brighton, England, overlooking the resplendent Royal Pavilion. The shop, which has further raised Brunswick’s profile among suppliers as a serious regional fine wine and spirits outlet, blends classic Georgian architecture with contemporary, tempting displays.
Importer, stockholder, private client sales, storage provider, brokerage, online and retail merchanting. Brunswick represents a business connecting and engaging with its clients and addressable market through any number of channels, and showing how it’s possible to sustain profitable growth.
Coming on board the Hub was attractive because it made it possible for us to scale the business on the back of becoming more systemized rather than having to add more people. It’s notoriously difficult to make good profits in the wine business. Well, we’ve doubled the company turnover since 2019, doubled profits, doubled everything.