July 24, 2015

Georgia Beattie: A glass half full

At an outdoor festival in 2009, Georgia Beattie was told that wine was too hard to serve. This experience inspired the then 22-year-old to bring her single serve wine concept to life and start a business that turned over $1 million in its first year. She shares her entrepreneurial tips.

At just 23, Georgia Beattie launched Lupé Wines, and two years later, in 2012, it was named as one of BRW’s top 10 start-ups to watch. Today, her million-dollar-plus operation, including her packaging business, Single Serve Packaging, is shaking up the wine industry in Australia and across the Asia-Pacific region.

Georgia Beattie is poised to take her business to the next level. As founder and Chief Executive Officer of Single Serve Packaging and Lupé Wines, she’s recently signed up a business partner in China, has a world-first product patented and ready to roll out, and has a capital raising under way.

“My passion is business – I love crunching deals and I love growing things,” says Beattie, who produces individual serve portions of wine sealed in a recyclable, shatterproof, PET wine glass for various winemakers through her packaging business. She also has two brands in the wine-for-one range: Lupé wine and Beattie Wines, the latter sold primarily in export markets.

“Pushing boundaries and doing things differently is something I really enjoy,” says Beattie. “When I studied in the US, I saw how really good movers and shakers do it; their energy and that idea of backing yourself so you’ll make it happen.”

The Eureka moment

Even though she’s from a wine-producing family, Beattie wasn’t struck with the single-serve product idea until 2009, while at Melbourne’s St Jerome’s Laneway Festival.

Having waited 45-minutes at the bar, she asked for four glasses of wine only to be told wine wasn’t available as it was too hard to serve at outdoor events. “It was beer or ready-to-drink spirits only because they were in easy single-serve versions,” says Beattie.

Already studying entrepreneurship at RMIT – which included time at top Boston entrepreneurial school, Babson College – Beattie started investigating how to bring the single wine serve concept to life. She quickly became excited about its potential.

“Wine was something I knew well and that was important,” she says. “I believe in order to innovate you need to understand an industry thoroughly to see the market gaps. I could see the opportunity for wine in more accessible packaging that would open it up to new markets.”

In its first year, Single Serve Packaging achieved $1 million in sales. This year the business is expected to grow 150 percent.

Taking Asia by storm

The business officially started production in Melbourne in 2012, however, Beattie decided to launch in Asia first. Having previously spent time studying in Beijing, she believed the Asian market would be more receptive to the idea.

“I find Asia a really interesting space and had always wanted to do business there,” she says. “I spent a lot of time understanding the dynamics and growth of the different countries. Fundamentally, the Asia-first strategy was about hedging my risk. We only have 25 million people here in Australia and it’s quite risk averse, so it’ll take time for the product to become accepted as the norm. In Japan, they’re quite open to the idea of drinking wine out of plastic and the idea of a single-serve. They’ve been a lot more receptive and it’s in premium supermarkets.”

Beattie says that everyone is trying to pick where Asia is headed next, but having a product that’s right for now, then feeling your way and growing with them is an interesting process. “Being successful there is about getting into the market, being smart, getting the feedback and turning things around as quickly as they do,” she explains.

With container loads of product now being sent to Japan, Taiwan, Korea and Hong Kong every month, exports represent 70 percent of Single Serve Packaging’s business. In Australia, the remaining 30 percent is in contract with local wine giant Treasury Wine Estates. With its brands, such as Rosemount, in lucrative sporting sponsorships, Beattie has product entry into some of Australia’s biggest stadiums.

China is also firmly on Beattie’s radar. Since signing with a partner from the region in September 2013, she’s been busy developing the business to meet the expected increase in demand. That means ramping up production beyond the operation’s current capabilities with the construction of a larger packaging plant due to be up and running by March 2015.

“China is a big market but we’ve been quite happy functioning in the more affluent and more sophisticated markets in terms of wine palate – that’s Japan, Korea, a little bit of Taiwan and Hong Kong,” she says. “These are markets where they have a bit more of an understanding of wine.”

The start-up mentality

Innovation is at the heart of any successful business, especially those targeting Asia. It’s a focus for Beattie, who says her goal is to retain the energy and hunger of a nimble start-up to ensure the business continues to grow.

“We work very closely with our moulders so we can turn things around fast,” she says. “We want to always have a start-up mentality where we turn things around quickly. We’re always trying to innovate and have our fingers on the pulse constantly.”

Beattie is excited about the major, world-first innovation her business is about to launch – a single serve of sparkling wine in a champagne flute. “No one in the world has done a sparkling single-serve, so it’ll be a real game changer for us. Everyone thinks there’s absolutely no way you can do this but we have and it’s fun proving people wrong.”

One of the big challenges is keeping it carbonated for up to 12 months. “Not only keeping the quality but making sure it looks good, feels good and opens with ease,” she adds.

A helping hand

Beattie’s new line was made possible with assistance from the federal government’s research and development tax incentive, a program that’s assisting businesses with up to 45 cents for each dollar spent on research and development activities.

“That’s been a really big help to our business; it’s allowed us to spend money on new moulds and to do things differently, like trialling a corn starch 100 percent degradable wine glass,” says Beattie.

Beattie also credits the first Springboard Australia program for female entrepreneurs, which she completed in 2013, as being instrumental in getting the business ready for the next stage of its operation. “It helped me see my business through the eyes of a venture capitalist,” she says. “There were certain subtleties and structures that could be changed to make it easier to attract investment.

“We’re now ready to play on a global platform with our own intellectual property and patents. The next 12 to 24 months are going to be a really exciting time for the business. We’ve basically been in trial mode for the past couple of years and now we’ve proven the market can take it to the next level.”

Georgia Beattie’s top 4 entrepreneurial tips:

  1. Be resilient. No-one will see your vision the way you do so it’s important to take the lead, back yourself and surround yourself with supportive, smart people.
  1. Trust your gut. I use this when employing people, exploring new business partners or even putting a new customer on trading terms. Your gut is usually spot-on.
  1. Enjoy the ride and the lessons. Sometimes you just need to roll with the punches and learn the hard way.
  1. Be good to your most important tool. Your brain and body. Exercise, sleep and kick your heels up every so often. Running a business is a wild exciting ride; it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

This article was first published in Business View magazine (Summer 2014). For more articles and interactivity, download the iPad edition of Business View for free via our app, NAB Think.

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