A new Golden Vines® Scholarship has been set up in partnership with the Gérard Basset Foundation that offers a unique opportunity for a talented BAME/BIPOC entrepreneur to break into the wine trade. Sponsored by Wine Owners the Golden Vines® Off-Trade Startup Scholarship is looking to reward a new business looking to create a successful wine merchant, retailer, importer or distribution model. Here we talk to Romané Basset, co-founding trustee of the Gérard Basset Foundation and Wine Owners’ founder, Nick Martin, about how the scholarship is going to work.
The Wine Owners Golden Vines® Off-Trade Startup Scholarship is open for entries and offers BAME/ BIPOC entrepreneurs practical mentoring and business support from its trade partners, Lay & Wheeler and IG Wines. You can apply here.
You have just announced a new Golden Vines scholarship scheme for entrepreneurs – how has this idea come about?
Basset: Nick [Martin] reached out to us last year with the idea of a collaboration between Wine Owners and the Gérard Basset Foundation. We were very excited by the idea, and considering Wine Owners’ role as a leading software developer in the wine merchant sector, we decided that a scholarship focused upon improving diversity and inclusion, as well as celebrating entrepreneurship, within that part of the value chain was the right way to go.
This is a joint programme being offered by Golden Vines in partnership with Wine Owners, Lay & Wheeler and IG Wines – how did all of you come together to work on this project?
Basset: We suggested that the scholarship include an internship component, to aid the winning scholar in building the necessary skills to set up and run their own business. Nick then reached out to both Lay & Wheeler and IG Wines to bring them onboard, as he felt they could offer a well-rounded and industry-leading introduction to the off-trade wine sector.
You all have different skills and opportunities to offer the winning candidate?
Basset: Certainly. Integral to the scholarship’s offering is the mentorship which will be provided to the winner throughout their journey, meaning that once their internships are successfully completed and their business is up and running they will still be able to seek advice on the day-to-day administration required in the trade, as well as the software being provided by Wine Owners to give them that competitive edge as they enter the sector.
What are the main objectives you wanted to achieve with the programme and why you are doing it?
Basset: From the perspective of the Gérard Basset Foundation, the objective for setting up this scholarship is two-fold:
- It allows us to continue fulfilling our mandate by promoting diversity and inclusion in the wine, spirits and hospitality sectors through education and professional training. The Scholarship is open exclusively to BAME/BIPOC entrepreneurs who will learn new skills through the internships with Lay & Wheeler and IG Wines.
- It targets an area of the wine industry value chain (the off-Trade sector) which we haven’t directly involved ourselves with yet. This is an exciting first for us.
And for Wine Owners why did you want to partner with Golden Vines to offer this level of support and scholarship?
Nick Martin: About a quarter of wine merchants who adopt the Wine Hub business management platform are start ups or early stage businesses. We get approached by many more who are still at the planning stage, and who often seek our advice.
Our team is very rich in general and industry specific business experience, plus has the knowledge of a wide range of business operating models in wine retail and distribution markets. We’ve just had an incredibly strong year, in common with many merchants who run their businesses on the Wine Hub, so we could afford to give back and we wanted to do it in a meaningful way.
It felt like there was an opportunity to help support an BAME/BIPOC entrepreneur who didn’t have access to funds or business support.
How did the initiative come together from your point of view?
Martin: I was originally discussing these thoughts over lunch with Lewis Chester [co-founder of Liquid Icons that created the Golden Vines initiatives in memory and as a tribute to the work of Gerard Basset], and he immediately put me in touch with Romané, whose idea of then broadening the scope of the scholarship to include hands-on training and learning made so much sense for what we were all hoping to achieve. Lay & Wheeler and IG Wines are progressive businesses with ambitious plans, so when they both said yes, that was an exciting moment, recognising we could offer the complete start up or business improvement and support package.
How does the scheme work – how do people apply and by when?
Basset: Those wishing to apply can do so via the scholarship’s webpage (Click here to enter and find out more). Applications opened on January 9 and will remain live until March 6. The judges will then read all the applications (which should include a fully-costed business plan as well as a personal statement and an optional letter of recommendation) and collectively create a shortlist for interviews. Those candidates selected for interview will then be interviewed by the judges between March 20 to April 3, with a winner being selected by April 10.
The judging panel includes: Nick Martin, Katy Keating, managing director Lay & Wheeler, Magnavai Janjo, sales director of MJ Wine Cellars and Sasha Lushnikov representing Liquid Icons & the Gérard Basset Foundation
What sort of person, or company, do you think the programme is aimed at – total start ups or people who have already got a business up and running?
Basset: Both. We welcome applications equally from aspiring entrepreneurs who have a dream – and a plan- to set themselves up in the wine mercantile sector; but equally if a budding applicant already has their own new business (i.e. less than 12 months old) then we will consider them for the scholarship, as in both cases the skills and software on offer will be of immense value to the winner.
What criteria are you going to use to select the winner?
Basset: The judges will be looking out for the following when reading applications and conducting their interviews:
- Strength of the scholar’s business plan and likelihood of creating a successful business based upon it.
- Candidates’ potential contribution to promoting diversity, excellence, interaction and learning in the wine merchant/retailer/wine importation/distribution sectors.
- Financial needs.
- They will also want to see someone who is not fazed by problems and is willing and able to solve them as they arise.
There are different elements to what the winner gets – can you explain the different stages?
Basset: The initial three months of the offering will be spent working with Lay & Wheeler between their Suffolk HQ and its London office. This internship will let the scholar experience work across all of Lay & Wheeler’s departments, ranging from warehousing to marketing and everything in between. This experience will give the scholar a firm overview of all aspects of the trade, and will be complimented following its completion by mentorship provided by a member of the Lay & Wheeler management team, who will hold a monthly meeting with the scholar as well as consultations on an as-needed basis for thee months following the completion of their internship.
After this, the scholar will complete a one month paid internship with IG Wines, who will provide them with hands-on experience using Wine Owners’ Wine Hub, providing invaluable training to seamlessly apply the software into their own business. The judges will provide IG Wines with the scholar’s business plan, so that the internship may be tailored to best suit their goals.
Finally, following these internships, the scholar will be provided with Wine Owners’ Wine Hub Pro plus integrated e-commerce for free for their first year of operation, during which time they will receive full training, Wine Hub Certification and unlimited support, as well as mentorship, from the Wine Owners’ senior leadership team.
Nick is this a good way for Wine Owners to demonstrate the practical support you can offer wine businesses of all sizes with your Hub platform?
Nick Martin: It’s the breath of discussion we have with our clients that was the catalyst for this initiative. We do have wide-ranging dialogue with quite a few of our Hub businesses around best practise, business operating models, areas of their operations that can be made more efficient, workflows that can save time, mechanisms for customer engagement and paths to growth. So when I say wide-ranging, they really are.
To your questions of different sizes of business, we’ve a high proportion of well established companies on the Wine Hub, encompassing some quite large ones. We find it’s more about mindset and ambition than whether a business is large or small. We tend to work with companies that want to improve upon how they operate and are keen to put in place growth strategies. Those are the businesses that need an operating platform that can support those plans, and that won’t hold them back.
Will the winner have to make commitments themselves to the programme in terms of the time and effort they put into it?
Basset: Naturally, they will need to first and foremost impress the judges enough to be awarded the scholarship, and they will need to carry this enthusiasm with them throughout the internship programme.
As the saying goes, ‘you get back what you put in’, and that applies equally to this scholarship. A scholar who engages fully with the internship programme and the mentorship opportunities on offer will have a far greater chance of flourishing once they set-up their own business.
For those who don’t know the Golden Vines initiative can you explain how it works and is funded?
Basset: The Golden Vines® were created by Lewis Chester, a very dear friend of my father’s, and his business partner Alexander Lushnikov. There are multiple facets to the Golden Vines®:
There are the Golden Vines® Awards, held annually at a spectacular event created by Liquid Icons (held in 2021 in London and in 2022 in Florence, with the 2023 Awards to be held in October in Paris) with winners being selected by the respondents of the Gérard Basset Global Fine Wine Report, an industry-leading annual report identifying key micro- and macro- trends that are likely to shape the global fine wine market and where responses are checked independently by Deloitte to ensure fairness and a lack of bias. In 2022, the Report was completed by 950 respondents working in the fine wine industry and based in 108 countries. The Golden Vines® Awards celebrate the world’s greatest fine wine estates across a number of different regions and categories.
There is also the annual Golden Vines® Fine Wine, Rare Spirit and Experience Global Online Charity Auction, which opens two weeks before the awards and closes at midnight on the evening of the final gala dinner. In the 2021 and 2022 auctions, Liquid Icons sourced 201 first-class auction lots, consisting of fine wines, spirits and experiences generously offered by the world’s leading estates, raising over £2.2 million. All proceeds from the auction are then generously donated in their entirety by Liquid Icons to the Gérard Basset Foundation for the fulfilment of our mandate.
This ties in nicely with the final component of the Golden Vines®: the scholarships. Created by collaborations between Liquid Icons, the Gérard Basset Foundation and a host of generous sponsors (such as Wine Owners), these Golden Vines® Scholarships offer educational and professional opportunities to scholars fitting a wide range of diversity and inclusivity criteria, with the goal of ameliorating diversity and inclusion in the wine, spirits and hospitality sectors through creating new role models to inspire others and widen the community.
Since our founding, we have awarded 39 Golden Vines® Scholarships and Bursaries to individuals from 15 countries and representing 21 different nationalities.
What other projects are you working on in 2023?
Basset: We have a few more very exciting scholarships in the pipeline which will be announced as the year progresses, and, of course, we will be following the amazing work of our new grantees for this year too. We also want to build on the community of Golden Vines® Scholars, by bringing them all into closer contact with us and with each other. I think that’s going to be something very interesting to develop.
Are you looking for partners and people in the trade to work with you?
Basset: We are always open to discussing with individuals and businesses who support our mandate and would like to explore ways we can work together.