It was January 2015 when we returned from a vacation in Kazakhstan. My husband Stanley accompanied me on this trip to my home country.
On our last day in Almaty, we bought some souvenirs and presents for our friends in Malaysia. While searching for the gifts, I also remembered that I wanted to bring back some of my favourite Georgian wines. I purchased two bottles of Kindzmarauli that I dearly miss to bring back to Malaysia.
The day we returned, our friends, Ram & Saras, invited us to their house party. We took a bottle of Kindzmarauli with us. After the dinner, our friends decided to try the wine that we brought. The taste of this “unknown” wine pleasantly surprised everyone. It was during our conversation about the wine, that our friend Ram suggested the idea of importing this wine to Malaysia.
We started validating the feasibility of this business idea. I undertook extensive research on Georgian wines, including its history, current production, and reviews from international sommeliers.
After reading several articles, reviews, and speaking to friends who run wine businesses in Malaysia, we have decided to take the next big step. By the end of January, I have already contacted a few key wine makers in Georgia to see if they are interested to venture into this new market.
In February, after talking to several wineries, we ordered twelve bottles of Georgian wines as sample from a winery in Kakheti. When it arrived we opened few bottles, and found out that the taste was different from what we are familiar with. The essence and the flavors of Georgian Wine were missing. It was then we decided to visit Georgia to find the best winery that would satisfy our requirements, in terms of the wine quality. I found out that there is Wine Expo being held in Georgia every year. I figured that this expo was the right place to find the best wineries with the quality we expect.
In June, we finally flew down to Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, for the Wine Expo.
For those of you wandering, this is traditional Georgian hat, if I am not mistaken its only supposed to be worn by men. Hehe I made an exception.
We spent the next seven days in Georgia, attending the Wine Expo and meeting the wineries.
During our stay, we also visited Kakheti. It is the biggest wine-growing region in the country.
At Kakheti, we saw the vineyards and the entire process of traditional wine making. The traditional style involves the use of the Kvevri that is recognized by UNESCO under the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists.
Kakheti has breathtaking landscape with mountains, rivers and vineyards.
We stayed there for three days, it is very quiet and we loved to wake up to the sounds of birds' chirps and the smell of freshly baked Georgian bread “Hachapuri”.
During that trip, we met a couple of wineries that could supply us the wine variety of the taste we wanted. However, we sealed the deal with Kakhetian Traditional Winemaking, because of the highest quality standards at their winery and their choices of wine varieties were plentiful. They appointed us as the Sole Distributor for their wines in Malaysia.
PS, these are real horns called "Kantsi" in Georgian language, used by Georgians in the olden days to drink wine.
In August, we received our first shipment of wines.
It was a giant leap for us. With the help of our friends, we quickly sold the first batch of wines. The response was awesome, and our friends became our brand ambassadors. Overwhelmed by the response, we placed our second order. However, this time, the consignment was in the form of a "Container", “slightly” bigger commitment I would say.
At the same time, Stanley helped me set up our online store for Eurasia. We went on with Shopify platform this time, from our previous experience with Magento of which I still have bad memories hehe. The whole basic set-up only took him three hours. It may sound easy but if it was me, it is surely not the case, you still need to know some basic programming etc to be able to do it yourself.
Our container arrived beginning of December and just on time for Xmas and New Year Celebrations. We had list of friends and some people who contacted us earlier for wines and was waiting for the wines to arrive, so we quickly started fulfilling the back-orders. It was during that crazy week of fulfilling orders I realised I need help, also for another reason, to which there will be updates later on this year :)
So I started looking for a company that can handle warehousing and order fulfilment for us, and within the next couple of weeks, we found the company who is now doing this job for us. I must say, its really worth it.
We then went on a twelve days holiday to Korea to celebrate New Year. When our first online order for 2016 came in, we were totally not involved and everything was handled by the fulfilment company. It was moment of happiness and relief for me, to be able to run this business without being hand-on in the operations. I am sure most of the entrepreneurs agree with me and feel this way too.
PS: We were celebrating our Year 2015 achievements in our Airbnb apartment, lcoated in the center of Seoul.