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WATCH: From teetotaler to wine label owner

Jun 21 2016 15:00
Liziwe Ndalana

Cape Town – When Rosemary Mosia, 49, moved to Cape Town in 2001, she didn't know anything about wine and didn't even drink it. All this changed when her friends invited her to visit wine farms along the Cape wine route.

The owner of The Bridge of Hope Wines tells fondly of how a friend’s father in Soweto who ran a grocery store ignited the entrepreneurial spark in her at a very young age.

She started selling sweets when she was still in primary school, just so that she could have pocket money like other children.

"We lived just in front of the school gate, so there was no need for us to have pocket money. The idea was for us to go eat at home when we were hungry. I thought I’ll just make my own money," said Mosia.

She also tried her hand at bridging finance, a business she started from the pension she cashed in after the company she worked for was sold.

But why wine?

As a teetotaler she was fascinated by the way her friends appreciated their wine: the things they were saying about wine - the smell, the flavours, the cork, etc.

"Just from observing them, I knew at that moment that I was going to make money out of wine rather than just drinking it."

That watershed moment started a learning journey that would span over 10 years. She even subscribed to wine magazines online to expand her knowledge.

Her bridging finance company lasted for four years, before bad debt made the business unsustainable. When she closed shop, the business gave her a R100 000 cash - capital she used to start her wine business. This paid for all the expenses such as the packaging, the name and the registration of the label.

Education

Mosia did her postgraduate studies in Masters in Leadership Management and her paper focused on SMMEs - this was without knowing that she would one day run a business. This gave her invaluable insight in understanding and managing cash flow and she gained in-depth knowledge on why small businesses fail within the first three years.

Her accounting qualification also came in handy.

This helped her prevent pitfalls when she was running her own business. "Education is very crucial and it helps you to manage your finances better. You need to know how to budget; be accountable in handling your finances and know how to separate your personal income from business money."

She emphasised the importance of keeping abreast of industry trends, including what your competitors are doing. "When you know what your competitors are doing, you can think of ways to do it better," she said.

Mosia said unlike when you are an employee, you quickly learn that there are different seasons in the business: busy and dry seasons.

Partnerships, job creation

Before Mosia ventured into her wine business, she met with the owner of Ses’fikile Wines, Nondumiso Pikashe, and owner of wine making company Re’Mogo Holdings, Thamsanqa Hombana, who took her under his wing to teach her the business of wine making.  

She also partnered with farmers to cultivate her wine since she didn’t have a farm to harvest her own grapes.

Mosia said in the beginning she only did the marketing, but the following year she was involved in the entire process, including harvesting, grape selection, right up to the bottling of the wine.

She said it’s important to know how to negotiate with others and to nurture relationships. This has helped her with the entire process of getting her wine label off the ground.

Mosia said partnerships help with skills transfer and funding capital if you don’t have any. "I was reading about wine making for over 10 years, but I still didn’t know about the actual making of wine, the science of wine itself.

"And wine making is expensive - if you don’t have your own farm it becomes even more difficult to start unless you are able to negotiate with farmers." 

Today, through these partnerships, The Bridge of Hope Wines employs 10 temporary staff and uses 20% of the farm staff where her wines are produced.

Mosia said she employs temp staff because she uses them only when there’s a need, like wine tasting. However, when she has her own farm she will be able employ staff full time. "I had put up an offer just now to buy my own farm," she chuckles.

Her company now produces about 11 cultivars, which are all 100% type of cultivar, she said.

"I have about five ranges, which are all entry level wines. They consist of two reds: captive and pinotage; and the white range consists of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and a rosé. The premium range retails for about R129 in South Africa. There’s also ultra-premium range, my top range in the collection", Mosia said.

(Rosemary Mosia talks about working in the wine industry with Erin Bates of News24Live.)

Family support, inspiration

Mosia said it was important to involve your family in the business, especially during the transition stage. "I started with my girls and we worked together. This made the transition and the conversation easier because they were involved."

She said her husband was also very supportive of the idea and he would even suggest "why don't you try this?".

According to Mosia it was also crucial to have someone with a stable income while you're starting out as the money doesn't come immediately. "It helped that my husband was working and that covered a lot of expenses including the bond."

                       (A Cafe Cabernet by The Bridge of Hope Wines. Pic: Liziwe Ndalana, Fin24.)

Giving back

Mosia has a registered NGO, which educates the youth about wine, especially the dangers of overindulging. The organisation also educates them about opportunities and vast careers the industry has to offer.

Mosia works mostly from home in Rondebosch, but she also commutes to Wellington. She now enjoys drinking wine.

(Mosia talks wine tasting with Erin Bates of News24Live.)

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mybusiness  |  entrepreneurs  |  profile  |  small business
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