Vin2o: Chris Coles

The start-up's founder on following in the footsteps of Toms and Warby Parker, having a social goal and the challenges of breaking into a crowded marketplace

Name: Chris Coles
Company name: Vin2o
Location: Bristol
Date launched: 28/08/14
Number of Employees: 1
Website: www.vin2o.co.uk 

Tell us what your business does:

We sell great wine online and use the profits to help fund clean water projects in Sub-Saharan Africa through our charity partner Pump-Aid.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

I was keen to start a business relating to food and drink so I researched and explored online wine retailing. I am passionate about good wine and supporting smaller producers but was also keen to work with a charity. I knew I wanted the business to be a social enterprise and the concept just came together quite naturally.

How did you know there was a market for it?

I was aware of the success of social enterprise brands like Tom’s Shoes and Warby Parker. We did some market research and got great feedback about the idea. This gave us the confidence to launch the business.

What were you doing before starting up?

I have had a varied career. I worked as an army officer and in various management positions – from working for Red Cross in Indonesia to managing security for Celebrity Big Brother.

Just prior to starting the business I was freelancing in business consulting.

Have you always wanted to run your own business?

Not as such, however I am curious and love new adventures. I think if you go through life with that kind of approach then eventually you want to start a business.

How did you raise the money?

The business is self-funded and all investment has come from my own savings.

Describe your business model and how you make money:

The business model is pretty simple, we’re an online platform for high quality wine from sustainable and ethical producers, and we will donate 55% of any profit we make to supporting clean water projects.

As we are a start-up, we recognise that it can be some time before we make a profit so from launch we have committed to giving 25p per bottle sold to Pump Aid.

What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?

Our main challenge is reaching customers in a crowded market. Online wine sales are dominated by the supermarkets, specialist clubs and big companies with extensive marketing budgets.

However we have our own niche and our charity element certainly makes us stand out from the crowd. We’re finding that social media is a great way to find people who are interested in what we are doing, and we’ve been lucky that they have helped to spread the word too.

What was your first big breakthrough

Launching a business is full of breakthroughs. From incorporating your business to shipping your first consignment. The moment the site went live and I was able to make sales was huge.

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?

Keep a tight reign on cash and monitor what you spend, and make sure you have a support network around you. Also listen to advice and make adjustments if necessary.

Finally, remember to look after yourself – eat well, sleep well and get plenty of exercise and fresh air!

Where do you want to be in five years’ time?

I would like the business to be stable and successful, and to be able to fund more and more water projects.

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