Incubating wine entrepreneurs

One in four South Africans do not have a job: at 25.2%, the country’s unemployment rate is one of the highest in the world.

Job creation is of paramount importance for the South African economy to grow and small businesses can play a huge role in this regard. In a new initiative, efforts are afoot to support fledgling entrepreneurs within the wine industry with the financial assistance of the Western Cape government.

Western Cape minister of economic development Alan Winde said entrepreneurs “are the driver of our economy”. He was speaking at the launch of the new entrepreneur incubation initiative in Cape Town, something which has spun out of the Bartho Eksteen Wijnskool, which until now has concentrated on its mission of providing a career-focused education to high school learners wanting to enter the wine industry.

Winde said an incubator project such as the one launched by the Wijnskool was to be lauded. The Wijnskool itself is a relatively new business, having been started by Bartho Eksteen in February 2011, a year after he had been crowned the Diners Club Winemaker of the Year. He resigned as co-owner and winemaker of Hermanuspietersfontein Wynkelder last year to focus solely on the Wijnskool, saying it has taken over his life – but in a good way!

“The aim was to pass a lifetime’s knowledge and experience on to the next generation of winemakers, and food and beverage industry workers,” Eksteen said. After just five years, Eksteen realised there was a need to support fledgling projects and entrepreneurs. “It’s been shown that, if given the support and guidance of experienced professionals, young entrepreneurs can achieve success.”

The Western Cape regional government, Winde said, has decided to focus its energy and efforts in its current term on three main economic sectors, with the first two being tourism and agro-processing and oil, and gas the third.

Having served previously as the province’s minister for tourism, Winde is well acquainted with the success this segment of the regional economy has enjoyed over the past five years, having shown noticeable growth during an extremely tough global trading period.

“These two sectors are really significant and relevant for the regional government of the Western Cape. They’re a massive lever to our region’s brand – and it’s an honour for me to be here and meet these young people.

“Tourism is the fastest growing sector in our economy. It grew at a rate of 6.7% – which is way above GDP growth,” Winde said. “And it also has a multiplier effect,” something it shared with the agro-processing industry. Although the latter had grown at a rate of 4% annually – again a rate better than GDP growth – it too had a multiplier effect of 7.7%.

“Entrepreneurs must be innovators, they must be disruptors and do things better, faster and differently as well as having that ‘Wow!’ factor – and they will succeed.”

Winde said the regional government was actively promoting entrepreneurship and providing small scale financing. “Ask any entrepreneur starting out and they’ll tell you that access to finance is one of the biggest hurdles they face.”

The first crop of entrepreneurs to be included in the Wijnskool Entrepeneur Support Programme (WESP) are Kelly-marie Jacobs, who is starting a company called Wine Musings; Heinrich Kulson of Kulson Wines; Catea, Sinclair who intends creating an urban winery; Martin Albertus of Sustainable Ways; sommelier Xolani Mancotywa and Babalwa Dlanjwa; Richard Oosthuizen of Attaquas distilling in the Hemel-en-Aarde valley; and sommelier Eric Botha.

Eksteen is excited at the prospect of extending his mentoring role beyond simply exposing young learners to winemaking. “I want to see them grow their companies under the guidance of seasoned business, winemaking, marketing, personal development and brand-building mentors,” he concluded.

– Fiona McDonald

Minister Alan Winde, Babalwa Dlanjwa (Entrepreneur), Catea Sinclair (Entrepreneur) at the launch function on 10 June 2015 at Welgemeend, Kloof Street

Martin Albertus, Entrepreneur

Bartho, Minister Winde, Catea Sinclair, Kelly-Marie Jacobs (Entrepreneur), Babalwa, Richard Oosthuizen (Entrepreneur), Martin.

Kelly-Marie & friend

Bartho, Minister Winde, Babalwa