MY WEEK: Rowan Gormley, Naked Wines

Last week he announced a $10m funding round, this week we catch up with the South African entrepreneur to see how life has been at Naked Wines

by Gabriella Griffith
Last Updated: 10 Apr 2015
We spend too much time travelling at Naked Wines. We have three offices, one in Norwich, one in Napa, California and one in Sydney. Luckily, we spend a lot of our time travelling to places that grow wine, which is very nice, but the bigger the business gets, the more time we spend simply going from office to office. I’m trying to do more meetings via Skype so we don’t have to waste hours travelling, and God knows how long dealing with jet lag.
Saying that, I’ve been in the UK all week, I arrived back from the US at the end of last week. We finally secured our funding round on Friday, which was a massive relief. Things like that are always pretty intense, you spend far too much time speaking to lawyers and not enough time working with clients. This week the stress has decreased and the job enjoyment has increased.
We have been planning for a long time what we would do with the funding. We’ve been lining up new wine makers and different projects, which now, we can get on with. We’re not opening any new offices; with our three existing offices we’ve got a huge chunk of the world’s wine makers covered.
Most weeks kick off with us going through all of the wine our clients have made, and wine by makers who want to work with us. We try to resist opening any bottles before 9am – but it is one of the lovely parts of this job. That, and the fact that we are helping to make people's dreams come true by finding funding for them to make their wine.
It’s incredibly sociable, we get to know our winemakers and spend time hunting down new ones we want to work with. This takes up a good chunk of my time.
A lot of my week is also spent online, talking to our customers to see what they want. The basic idea behind our business is to make rich people’s wine, available to normal people. We do this by allowing our customers to fund the winemakers, in return for preferential prices and wine exclusives. This means often, our customers pick the winemakers they want to work with – they point out a wine to us and we track down the maker and approach them to get involved. We really want Naked Wines to be our customers’ business, so we spend a lot of time talking to them.
I’m based in Napa the majority of the time. My day usually starts with a 40 minute walk, through the forest to the office - it’s a great way to begin the day. I usually start early; because we work in three different time zones, there is always a lot to catch up with. It’s one of the downsides of working in the UK, US and Australia – there’s never a good time to go to sleep.
I often have a snooze at lunchtime – I have a little area called the ‘room of gloom.’ It's like a stationary cupboard with some cushions. I’m a really good catnapper – I can get ten minutes and feel totally rejuvenated.
I eat my breakfast at home before I leave, usually muesli, then I have a fantastic coffee which keeps me buzzed for the day. For lunch, the restaurant scene is amazing in Napa so I go to one of those.

I also spend a lot of time at the Naked Wines winery in Sonoma, Napa. There we taste the wines and see which will be premium, how much longer they need to age etc. It’s one of the great treats of working in the wine industry.
I’m glad to be in the UK this week though. We had my son’s 21st at the weekend, so we had 30 adolescents camping out on the lawn - it was almost a relief to go to work on Monday, it was certainly a lot calmer. This week, we are having a little party on Saturday at our home; we have 107 customers coming by for a BBQ and a chance to meet with the winemakers. We’re really looking forward to it, at the end of the day, there’s nothing greater than flipping 107 burgers.  

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