Balham resident Lisa Grannell, founder of the London Wine Tasting, shares how a love of wine prompted her to leave her day job to follow her passion.
Describe your business in one sentence?
London Wine Tasting offers wine tastings across southwest London and aims to make learning about/tasting wine engaging, fun, accessible and enjoyable.
When did you launch and who is behind it?
I launched the business in February 2021 after deciding that it was time to move away from my career in professional regulation and pursue my passion for wine.
When did your ‘lightbulb happen’?
It was during a trip to New Zealand around six years ago. I was astounded by the quality of wine, beautiful scenery, backdrop and the history behind the wineries, which were often small, family run businesses. I started to develop a more serious passion for wine around four years ago and began attending lots of tasting events, wine exhibitions and travelling to winemaking regions around the world. Once I began my studies at the Wine Spirit and Education Trust, I decided that I wanted to make this my new career path.
What did you do prior to starting your business?
Prior to the business launch, I had a background in law at University and spent almost ten years working in professional regulation with organisations such as The Nursing and Midwifery Council, The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and the Police and Crime Commissioner of Essex. These were varied, demanding yet rewarding roles but a passion for the wine industry called and the rest is now history!
What inspired you to launch the business when you did?
During the first lockdown last year, I really missed attending wine tastings, especially the sociable and learning element they offered.
I had already gained two qualifications in wine and was searching for a role within the wine industry while starting my next course of studies.
I found that while some organisations offered virtual tastings, they were often very expensive and often very sombre and large events, with very little engagement with the host or other attendees. And with that, the idea for London Wine Tasting was born with a focus on local and engaging events.
What type of support have you received since starting your business?
I’ve had a lot of support from various local community groups who have helped in the promotion of the business. I also have a number of contacts in the wine trade who have been excellent in providing me with their time and advice.
What would you say were three of the most challenging aspects of setting up the business?
- The financial aspects in trying to attain enough capital or investment to get the business running.
- Setting up a business as a solo entrepreneur can be a lonely and daunting challenge without having a sounding board of a team or manager to bounce ideas off.
- The amount of administrative work involved as a lot of it can be quite time consuming
What happened to your business during lockdown?
I delayed the initial launch of it last year, due to all the uncertainty and the various lockdowns I decided to wait until 2021 to launch the business.
I plan to launch in-person tastings later in the summer as restrictions are eased further.
What business lessons have you learned from Covid?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help – even if it is just to have a friend/colleague or contact to bounce ideas off and get feedback from. I found my network of local family members, friends, acquaintances, and even ex-colleagues to be a wonderful base of support and advice when I was designing and launching the business.
If you had the opportunity to do it all again, what would you do differently?
I would probably have done this all sooner in hindsight! My passion for wine was apparent to those around me long before I decided to take the leap and change careers. I should have listened to my family and friends earlier and followed my passion much sooner!
What three tips would you offer to aspiring entrepreneurs?
- Be bold! Get your message out there from an early stage, either on social media, by word of mouth or printing out leaflets to put in other local businesses etc. Whatever methods you can think of, utilise them all!
- Don’t underestimate how long the bureaucratic elements of setting up a new business take
- You really don’t need a big investment budget behind you to get started, focus on what necessities you need to purchase at the beginning and start from there. The biggest outlay in starting a new business will be your own time!
Finish this sentence. I like being based in Wandsworth because…
It has a wonderful sense of community, local independent businesses and a variety of well-maintained open green spaces which are more important now than ever before.
How can people find you?