After studying winemaking together at university and drawing from their experience working in winegrowing regions worldwide, Kate Day and Nina Stocker launched their new venture, Seeing Double Wine Co.
Kate and Nina are not only friends since university, but are married to identical twins, enmeshing their work and family lives. Kate says of their professional relationship that they “are Yin and Yang,” with Nina agreeing they complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
This unique closeness has helped create a formidable team, finding new ways to achieve their business and personal goals.
Their company, Seeing Double Wine Co., has two brands. The first is Two Pairs, which is available exclusively through its investor and distribution partner, Naked Wines. The other is In Two Minds, a direct-to-consumer brand that uses corporate wine tastings to build its customer base.
According to Kate, Two Pairs helps drive the sales volume, while In Two Minds is their smaller-scale channel to market, where they can explore the boutique side of winemaking.
Their experience entering a competitive market dominated by large or generational wine businesses has taught Kate and Nina that success has multiple pathways. Crucially, it has also proven that they don’t have to compromise what’s important to them personally along the way.
"We’ve worked in winegrowing regions around the world, watching businesses thrive and go through the many tribulations of our industry. It made us realise there are many ways to achieve success and that you can take little pieces from different businesses and apply them to your own.”
Launching a business on their terms
Kate and Nina deeply considered the business model that would allow them to enter a capital-intensive industry while minimising well-known risks. Nina explains that winemaking relies on a complex supply chain and that predicting demand can often be “a guessing game”.
Nina’s involvement with Naked Wines gave the pair a platform to launch a wine business with fewer risks. Being a subscription wine club and angel investor for independent labels, Kate says that gaining funding and exclusive distribution through Naked Wines provided early cash flow and positively affected their supplier relationships.
“As new parents starting our first venture together, we were looking for a way to launch our brand without large amounts of upfront capital,” Kate says. “It can take two years to produce a red and 12 months for a white, so there’s time and commitment involved before you see a return.”
For In Two Minds, the pair took a different approach. Instead of distributors and a cellar door, they focus on “hijacking the bus”, running events for corporate teams as an avenue for growth.
For both brands, flexibility in sourcing and investing is a recurring theme. Kate and Nina say that another way to remain lean and agile has been to “essentially rent space in other people’s wineries to produce our wines”. They work closely with growers across regions, avoiding the cost of purchasing more vineyards themselves.
Sustainability at the centre
Nina says that as winemakers that rely on the natural environment, climate change is a risk that requires proactive initiatives. Changing conditions can affect grape varieties and regions differently, which is where their flexible sourcing model can help ensure supply.
Nina and Kate are passionate about sustainable production practices and have a sense of responsibility to do everything they can.
“On our own farm and vineyard we’re focused on encouraging biodiversity, managing our water usage, regenerating pastures and dams, harnessing solar power, and exploring other initiatives to reduce our footprint.”
They always work with like-minded growers and producers, and have implemented practices like using lighter weight bottles for packaging to lower their impact.
Ensuring a healthy and thriving workplace is another aspect that Kate and Nina are focused on personally and for their team. Kate emphasises the importance of work-life balance, particularly in an industry where working 80-hour weeks during vintage is seen by some as a badge of honour.
Kate’s experience working in France’s Burgundy region has made a lasting impact. She observed French winemakers take a more relaxed approach to harvesting, where people would take breaks together and come together to eat lunch and dinner.
"This approach is less common in Australia, and while there are always time pressures, we don’t subscribe to an approach where everything needs to be done urgently or at the expense of people’s wellbeing. Even as business owners, learning and applying this approach is integral to maintaining work-life balance.”
For Kate, debunking long-held views about what it takes to succeed in the industry was one reason for going out on her own. When seven months pregnant with her second child, she was made redundant after not giving in to the pressure of moving from a part- to full-time role, a challenge she knows many women face.
“After first realising it's okay to focus on being a mum, I decided to start up a consulting business. That’s where I grew my network which has been invaluable in launching, and then growing, Seeing Double Wine Co.”
Cultivating close relationships
Nina and Kate are intent on better understanding their strengths and weaknesses and pursuing learning opportunities that can help them develop as business owners. They also recognise the importance of finding great people and partners that can complement their own skills.
They are also acutely aware of the interrelationships between work and family life, and are deliberate in managing risks. Kate points out, "We are family, and if our business doesn’t succeed, that can have unintended consequences.”
“We have kids that are cousins and love each other, so ensuring harmony and having a plan for different scenarios is important.
“When friends and family go into business, you have to ask the tough questions and have a documented plan in place. It needs to be regularly revisited because things inevitably change,” Nina adds.
This acute awareness of their unique partnership dynamic, alongside an agile approach to business with sustainability at the forefront, has set the duo on a successful path. Their combined experiences and observations have allowed them to curate a business and lifestyle that works for them—a goal that many aspire to. And importantly, Kate and Nina agree that the journey so far has definitely been worth doing side-by-side.
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