Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
I graduated in International Marketing and cut my teeth in marketing for the construction industry, before starting my own agency in 1996, The Creative Department, based in London – a successful integrated marketing agency which I ran for eight years.
I bought Spiral Cellars Ltd. in 2004 along with two partner directors, and in August 2015 took full ownership along with my husband Mark (Mark Dickens, Spiral Cellars, Head of International), buying out the previous business partners. Mark decided to begin offering customers bespoke designed wine rooms and wine walls, to compliment the Spiral Cellars range of excavated wine cellars. The couple have gone on to transform Spiral Cellars from what was previously known as a manufacturing brand, to what is now an aspirational lifestyle choice.
My vision for the business has seen a clear injection of luxury and consumer awareness, introducing the notion that owning a Spiral Cellar is a way of life and not simply an object to be purchased. Under our ownership, Spiral Cellars has developed significantly in understanding their clients, with the cellars now regarded as an object of desire across a variety of demographics, from the interior savvy young women to the middle age wine fanatics.
Using highly successful brand-building and distribution partnerships, the business has enjoyed rapid growth over the past sixteen years, increasing turnover more than 6-fold, employing over 50 people and building over 200 cellars every year ranging from £24,550 kits to £500,000 custom installations.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
To be honest, I didn’t come up with the idea for the company, the business already existed. It was one of those serendipitous occasions, classic right place at the right time moments. I’d got to a point in my career where I felt I was ready to run my own business and a colleague introduced me to Spiral Cellars which was for sale at the time. It was a no-brainer, the perfect opportunity to marry my career ambitions with my love of fine wine had landed at my feet.
How did you achieve awareness?
My marketing background undoubtedly helped. I recognised that the market for the existing underground product was broader than just serious wine collectors, that if positioned correctly, it could also appeal to interior enthusiasts and luxury lovers alike. So I started to market beyond that of just the wine world and ran ads in home interior and luxury titles. There was instant take-up, so I knew the interest was there, I just needed to make sure that I had a product mix that would meet the needs of both serious wine collectors and interior design enthusiasts alike.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
Initially I had to borrow a small amount of money to help fund the purchase of the company, but within 3 years I had paid this off. Since then, we have self-funded company growth.
What are the key successes?
Ha ! If you ask this question to our Head of International, he would point to our thriving international presence – something I wouldn’t have imagined possible when I bought the business all those years ago. But really, the key success has to be the fact that Spiral Cellars has grown from being a manufacturer of a concrete underground wine storage product, in to the UK’s leading luxury wine cellaring brand. During that time we have greatly expanded our product offering, in fact the breadth of our cellaring portfolio really is unrivalled within the industry. As well as our iconic underground cellars, we also do bespoke wine room, walls, and cabinets, we have an in-house climate control consultancy, a custom design service and have just launched the UnSpiral Cellar, our first ever modular wine storage system.
By offering a greater variety of wine storage options, we’ve expanded our consumer demographic. Yes, our heritage and reputation means that we are still the de facto choice for serious wine buffs looking to house their wine collections in professional level cellaring conditions. But just as importantly, we are also able to meet the needs of younger clients starting out on their wine collecting journey and looking to house smaller & less valuable wine collections. Plus of course, people who want to create an eye-catching interior feature with their wine storage.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
There used to be a lot of perceived snobbery within the wine world and for many of our would-be clients, it could be elitist, exclusive and rather intimidating. From the very start, we wanted to acknowledge that this needn’t be the case and that we would welcome clients from whatever point on their wine collecting journey they were on. After all, we are all different, we appreciate wine in different ways and want different things from wine storage. And that’s fine – the key thing is to take the time to really understand each client, to know what they want from their wine storage in order to ensure they get the cellaring solution that is right for them.
What are your plans now/for the future?
We would like to further expand the cellaring options we offer at both ends of the spectrum. Larger, possibly more technology reliant products at one end with perhaps more discreet yet still luxurious storage solutions at the other. All things for all people.
Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?
- There is a world of difference between a risk and a calculated risk, don’t get them muddled up !
- Embrace failure when it happens. Not only is it an inevitable hurdle in every entrepreneurial journey, but the learnings it provides can drive success.
- It’s impossible to know everything so surround yourself with people who are experts in particular fields crucial to the business.
- Try to relax in to the job, even when it can be quite stressful. Not only will you make better decisions when you are approaching them calmly, but it makes for a more enjoyable ride.
Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most and why?
Georges Harnois – As the inventor of the Spiral Cellar, it’s no surprise that Georges is my No1 inspiration.
Sir John Harvey Jones – I was obsessed with him when I was a teenager, and would obsessively watch his ‘Troubleshooter’ TV series. In fact, I credit Sir Harvey Jones with awakening my ambition to have my own business.
Winston Churchill – I love the fact that Odette Pol Roger had a front row seat at his funeral. It so elegantly speaks to a ‘work hard play hard’ ethic.
Paul Smith – His ability to constantly design and reinvent, to come up with new ideas, to stretch beyond fashion and make the mundane fashionable is staggering.
Cecilia Bonstrom – Creative Director of ‘Zadig & Voltaire’, my new wardrobe obsession.
What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?
When I was about 10, I was gifted one of those little picture frame containing a quote – ‘Start each day in a happy way’. The picture frame has long since been lost, but I’ll admit that the words still resonate. If you are running your own business, how you operate and behave will set the tone for that business.
What are your Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn social handles and also website links so our readers can connect with you?
Website – https://www.spiralcellars.co.uk
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/SpiralCellars
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/spiralcellars
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