18 May 2021|Latest Posts, Meet the Successful Founder
Oliver Horton is founder of Lanzarote Outdoors SLU, a multi-facet company which started Wine Tours Lanzarote in 2017 and more recently during the COVID lockdown, Wine Shop Lanzarote, among other activities. Ollie was born in Guernsey and worked as an Investment Manager up until 2013, when aged 30 he moved to Lanzarote, drawn by the surf, weather and amazing Island he had fallen in love with as a child. With no real plan, he put his hand to surf coaching and then real estate related work, before setting up Wine Tours Lanzarote. With no prior knowledge of wine, and plenty of learning since, the Company has evolved and adapted with the times and opportunities, with the Island’s amazing landscapes and products at the heart of it. Away from work, Ollie is an experienced surfer, home brewer and lover of the amazing outdoor life Lanzarote offers.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
I am from Guernsey in the Channel Islands, where I had a career as an Investment Manager. At 30 years of age in 2013, I left the Island for Lanzarote with no plan. Some years later in 2017, encouraged by a friend I began Wine Tours Lanzarote, specialising in wine tasting tours to the Island’s unique volcanic wine region. In 2020 during the strictest lockdown in Europe, I restructured the Company to export and sell a range of Lanzarote wines and craft beers to the UK and Ireland for the first time. This also made possible virtual wine tours and tastings.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
It was on a surf trip here in 2007 when I first tasted Lanzarote wine. I knew very little about wine back then, but I was blown away with the quality and fell in love immediately. I already knew the vineyards were unique, but it was impossible to do a tour in an accessible manner for a tourist and this was the light bulb moment. It remained at the back of my mind for years to come. Our sister business, Wine Shop Lanzarote came secondary. The fact that so many of our tour customers loved the wines and it was impossible to buy them in the UK or Ireland!
How did you achieve awareness?
This has always been the biggest challenge for both businesses but more so with the shop as there’s so much competition online for wine. Social media is a big help, but it is not an overnight success. People need to gain trust in your brand and product before engaging at the point of sale. The tours business is a combination of online presence and building up personal relationships on the Island.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
The tours business was founded with a relatively small private investment and because it worked, we managed to get financing for another vehicle and to grow.
What are the key successes?
The feedback from our wine tours has been a huge success and a foundation for everything we do. It is a people business, a holiday activity so the critical thing for its success is enjoyment! We have received glowing reviews across all platforms, and this has really helped to spread the word. Smaller successes for us have been media features, including in The Times, The Telegraph and our Virtual Wine Tour featuring in The Top 10 Virtual Experiences in both The Guardian and The Irish Times.
While not a financial success just yet, launching Wine Shop Lanzarote felt like a big achievement! It was a project which was carried out during COVID and BREXIT and it relied entirely on technology, from virtual meetings, down to the online shop platform. It had always been an idea to make the Island’s unique wines available in the UK and Irish market, and to be the first Company to facilitate this and hear the excitement from our customers made the hard work worthwhile.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
5 years ago, I knew very little about wine. The first challenge was to learn and develop and that stands firm every single day.
COVID has put huge stresses on our tours business which relies 99% on tourism. We have had to cut costs and be incredibly flexible with our offering and new initiatives.
My Spanish is less than perfect, and this remains a constant frustration. There is always a way to get help but it is never as easy as if you were fluent!
What are your plans now/for the future?
To build the Wine Shop Lanzarote brand. We will be expanding our product range and as we are a small business, we have flexibility. We have never had a rigid plan, you can’t predict the future as this past year has proved, so for me it is best to concentrate efforts on what you can control or influence.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
The biggest driver for me in terms of decisions has always been the fear of regret. It was what drove me to leave Guernsey in the first place, while a goal of mine was always to run my own business and create my own lifestyle around it. The successes and sense of accomplishment that go with it, give a very personal reason to work harder than you probably ever have before!
Can you share your tips for entrepreneurial success?
1. Hard work, drive and a never give up attitude.
2. Believe in yourself and your project. It sounds simple but without this it is a nonstarter.
3. Research! You are the captain of your ship and you have to understand it. You can’t know intrinsically every single element but to have a fundamental understanding in all aspects of your business operations is imperative, even when outsourcing.
4. Invest in great people. The company has funded professional wine training for all client facing staff and all operate with a degree of autonomy in an open environment. Happy and knowledgeable staff is key to our businesses.
5. Trust your gut instinct. It might just be an urge to ask a simple question but do it!
6. Think different and be different.
7. Be flexible and adapt. Things will change and often without warning.
8. Listen to your clients. Ask for feedback. Craft beer kept being spoken about on our wine tours, along with questions about buying the wines in customers home countries. We now offer a Craft Beer Tour and Wine Shop as a direct result of customer feedback.
9. What would you do or like? I always use this as the starting point for any concept.
Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most?
We are a team of 5, so this is my biggest motivation. Trying to make it a success for all who have believed in me and the Company.
What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?
I do not have any! I have read plenty of business books and have always been inspired by stories where people have done things differently, so I have never modelled my thinking on a particular person. We always try to do things differently!
Website & Socials
Business Instagram: @wineshoplanzarote @winetourslanz
Facebook: Wine Shop Lanzarote, Wine Tours Lanzarote
Personal Instagram: @ollieh83
5% Discount Code “Founder” at checkout on www.wineshoplanzarote.com