Mar 17, 2021
In this episode, I interview Joe
Cook, the Co-Founder, and general manager of Adelaide-based
Riot Wines, the only business in Australia that
exclusively sells wine in kegs and cans. Joe started out working
for Keg Star, a keg rental business that grew fast in Australia and
expanded into New Zealand and the UK. While they were researching
the market potential in the US for Keg Star, they came across wine
on tap and decided to launch it in Australia because no other wine
business was doing it. Keg Star was sold before they could do that
so he and his co-founder, Tom O’Donnell (The Winemaker), started
Riot Wines in 2016 to implement the idea.
Combining investments from a few
friends with their own personal funds, they started by producing
14,000 liters of wine in 2017, and by March 2021 they expect to
produce 1 Million liters. Due to the capital-intensive nature of
the business, they did two cash raises in year two from high net
worth individuals. A year later, they were acquired by Carlton
& United Breweries and stayed on to help with the
Joe and Tom were the only
full-time employees when they started out and three years in, they
had grown that to 10. Joe says the hardest thing in growing a small
business is cash and resilience, and that the one thing he would
tell himself on day one of starting out in business is, “Keep
punching no matter what” Stay tuned and make sure you take notes as
Joe shares his great wisdom with us.
This Cast Covers:
- Their huge differentiator in the traditional
wine market and why they don’t have a market in the festivals and
- The tons of research they did in the US wines
market to come up with their own innovative way of packaging their
- From working for a keg rental business to
starting his own wine on tap business that naturally evolved into
wine in cans.
- Producing 14,000 liters of wine in their first
year and the expected production of 1 Million liters by March
- Growing from the two co-founders only to the
current ten full-time employees.
- Buying grapes from local growers and making
their own wine from scratch to ensure that they keep to their core
pillar of not putting too many preservatives in it.
- Successfully exiting the business and looking
forward to ordering Riot from a bar 25 years from now.
- The challenges they had trying to figure out
their target market.
- Why their product has lower preservative, lower
sugar, and is more sustainable.
- Saving 23,000 glass bottles from landfill: The
positive environmental impact of their packaging
- Funding the business with investments from
himself, his co-founder, a few of their friends, and a year later
from two cash raise.
- Exiting the business three years later and
enjoying the cash in.
- Embracing potential competition in the wine on
- Understanding the heartbeat of the business by
focusing on being more informed about the numbers.
- Developing and maintaining objectivity when
running a small business.
- Understanding that culture is intentional in
order to get it right.
- Work-Life balance: Drawing a line between when
one is working and when they’re not, and the challenges that come
- Lessons learned from the acquisition process
they went through.
Music from https://filmmusic.io
"Cold Funk" by Kevin MacLeod (https://incompetech.com). License: CC