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Grow A Small Business Podcast

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 operations. 

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 events space.
  • The tons of research they did in the US wines market to come up with their own innovative way of packaging their wine.
  • 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 2021.
  • 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 choice.
  • 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 tap industry.
  • 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 with it
  • Lessons learned from the acquisition process they went through.

Additional Resources:



Music from "Cold Funk" by Kevin MacLeod ( License: CC BY (