Naked Wines

Naked Wines was born from the recession. It was 2008, Lehman Brothers had just gone bust and the entire world of business was shaking on its foundations. South African-born entrepreneur Rowan Gormley, whose career includes working with Richard Branson’s Virgin as well as launching his own businesses, wanted to start a new venture. He decided this new business would go about things differently.

"Last year [2012], we made our first profit of £1 million, putting us 12 months ahead of schedule"

Eamon FitzGerald, Chief Operating Officer, Naked Wines

Gormley met Eamon FitzGerald, a management consultant and part-time wine blogger, at a wine conference in Vienna a few years later. A few glasses were shared, and the result was that FitzGerald joined Gormley at Naked Wines. FitzGerald explains: "We are a customer-funded wine business, and that means our customers invest directly in talented independent winemakers in return for preferential prices. This business could not have happened without the internet. The whole power of the model is assembling like-minded people together to achieve something. We tie everything together in a very social website. Customers can interact with winemakers and we have more than half a million ratings on our site.

  • 2008 – The year that Naked Wines was founded, which happened to be one of the worst for the global economy

"A good example of how we work is Carmen Stevens, who was the first black South African woman to graduate in winemaking. She was doing great things at an established winery, but her dream was to get her name on a bottle of wine, so we got 2,000 people to bid for her first case of wine.

"Last year [2012] we made our first profit, of £1 million, putting us 12 months ahead of schedule, and launched Naked Wines in the US and in Australia. So far the reception has been brilliant. It is clear that Americans don’t need to have the concept explained to them so much as in the UK. They seem to get it instantly.

"My advice to new people setting out is to be authentic. You have to be true to yourself and people will recognise that and respond. It may sound mad, but think about what everyone else is doing and do the opposite. Often it works."