Economy

Diary of an entrepreneur: How Andre Eikmeier turned a corker of idea into a $20m wine company

Kirsten Robb /

Name: Andre Eikmeier

Company: Vinomofo

Based: Victoria

It was 2007. Facebook was a ripple in the internet’s ocean and there were no such thing as Google reviews, but Andre Eikmeier and his brother-in-law Justin Dry thought it would be a cool idea to start an online wine community.

“We just wanted to do something cool for the wine industry,” says Eikmeier. “I’d been looking at social platforms. I was interested in consumer reviews, the idea of the voice of the people harnessing the community to help guide something, like buying wine… We were just fan boys.”

After a commerce degree, a fragrance business venture with his father that turned out to be “a massive failure” and a fairly successful run as an actor in Sydney, Eikmeier set his sights on turning the wine review site into a distribution and deals one-stop-shop.

“We help people get good wine, without all the bullshit. We just make it accessible and disruptive, so we can give the consumer cheap, good wine and help them find the wine they like,” he says.

Vinomofo now turns over $20 million and although the company was acquired by major deals player The Catch Group in 2013, Eikmeier and co have bought their stake back  to take their vision to the next level.

As the three-year-old company continues its momentum, Eikmeier tells SmartCompany it’s all about resilience, being present and, of course, a good Pinot.

Mornings

Every Monday Eikmeier’s alarm goes off at the sprightly hour of 4am. He’s got a big commute ahead of him, as he jumps in the shower in his home in Adelaide to be at the airport by 5.15am.

“Then I’m in the Virgin lounge and I’m getting a much needed coffee,” he says.

Eikmeier is on the plane to Melbourne at 6.10am and tramming it through Melbourne’s chilly streets to be at Vinomofo’s head office by 9am.

He’ll be in Melbourne until Tuesday night and says he hasn’t tired of the bi-city lifestyle just yet.

“I’m sure I won’t be enthusiastic about doing it forever, but it’s been nine months now and I don’t mind it. Being two days, it doesn’t impact the family too much. If it got too difficult I would find another way, if it starts to head into four or five days, then it would be too disruptive.”

Daily Life

On Mondays and Tuesdays, Eikmeier’s days are packed with meetings and time spent catching up with his 35-staff member Melbourne team.

Although there is a bar set up in the office, Eikmeier says the team are currently all on a health kick and, while you might find the bar pumping on a Friday afternoon, most staff have implemented a “no alcohol work week”.

Vinomofo’s workplace culture is as relaxed as the company’s ethos in general.

“We are flexible, we take a relaxed approach. If we [hire] someone and they give us the professional side of their lives, then we have to be good to them. We take notice of their lives and give them a lot of freedom and empowerment, but we ask people to bring their best in return,” says Eikmeier.

“We’ll make it as inspiring and fulfilling as you want it to be, but therefore you’ve got to bring it, I mean really bring it.”

Eikmeier will try to have a healthy wrap or sushi for lunch—if he’s not hitting the local burger joint.

“I love my food… If you love wine, chances are you love your food too.”

At night he’ll make sure to go for a run, which he says is important, not only to his fitness, but also to his mind.

“It exercises the mind, because your mind spends the whole time thinking, just stop, just quit! And that’s the part of your mind you need throughout the day, because you need to push through, so you just get in the habit of pushing yourself.”

Resilience is everything, according to Eikmeier.

“That’s why people say ‘a good founder and a bad idea are more important than a good idea and a bad founder’. Because a good founder will keep going until the bad idea is a good idea, it’s all about resilience.”

Leisure time

With a background in acting and video production, Eikmeier also has a creative part of his personality he needs to fulfil.

You might find him rocking out to Led Zeppelin and INXS, or you could find him jamming in his family band. “Because I’ve got kids now, we try to find stuff they can get into,” he says.

He’ll try out a new Spanish dish in the kitchen on the weekend or try his hand at some DIY—when he’s not cheering the Sydney Swans to victory. 

“I’m also obsessed with the World Cup right now,” he says.

Eikmeier says when Vinomofo was starting out he found it hard to balance the work/life paradigm, often putting in 15 hour days at the office.

But he’s got a new approach. “I don’t work night or weekends now. I mean, a bit of email stuff, but if it requires too much thought or angst I’ll leave it for Monday,” he says.

“The secret is that it’s all about being present. When I get home, if I’m with the kids, I’m with the kids. If I’m with my wife, then I’m with my wife…I try to be militant about it.”

The Future

Vinomofo is just about to finish its latest business plan, and the company is looking to focus on ramping up its content and relationships with suppliers. “We’ve been so focused on customers,” Eikmeier says.

He has an ambition to make Vinomofo a household name and maintain the company’s authenticity, or its lack of “bullshit”, as he calls it.

“You just have to care for your customers, that old school business thinking is not relevant anymore,” he says.

Regarding his own career path, we might see Eikmeier penning a novel in the future, “Being a writer is on my bucket list,” he says.

So look out for him in the Adelaide hills in the future, pen in one hand, glass of Pinot in the other.

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Kirsten Robb

Kirsten Robb is a former journalist at SmartCompany. Previously, she worked at News Corp as a property reporter for Leader Newspapers and the Herald Sun, and holds a Masters of Journalism at Melbourne University.

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