Tom Doran, a former professional rugby player, was lucky enough to grow up in a household where excellent wine was omnipresent, which started his love for wine and running the UK side of the Doran Family Vineyards.

How would you describe your business in one sentence?

Family-owned wine farm in South Africa producing premium wines which I import and distribute into the UK, focussing on working with and supporting small independent businesses.

When did you launch and who is behind it?

After selling Edwin Doran Sports Travel my father, Edwin, decided he was too young to retire and at the age of 62 bought a wine farm in 2009 in Voor Paardeberg (South Africa). We created our premium wines in 2012 which we then imported into the UK, and I took over the UK operation in 2019.

When did your lightbulb moment happen?

Fortunate enough to grow up in a household where excellent wine was omnipresent, which started my love for wine. I chose to join the business when realising, how much I would be able to contribute to the UK operation and the subsequent success this would have - both domestically and in our South African business.

What did you do prior to starting your business?

I have had quite a broad career: beginning with playing professional rugby, teaching PE and working in other parts of hospitality (some professional catering included). I now consider myself all things wine and food.

What would you say were three of the most challenging aspects of setting up the business?

Doing everything yourself is the toughest element. To sell anything requires focus on just selling and not diverted attention to all the administrative tasks that are involved in running a business.

Fortunately, our wine is lovely, excellent value for money and has a strong USP. But the market is fairly saturated, with both wine and other drinking options available to businesses and consumers.

Dealing internationally there are so many logistical factors to consider well before you can put the wine into the customers hands. Even now these are continually reviewed.

The smartest career decision you made

Choose a career that you can be truly happy with. I have dabbled with many professions all of which I loved before starting them. I still really enjoy my previous professions as a hobby but none as much as I enjoy what I do today.

The most difficult lesson you learnt

That the supply chain does not always follow the path you think it will follow and it is important to carry more stock than you think you might need. A storage cost is much better than an opportunity lost.

The best career advice you received

Get used to people saying no and even more used to people not saying (replying to) anything at all. Another would be do not count your chickens… a ‘yes I will buy’ does not always mean they will buy!

What type of support have you received since starting your business?

Con O’Brien (Connect Business Solutions) never seems to tire in trying to support our business and Twickenham. He has also recently put me in touch with Helen Roberts who is adding further direction and ideas. The Irish are always excellent in supporting each other.

What type of support (if any) have you received from Richmond Council in relation to your business?

In the early stages the Council supported license applications.

What do you think residents can do to support their local businesses?

Being a small independent I always do my best to buy from small independents. It is quite easy to go online but the overall effect of going to your local high street will make such a difference long term.

If you had the opportunity to do it all again, what would you do differently?

Business is continually evolving so even if I did something differently now it would likely be different to what I would do tomorrow. What is important is to keep analysing the business and being pro-active in how to continue to develop.

What three tips would you offer to aspiring entrepreneurs?

My three tips would be:

  1. Find people who will give you honest and critical feedback. Too often we are led by friends and family who think what you are doing is a great idea.
  2. Know your market – where the demand is, what the consumer is looking for, how much and how often they will buy.
  3. Attention to detail.

Finish this sentence. I like being based in Richmond because…

There is a lovely community feel among the small businesses. We are all in this together.

How can people find you?

Website: Doran Vineyards
Instagram: @doran_vineyards

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