The 2009 Black Saturday bushfires left many Victorians with only the ashes of the lives they built. One such victim is David Laity. Touched by the support offered by the Australian community after losing his house, he decided to start a high-quality wine company with a social conscience – Goodwill Wine.
Using the $15,000 he received from the Red Cross Bushfire Fund, in 2010 Laity set up his social enterprise Goodwill Wine where customers buy a case of wine and nominate which charity they’d like the funds to go to. From Pinot Gris to Merlot, Goodwill Wine offers 13 different wines, and growing. Roughly 70 percent of each purchase is donated to charities.
Goodwill Wine has partnered with 140 charities across Australia – including Cambodian Kids Foundation, Animals Australia, Coalition for Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Detainees (CARAD), and the Starlight Children’s Foundation.
Laity says it was difficult initially to get charities on board with the project, as they generally prefer to keep themselves separate to businesses – particularly wine businesses that have a reputation for offering low quality wines to charities. But after a while, when Goodwill Wine established a reputation for selling quality wine, the charities started making the initial contact.
Thus far, Laity has raised more than $75,000 for charities through this venture, expecting to reach $100,000 by the end of the year. Since 2010, the social enterprise has grown at a rate of 30 percent per annum, currently sitting at 1,500 cases sold this year. He credits the success of the social enterprise to the quality of the wines.
“Goodwill Wine is different to other charity wines in that it focuses on selling smaller portions of high quality wine, as opposed to delivering millions of litres of terrible wine that no-one buys again. Most charities that have tried to fundraise with wine have had to do an enormous amount of work – finding the right wines, paying for them, labeling the bottles, contacting support databases and mailing it off to customers and collecting the funds. At Goodwill Wine, this is all done for them, and they’re not paying a dime,” says Laity.
The biggest challenge he is facing today is overcoming negative perceptions. People generally assume charity wines are awful; but once they taste the wines, which are sold at a fraction of the retail cost, they are converted.
“I have an incredible high rate of return – around 50 percent of my customers return to purchase more wines. It’s unheard of in the charity wine industry,” says Laity.
“But changing perceptions is always going to be my biggest challenge. All I can do is hope that people taste the wines. Those who have tasted it, usually do it for the purpose of supporting a charity. Then they realise it’s good wine and become repeat customers.
“And I’ve tasted close to 1,000 wines to date. I am very selective about which ones I choose to sell, so quality is at the forefront of the business.”
At the moment, only 20 percent of the partnering charities are promoting the wines across their support networks. Over the next 12 months, Laity wants to lift that number to 100 percent.
“They’re receiving 70 percent of each transaction, so I’m going to encourage them to promote the wines in some form or another,” says Laity.
He also says that Goodwill Wine is not about building personal wealth.
“In the long-term I hope to earn a normal income through the business. But I made a decision to launch this business because I believe most charities wouldn’t even exist if people hadn’t placed greater importance on profits over the environment, animals, and humanity overall. I want to be part of the solution, not the problem,” says Laity.
He feels that “we’ve lost a little bit of our humanity”, and that social entrepreneurship is especially important today because governments, corporations and individuals are on an “unquenchable mission to generate profits at almost all costs”.
“But people are starting to realise that as consumers we can make conscious decisions about how we spend our money. We can choose to buy products that support charities and causes without sacrificing quality.”
For more information on Goodwill Wine, visit www.goodwillwine.com.au.