Dean chatted with us about starting a business during times of uncertainty, championing unique voices within the wine industry, and why collaborating with other local independent businesses is the best way to go.
Since launching Wine Fiend in 2020, Dean has juggled family life with learning to run a business from home – which is no mean feat, especially during times of restrictions, lockdowns and isolation.
“Taking the reins at a time when there is little control over your situation has been therapeutic,” Dean admits. “My job was at risk because of the pandemic, and starting my own business allowed me to turn something bad into something positive. It’s nice to see that there can be silver linings.”
Dean is now a regular face at Cardiff markets where he trades most weekends, and for those keen to try something new and exciting, he also curates cases to suit every palate.
The case for natural winesWhile working in the wine industry for over a decade, Dean became increasingly fascinated by the small, sustainable producers doing something different to the big brand names.“I could see a future developing a wine business that focused on people and the environment without compromising quality or taste”, says Dean. “One that promotes and supports all of these incredible winemakers who are pushing boundaries, testing revolutionary ideas, and leading the way for more natural and sustainable production methods.”
Wine Fiend currently stocks wine from Spain, France, Italy, Austria and Portugal. Most are ‘low-intervention’ wines, which means minimal interference - harvesting by hand and little or no chemicals and filtering.
The results are wines that truly showcase the richness of the terroir, from the flavour of the grape to the character of the soil. And the packaging and shipping is just as important as the wine production. One of Wine Fiend’s newest partnerships is with Xisto Wines which transports products from award-winning producers in Portugal to Bristol by traditional sail-powered cargo ships. This fossil-fuel free approach means the wine is as good as local.
Uncorking that entrepreneurial spiritWhile it hasn’t all been smooth sailing, Dean has learnt a lot from starting a business during the pandemic. For him, it’s been about finding the right balance between working hard and making time for family and friends to avoid burnout. “It’s easy to get into a cycle of thinking you have to work silly hours, but you need to take care of yourself to take care of your business”, he tells us.
“Starting your own business is scary,” Dean confesses, “but when you feel scared, reflect on why you’re starting your business and focus on that.”
When asked what advice he’d give to others looking to start their own business, Dean suggests starting with new business initiatives and government schemes. He recommends taking all offers of support no matter how small, and being open to advice from other business owners. “If they impart pearls of wisdom or a chance to team up, take it”, he tells us.
Talking about his biggest challenges over the last year, Dean is candid about trying to build relationships with customers through social media and online activities such as virtual tastings. “As a person that thrives on interaction with people, that was tricky for me”, he says. “I find that the best way to deliver my passion and belief in what I do is when customers can be in the same room as me.”
Raising a glass to better timesAnd it won’t be long until Wine Fiend can host events in more intimate settings. “I can’t wait to get back to talking and interacting with people who love wine face to face. I’m also waiting to hear if the Raw Wine Fair will be taking place in London. It’s one of the biggest natural wine events of the year, and I’m aching to go and check out potential new wines for Wine Fiend!”
On a local level, there’s plenty to get excited about too. Over the last 6 months, Wine Fiend has not only traded online but been a regular trader at Indie Superstore and King’s Road Yard market most weekends. Dean has also partnered with some of Cardiff’s incredible independent businesses, including Kapow Ribs and The Little Welsh Chocolate Company. In a year of great uncertainty where many small businesses have struggled, it’s heartening to see independent businesses teaming up instead of feeling pressure to compete.
“I’m just excited for the people I know in hospitality to start clawing back some earnings after the last year. It’s been pretty horrendous for everyone in the trade and it would be lovely to see life return to our independent bars and restaurants.”
As soon as restrictions allow, Dean promises that Wine Fiend will be making guest appearances at many venues across the city. Expect pop-up bars, wine tastings, and food-pairing nights with a much-loved South Indian street food trader. And while plans are not yet set in stone, there may even be a movie and wine night on the cards.
If you can’t wait to meet Cardiff’s Wine Fiend at events this summer, explore their collections of natural, organic and sustainable wines online.
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