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A small business built on pinot gris and passion? Wine not

Brett and Angela Harvey love wine.

When they set out to start a wine business two-and-a-half years ago, they wanted to create a label that they, as avid wine lovers, would want to buy. And so was the inception of Ghost Wines – a start-up that sells regional, premium wines at a fraction of the price.

Ghost Wines is a clever concept in more ways than one.

“We created our own label – a ghost label – so we’re ghosting some of the really good winemakers of South Australia. That way, we can sell great quality wines at great prices,” says Brett.

The company’s tagline, “When the ghost turns pink, she’s ready to drink”, is another stroke of genius. It means the wines all have a temperature-sensitive label that changes colour when the wine is at its optimum drinking point, so the everyday rosé sipper knows exactly when to crack the bottle.

With 1,800 followers on Instagram and 2,500 on Facebook, Ghost Wines has grown significantly since its inception a couple years ago. But Angela says that for a small business like theirs, it’s not the number of followers that counts – it’s the relationship.

“We’ve got really good interactions with our customers, they actually read our stuff and they’re engaged. For such a small following, people are really engaged,” she says.

And while Brett and Angela are barely managing to keep up with demand today, Ghost Wines wasn’t always on such an upwards slope – it came with its challenges, and not having a shopfront was a major one.

“The business was a slow burn to start with. It’s really hard because when you don’t have a shopfront, people aren’t just going to come and visit your store. We had to really push the business to get it out there, and you have to have a really good product for word of mouth to spread,” says Brett.

“We also had to set up a really strong social media platform and do a really good job of it or else, people were just going to turn off.”

Along with a strong business idea and a great product, there’s another major force driving Brett and Angela’s success: their ambition.

“Ambition is massive. You’ve got to have that goal in your head of what you want. If you don’t have it, you’ll probably start a business and it’ll crumble with the first little setback that you encounter,” says Brett.

“We always go back to the reason why we started the business. The passion and the drive that we have to provide a top-quality product to our customers at low, affordable prices is our motivator,” adds Angela.

Running a two-person business has its rewards, but a small business like Ghost Wines doesn’t have the luxury of a big end-of-year bash like most larger companies. Brett and Angela were thrilled when they got the invite to CGU’s Big Small Business Christmas Party – and they were even more excited to win $5,000 to go towards growing Ghost Wines.

“It’s so good to get to celebrate with other entrepreneurs! That’s one of the things we love about having a small business – you get to meet so many great people, and you never know how they can help with your business or how you can help them with theirs,” says Brett.

Brett and Angela will spend the winnings on expanding Ghost Wines to reach the East Coast of Australia. Growing the business will also help them continue to contribute to the community, as they donate a percentage of every wine sold to charity.

It’s rare for a small business to be giving so much back, but Brett and Angela are all about breaking the rules – for good.

“What we really enjoy about running a start-up is that it feels so entrepreneurial in terms of not having rules to follow or procedures to comply with. We’re free to do what we want to do – and we love it!”