Magnum + Queens Wine Q&A: running your own business

If you happen to have a business idea while sipping on your third glass of German Riesling in the depths of a Greenwich Village wine bar, run with it. That is just how the idea of Magnum + Queens Wine was born, when Virginia Selleck and Kirsten Dickie were on a trip to the Big Apple.

 

WHAT? Magnum + Queens Wine scours the globe in search of the best that small producers have to offer, whether they are family-run wineries or the fruits of up-and-coming entrepreneurs in the industry.

WHO? Virginia comes from a background as a sommelier for many famous names, such as Melbourne’s Rockpool Bar & Grill, Cumulus Inc., Bellota and The Prince Wine Store. Her development of interpersonal skills when on the restaurant floor and when sourcing wines has translated into a growing inventory of wines for the young company, and the continued support of both those within the industry and everyday consumers who are looking for the sorts of wines they won’t find elsewhere.

Kirsten is a previous business owner, having started her own restaurant in her twenties. With this experience, she brings an in depth knowledge of the pitfalls that can befell a young business, especially when it comes to the administration and organisation of all the tiny considerations that go into building a successful business.

HOW? The two oenophiles were kind enough to give us some insight into how their business started and how they manage its growth together.

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L: Virginia Selleck and, R: Kirsten Dickie

Q. What led to you two running your particular kind of business? 

We have both worked in the hospitality industry for a number of years and so wanted to start our own business. The online aspect really appealed to us; it was a way of combining all our skills without having the enormous expense of bricks and mortar.

Virginia was a leading Melbourne sommelier at some of Melbourne’s top restaurants but the nature of restaurant hours had really lost its appeal. Shift work is hard and it seemed like a natural progression to channel that knowledge into our own business and start an online wine store.

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Q. What has been the biggest challenge of running a business together?

It is very hard to switch off and not talk about work all the time. You really have to set boundaries so that it doesn’t dominate your whole life. I think your expectations for one another can be far greater than those you would have for a regular colleague. They are often unrealistic and can cause friction if not dealt with.

Q. How did you come to a single vision for the business with two founders?

It was very simple for us as we have a very clear division in skills, we both have very similar tastes and style so we rarely disagree on the vision of where we want to take Magnum + Queens Wine, and lastly we are both very open to one other’s opinions.

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Virginia has been a sommelier for some of Melbourne’s finest restaurants.

Q. How do you approach splitting up responsibilities between the two of you? 

We have a meeting every morning and discuss both short term and long term jobs. This helps us develop an even distribution of tasks for the day and in the long term. For some reason it continues to seem very natural who takes on which roles!

We both had very different roles before Magnum + Queens in our previous jobs. Our skills are very different so it is easy to divide responsibilities according to our strengths.

Q. Did you seek outside advice when starting the business? 

We did seek a lot of advice before starting the business and we still do. One of the most important things is to listen and absorb information. Some of it may be helpful and some not-so-helpful. It can be hard to know at first if it’s good advice, but we have started to really understand the business better in terms of what will work for us as a team. We are fortunate to have people around us that we really trust and in whose opinions we place a lot of weight. This has helped us a great deal in our first year of trade.

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Q. Have you both discussed in what direction you want to see the business go?

Yes and it’s often quite a passionate conversation. We are looking to open our own retail store and have a very clear vision of how this will integrate with our online business. Both will really complement one another.

We have a very clear vision of how we fit into the market and where we would like to take the business over the next few years.

Q. Are there any things you would have done differently when starting out?

I would have cut ties with people sooner when they are not doing their job properly. It can be quite hard when you want to trust and believe in people you think are capable of their jobs but don’t deliver.

I would have outsourced roles a little more as sometimes the time it takes you to do things you are not good at could be spent more effectively in other parts of the business.

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