Melissa Mwende talks about her love for wine and how she has built a career as a wine ambassador [Courtesy, Melissa Mwende Instagram]

Melissa got into the wine industry about eight years ago.

“I got an interest in wine while teaching at Greensteds International School in Nakuru during one of those end-of-year parties. I was intrigued by the sophistication and beautiful taste of the wine. It was not until I left that job a year later that I decided to venture into the wine business,” she says.

Melissa started her wine tasting events in 2016.

“I knew someone who owned a restaurant and I also had contacts of a few distributors so I just brought them together and started working on inviting people to wine tasting events. I wanted to just get my brand out there and create awareness for my event. So I did a free tasting for media and bloggers and a few people who paid for the event. In total, I had a turnout of around 50 guests,” she says.

“Mid-2017, I got a job as a wine ambassador for one of the companies I worked for previously. I started focusing on that and hit the brakes on the tastings. Up to that point, not much professional experience is required. Perhaps you are in the hotel industry or an importer and you know a little about wine, so people automatically trust you.

“However, I needed to go the extra mile and get certified so I did the WSET Level 2 course and got certified in February 2017. I am currently working on Level 3 certification. In October of the same year, the company that imports the wine I represent got a franchise for the WSET. So before October, you could only take the exam in Cape Town - the closest examining city to Kenya.

 "Know everything you can about the flavours, alcohol percentage, customer preference and prices," Mwende says [Courtesy]

What you require

Start

As with all businesses, all you have to do is start. Remember, you have to work on the business first before it works for you.

To get started, you need to understand the ins and outs of every wine you can place your hands on. Melissa spent hours poring over websites and reading books on wine, acquiring all knowledge she could get on wine to supplement her passion for wine.

“Know everything you can about the flavours, alcohol percentage, customer preference, prices and every other possible information you can get about wines. Do not be shy; mingle with people who have been in the business,” she says.

Location

Identify the ideal location that is easily accessible from the main road. It is advisable to choose a location that has high traffic because the more strategic the location, the more customers you can pull in daily. Avoid setting up near schools as this is against the law.

Competition

There is intense competition, especially in urban areas both from other wines and alcoholic beverages as well. Scan the market conditions and set a realistic price as well as keep track of changes in market trends if you want to remain competitive.

Licensing

Stay legal. The most important license of all is the liquor license, which costs Sh50,000. 

Challenges

Always expect competition and be one step ahead of them. Good quality services and the best prices is a sure way of retaining old customers and attracting new ones through word of mouth.

Do not forget to appreciate the challenge that you can only open your business from 5pm to 11pm on weekdays and from 2pm to 11pm on weekends and public holidays. Besides that, it is important to note in marketing, that a lot of wine-speak tends to intimidate people who are new to wine.