Brice Baillie, Founder at Obvious Wines, on Simplifying the Wine Buying Experience
What was the driving force behind starting your brand? Was there a specific event, or series of events, that catalyzed the launch?
It all started with culture shock when I moved to LA. I noticed how so many people are impressed, if not intimidated, by wine and don’t dare to discuss it. There is some shame inherently present if one isn’t “an expert”. As a Frenchman who grew up in wine country (Champagne) and is passionate about wines, I love exploring a wide range of varietals at all different price points focusing on the quality of each. So, the sense of intimidation towards wine surprised me, and I wanted to find a solution. After all, the US is the largest wine market in the world! Initially, I thought about creating an app that proved to be very tedious and expensive. The only upside would have been to taste all the wines in order to feed data into the app!
After doing some digging, I learned I could develop my very own wines without necessarily owning a vineyard. I began to look at consumption habits, trends, pricing, etc. I was spending a lot of time researching, thinking, debating with others, risk analyzing, and creating financial projections until one day my wife said: “Just shut up and try it.”
As a pretty risk-averse person, I did everything gradually. To start, we ran a test with the first wine of our collection (No 01 Dark & Bold). I bought just 56 cases and went door to door to wine shops in Los Angeles to see if there was any interest…and sold out. So I bought 150 more…and sold out. Considering it a successful pilot, I then started to develop the rest of the collection, applied for wine licenses, and quit my previous job to work on the wine full time.
What should a future founder be most aware of before launching a brand? From your experience, what have been your biggest pain points and what have you found to be the most rewarding?
A “brand” is nothing and everything at the same time!
A brand is nothing because a brand exists only through its consumers buying the product, sharing it, talking about it, etc. You, therefore, need an amazing product, employees, and sales & marketing strategy. If just one single insignificant aspect of the value chain is broken, you can kill the company. In the beginning, everything must be thought through thoroughly.
A brand is everything because it is what people will eventually remember and be loyal to, and that will last. With a strong brand following, you eventually have the freedom and flexibility to test and try new things with less fear of small failures destroying the entire brand.
The biggest pain point has been how everything moves very slowly. Everyone tells you to be patient, and you know you have to be, but as a founder, you just want to see things fall into place faster.
The best reward is to walk into a restaurant on Abbot Kinney in Los Angeles and see a group of people having an amazing dinner with a bottle of Obvious Wines. I watch them, and it fills me with joy and pride that total strangers are enjoying what was just an idea two years ago.
Your wine labels make decision making, well, obvious. Talk to us about the power of product marketing.
Thanks! Our labels are indeed obvious with our front label describing the taste of the wine and the back label informing consumers about the winery, sustainable practices, food pairing and tasting notes. The goal is really to inform, help and, why not, educate the wine drinker while providing high-quality wine grown through sustainable practices. I love to start by showing the front label and then progressing to the back where there is usually this “ah-ha” moment when someone sees something they aren’t used to seeing on a wine bottle. There are also other creative and playful applications of it such as having a mini tasting with friends where you hide the back label descriptors and try to guess or rate the wines for yourself.
The design and estheticism of the packaging are also very important. Most people can’t name more than three brands of wine and usually don’t remember what wine they like. Our design is also made to make it easy to remember. Each wine has one color, one name, and one number — three keys to remembering it.
Finally, the collection aspect relates to the power of the brand. If you try one wine from the collection and like it, you may pick another bottle in the collection with confidence. On the flip side, because there are several different options and styles to choose from in the collection, you’re bound to find something you enjoy all from one brand you trust!
What are the three tools/platforms you can’t live without for your business? Is there is anything you wish you had started using sooner?
As a former finance guy, I have to admit that Quickbooks is my best friend. I look at it every day. I’ve been surprised that I’m able to do everything administratively in one place. At times, the reporting is not amazing, but my best friend, Excel, is always there to help when needed.
For random quick fixes on our website, Upwork and 99designs are very convenient at the beginning. While they aren’t the most creative platforms, you can get quick tasks done well with fast turnaround.
I first created the website myself on Squarespace because it was simple and easy to get something nice and clean. I realized in time that it was a pretty rigid platform so I would recommend using Shopify in its place.
We’re very excited about the idea of sustainable wine. Can you tell us a bit more about that and what daily steps you take to promote sustainability?
Sustainable practice is a part of the entire product journey. We have a strict selection process for the wineries that we work with. Having organic or at least sustainable farming practices is mandatory. Each of them has their own unique and creative ways to protect the environment or reduce energy consumption. It starts in the vineyard where they have water captors to identify dry areas (instead of flooding the entire vineyard). For electricity, our winery in Paso Robles is 100% solar panel produced. Then comes the packaging: our corks are sugar-cane based and have a neutral carbon footprint. We also strive to use molded pulp packaging for online wine shipments in order to reduce the use of more harmful products such as styrofoam.
Most of our wines are also vegan, which helps us to promote awareness about other wines that use animal-products in the winemaking process.
Overall, talking about sustainability is probably the most impactful way to push people to be aware.