Alexis, the ideas man kickstarted his business in Asia because of a student frustration when buying and choosing wine in-store.
What’s your story?
I’m an engineer and ideas man at heart, who loves building things, with a penchant for travel, adventure and a good bottle of wine.
I initially walked a more artistic path, as I started djing in 1998 and until now, that has taught me a great deal about understanding people. I then founded my first tech startup in 2000 in music, events and photography (in what would later become social media). When we closed in 2005, I then entered a corporate career in consulting but was left with a longing desire to walk the entrepreneur path again!
I love to challenge myself and by 2012, I couldn’t wait anymore. I resigned from my corporate job, jumped on a plane and started an MBA in Asia. I decided that Asia would be where I kickstarted my next adventure.
In the middle of my back-to-school Asian break, I became frustrated about the price of wine locally, and the difficulty choosing a bottle in-store. The idea of bringing local sommeliers online to help came from this frustration, which led to wanderwine, my current venture!
What excites you most about your industry?
We are at the crossroads for a few of them. First it is exciting to see e-commerce rapidly taking over Asia and replacing decades of habits where people used to buy from local stores, paying cash only. E-commerce now gives people more freedom and choice.
Secondly, wine knowledge and consumption is growing rapidly in this part of the world. Asians are incredibly curious about wine, and excited about discovering new bottles. We can have a positive impact on people’s education, and help them understand the concepts of quality and the hard work which goes into making wine.
What’s your connection to Asia?
None before 2013, apart from the Japanese mangas that took over French libraries in the 90s! Asia stayed as a magical and mysterious land that always attracted me. I was probably afraid of what reality I would find in this dreamland, and that is why it took me so much time before exploring this part of the planet.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore. In 50 years, it has become an amazing hub for entrepreneurship. The possibility to create a company in 24hrs, low upfront taxes, well educated people, and English as the official language makes it extremely attractive. Sure, you are getting less of a sense of adventure than starting something in Burma or Indonesia for example, but Singapore still offers a lot of opportunities for creating concepts that already exist in Europe or the USA.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Start now, work hard, aim to change your industry! The biggest challenge for all entrepreneurs is to keep yourself motivated, when nobody else is there to keep you accountable. You get greater learning by making errors in a small venture than reading all the articles you can find online about entrepreneurship. If you are going to put your whole life and energy into it, it has to be worth it, perhaps impacting a whole industry or country?
Who inspires you?
Anybody who provokes positive change in the world. In entrepreneurship, Richard Branson is my daily reading. In my family, my two grandfathers Jean and Antoine, entrepreneurs in cosmetics and hospitality who displayed incredible resilience when failing, and always got back on their feet. In the music industry, Kevin Saunderson and The Clash, both as fathers of musical genres that impacted music for decades. They all give me inspiration.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I recently had the chance to attend a talk by Harish Manwani, former Unilever COO about using business as a force for good. Harish Manwani drew a powerful image with a simple sentence: “We consume the resources of 1.3 planets, and as Asian and African countries develop, we’ll reach a 4 planet-resources consumption.”
wanderwine source sustainable winemakers and support the Sala-Bai Hospitality School in Cambodia, but it’s not enough. Harish’s speech made me realize our businesses are great tools for addressing the world’s issues. My personal first step is to find an efficient way to collect and reuse our packaging and diminish our paper wastage.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Start earlier. It still took me 6 months of thinking and reading before setting up the online wine delivery shop that is now wanderwine. I could have started directly with a small e-commerce platform, then refined the concept as well as the marketing along the way. Instead we spent a long time designing the website, thinking about the different business models, and deciding on our tone of copywriting.
How do you unwind?
I love to catch-up with friends and share a bottle of wine, or read some fiction novels. The best combination for me is wine and a fiction novel on a red-eye flight travelling somewhere. It helps me unplug from the constant firework of ideas and to do-list reviews that constantly circle in my head.
I also enjoy catching-up with budding entrepreneurs to hear their stories and help them out. It takes my mind out of wanderwine, and it gives me new creative ideas from other industries.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Japan, in particular Kyoto. I love the special connection of the ancestral and the modern. Visiting Japan was a big culture shock, and I love going back time and time again. There is something zen and relaxing about Japanese culture, and the environment puts me at peace and helps calm my mind when travelling there.
Everyone in business should read this book:
“The Swordless Samurai” from Kitami Masao after Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s life. He was one of the greatest leaders Japan has ever known, and the book shares practical wisdom from the sixteenth century. Leaving out the dark side of Hideyoshi’s reign, he was a genius at attracting, hiring and compensating people, with a bottomless sense of gratitude. The base of his philosophy is, true leadership is in serving others, not being served. That is rock-solid twenty-first-century advice!
Shameless plug for your business:
wanderwine is an online wine shop in Singapore dedicated to offering an exclusively curated selection of quality wines from Australia, Italy, France, New Zealand, Spain and Switzerland at wholesale prices.
wanderwine’s unique collection is handpicked by local sommeliers from the top hotels and restaurants, offered via next day delivery to your doorstep. Additionally, we craft bespoke wine tasting events in Singapore to foster a feeling of excitement and adventure through wine-related experiences.
We are passionate about a good bottle of wine. And that’s what wanderwine is essentially about; pairing good bottles of wine with people who may not have known about them earlier!
Facebook : wanderwine.official
Instagram : @wanderwine
Twitter : @mywanderwine
Youtube : wanderwine
How can people connect with you?
Around a glass of wine! I’m easy to reach on social media and answer all messages!
For any wine shopping or corporate wine tasting events, visit : www.wanderwine.com
For private messages on linkedin https://fr.linkedin.com/in/alexislhoyer
Or facebook https://www.facebook.com/alexis.lhoyer
This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:
Callum Laing invests and buys small businesses in a range of industries around Asia. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is the founder & owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 12 countries. He is a Director of, amongst others, Key Person of Influence. A 40 week training program for business owners and executives.
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