That’s us, on a Cornish beach aged 7. We’ve been best friends since starting school, united by our ginger hair. At this stage we’re drinking hot chocolate, not wine, but that will all change
Oli packed up his bags and headed off to study at Harvard for a year where he spent his time learning, but crucially checking out the drinks scene. We’ll leave you to decide what the balance was between those two activities….. One thing Oli noticed was canned wine at parties and after trying them all thought to himself, you know what that might just work in the UK you know….
Now back in the UK, Oli couldn’t shake the idea that canned wine could work in the UK but he needed to get some business brains on board. Enter his old mate Theo….A management consultant at the time, Theo was bored of long commutes (as pictured) and thought the idea of canned wine might not be such a bad one….
Next step was to do the market research. Both still working, we spent all our spare time checking out the market, trying wine and hitting the supermarket shelves to see what’s what. We came to the conclusion that wine was often confusing, often a bit boring and amongst the existing canned options there wasn’t enough focus on the wine
So we decided, if nobody else was going to make wine fun, approachable and great quality, then we would! We packed up our jobs, registered the company and got a bit tipsy and took this photo. Totally clueless, but very enthusiastic!
True! So we signed ourselves up to wine school, but most importantly, we got a winemaker to join the Crew.
While growing up, Theo lived in South Africa for 3 years, and one of his friends became of all things, a winemaker! That someone is Sam, and Sam is not your average winemaker. After setting up his own wine label called Minimalist Wines, Sam had been getting rave reviews from some of the worlds top wine critics. He loved the idea of a canned wine brand because, like Oli and Theo, he wants to try and do things as sustainably as he can (no pun intended) and just make wine fun
Now this really was the fun part, and we were just as rigorous with tasting wine as our market research so we were pretty hungover for most of November.
Then came thinking about what we wanted to call ourselves and what the brand would look like. We spent ages trying to think of a name and had some shockers - Gingerpotamus, Lust for Rust, Porch Power - but in the end we realised it was obvious. We should be The Copper Crew - copper from Theo and Oli’s ginger hair, Crew because we want to share great wine with everyone.
Next it was time for a proper business plan - we thought what better way to get ourselves out there and get feedback on our product then go to food and drinks festivals up and down the land, so that was our plan…
We decided that to really make a splash we needed to get ourselves a van, and not just any van. So we found a 1984 Ford Transit Ambulance which we thought was just the best thing we’d ever seen
Sam was busy in the vineyard hand picking grapes to get cracking on making the wines. Theo and Oli began to get very jealous of Sam’s lifestyle…
We’d stripped down the Ambulance and had got it sprayed what else, orange! We’d also been paying increasing attention to the news and were thinking, ‘the news coming out of China really isn’t sounding good. Oh well let’s just keep cracking on, we’ve paid for all the events anyway….’ What an awful misevaluation that would be
As the world entered into meltdown, our wines had just been canned and the very first one came off the line. Couldn’t have timed things worse if we’d tried…
Well, we screwed that up. Our business plan was completely ruined, we just canned more wine than the Calais Wine Superstore has to offer and we had no idea what to do. Back to the drawing board
(Photo: BBC News)
After going through more business plans than you can shake a stick at, we finally got our hands on our wine. South Africa had had a very strict lockdown which included not just the sale but also the movement of all alcohol so our wine had just been sitting, waiting to get on a ship. In the meantime, Theo had done a few forklift lessons….
There we were, we’d turned a tiny old stock room into an office, had some wine and now all we had to do was sell it
Friends, family, and total strangers were were buying our wine! Packing the boxes genuinely felt so good and that feeling has never gotten old, we still do it all
Mum, we've made it (to the pub down the road)!
Boy was this a good one. August was sweet. Eat out to Help Out, orders flowing in, sunshine, cans as they were meant to be drunk.
Things were going well, we were focusing on building out the number of independent stockists we had in and around Cambridge and having a great time while doing it
One of the most common pieces of feedback we got from customers was you need to get a red wine, so that’s exactly what we did. Sam came up with something really special from his favourite wine region in South Africa, the Elgin Valley, and we knew we were onto a winner. Our very first taste was outside our unit on the Cottenham industrial estate, the glamour!
Our first chance to really get in front of people, we ran Christmas tastings for companies of all kinds and absolutely loved doing it. We even worked out a food and wine pairing option for them, so not only did we get to drink lots of wine but also sample loads of cheese - absolute win…
A new year, and still absolutely loving it. Maybe not our most productive month, building that wall of cans took at least an afternoon. Worth it for the Insta shot though…
A year on after our business plan was completely ruined, we’d hit the big time and managed to afford to move out of an old stock room with no windows to an office with more space for wine and lots of windows!
Well over a year after we thought we’d do our first event we finally did our first one! It was at the Histon Smokehouse and the weather was awful but chatting to people was fantastic. We’re finally emerging into the world and we’re going to be doing lots more…
So after just under a year we’ve lived, loved and learnt. We celebrated with cake and wine (what else?). All the progress is down to family, friends, suppliers, our stockists and everyone else in-between. What’s made it even sweeter, is we’ve picked up no less than 10 awards for our wines, so we might be doing something right (or Sam is at least!)