Jackie Fast, leading entrepreneur, and former The Apprentice contestant and founder of disruptive ice wine brand, REBEL Pi tells us what inspires her
What do you currently do?
I am nothing if not someone who loves a challenge, so it is important for me to continually feel like I’m growing and moving forward. Having been 24/7 with my last business which I sold in 2017, I now am enjoying the flexibility I have to get involved with multiple projects all at the same time.
As food and wine has always been a personal passion, I founded REBEL Pi Ice Wine in October 2018 and it became the first British company ever to wholly invest in and bring Canadian Ice Wine to Britain. In less than a year it can be found in some of the UK’s top restaurants and hotels including The Rosewood Hotel and Pied a Terre.
I also wanted to get more involved with the disruption going on in the financial industry and was fortunate enough to join The Money Platform as a Board Director where I support on their strategic marketing plans aimed at Millennials.
Finally, I continue to explore the world keynote speaking with my Amazon-bestselling book ‘PINPOINT: How challenging the norm is the only route to success in sponsorship’.
What was the inspiration behind your business?
I launched REBEL Pi Ice Wine with the premise that the world needed to truly discover one of the best kept secrets of Canada – where I was born. Ice Wine is exceptionally difficult to make as the grapes are left on the vine until they freeze naturally at temperatures below -8C. Only then can they be picked and pressed into wine. The frozen nature of the grape means that all the water turns into ice crystals and very little liquid is left – it’s this tiny drop of liquid that then becomes the wine.
By comparison a table wine grape will produce 10 drops of liquid, whilst an Ice Wine grape produces just one drop – so tasting one glass of Ice Wine is like tasting the flavour of 10 glasses of white wine. It’s truly exceptional.
The challenge is that with such little Ice Wine produced annually in Canada (which produces over 85% of the world’s total production), over 90% of it remains for domestic sale to keep profit margins as high as possible. As such, the rest of the world sees very little of Canada’s Ice Wines – and the ones who have had it tend to assume that tasting one Ice Wine is like tasting all Ice Wines, which isn’t the case.
Like all wine, there are subtle notes in each and every bottle – with varietals being quite different to each other, especially in regards to terroir. Although Ontario in the eastern part of Canada produces 90% of Canada’s total Ice Wine production due to its consistently cold temperatures, the Okanagan Valley (west) can produce more diverse varietals of Ice Wine because it doesn’t get as cold.
When you begin to add in the fact that you cannot always produce a vintage because you are relying on mother nature, you begin to understand how many challenges there are to bringing a product like this to market.
And I love a challenge.
What defines your way of doing business?
I have always wanted to run my own business – since I was very little and used to create bookmarks and sell them to neighbours. However, as I got older I was very unconfident and was consistently told I didn’t have enough experience. In hindsight, I wish I had taken the leap earlier.
What I have learned is that if you have the will and are prepared to work hard, then starting and running a successful business is very easy. From this lesson, my way of doing business is to just do it. You’ll never have all the answers; however, passion and enthusiasm goes a long way!
What do you admire?
I admire people who don’t take themselves too seriously and like to have a laugh. I work nonstop because I love what I do so I tend not to work with people who can’t add additional joy to my day – whether that’s clients or staff. Life can be hard enough, if you can work with people you enjoy and who you get along with – it’s what makes my world go round.
I also am a very big foodie. So a good lunch and a bottle of wine with people I admire is my sweet spot!
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?
I launched REBEL Pi Ice Wine out of a desire to share something with the world. Having absolutely no experience in the wine industry other than drinking wine, I wish I had taken more time to really understand how the industry is structured.
For instance, I was unaware that almost all restaurants in the UK buy their wine through a wine distributor and I wasted a lot of time going direct to restaurants who wanted to buy my wine, but couldn’t due to setting up suppliers on their system.
Although I don’t necessarily think I would have done things differently, I would have definitely saved time on my new business approach.
I also regret all the work and money that I spent setting up my own eCommerce site for REBEL Pi Ice Wine. Although it allows customers to buy my wine direct rather than going to their boutique wine shop, most customers choose to buy through their wine shop because those are the people that provide guidance and advice.
However, I’m grateful for the lessons that I have learnt as I am about to launch my new Ice Wine product ‘8 Below’ which is a low alcohol Ice Wine spritzer in a can. We will be doing things totally different to the way I launched REBEL Pi, so there is always a silver lining with mistakes.
What advice would you give to someone starting out?
You will never have all the answers so if you have an idea and a plan, then don’t hesitate and just do it, but always think about the money. Having a great idea is one thing, but you must understand where the money is coming from.
If you need investment to get your idea off the ground, then you will need to be more prepared as investors will want to know the finances. However, with amazing EIS & SEIS schemes available to reduce taxes, there has never been a better time for investors to invest in start-ups.
Finally in addition to your business plan, you should have a personal finance plan and ensure you can afford to quit your job and launch a business. My first business took 9 months for me to land my first official client, so you need to be financially prepared.
Starting a business can be very stressful, so you don’t want to add things like not being able to pay the rent to your stresses.
Don’t forget that investments tend to pay off better than savings in the long term, so if you are thinking about starting a business in the future (5 years+) then start putting your money into a 60:20:20 investment pot where 60% of your investments go into a low risk Stocks & Shares ISA, 20% into a medium risk investment; and 20% into a high risk investment like The Money Platform.