Written by Wendy Mak
I get the sense that Ruth Gallace thinks of herself as just like any other working woman. Except most working women donâ€™t own and run one of Australia’s fastest growing fruit winery.
Now based in Melbourne, Ruth is the CEO of boutique fruit winery and cider house Rebello Wines. But a few years ago, like most young couples, Ruth and her husband found after spending time travelling the world, that they had accumulated an amount of debt.
They quickly realised they needed to do something much bigger than working in their day-to-day jobs to cancel that debt and set themselves up financially to raise a family.
They were living with her husband’s family, who owned a strawberry farm and made fruit wine from the berries using traditional techniques handed down by her husband’s grandfather.
While they loved the fruit wines and liquors, Ruth (who has a marketing background) saw the potential to make the product more contemporary in terms of marketing and appeal.
So they bought the fruit wine business off the family, stripped back the portfolio and set about the big task of re-building the business…
They kept the core values of the business such as using only real fruit (which means no concentrate / flavouring) and the rest as they say, is history.
The transformation has paid off, with Rebello the most highly awarded fruit winery in Australia. They also decided to create Cheeky Rascal Cider, Australia’s first 100% real fruit blended cider.
Today, Cheeky Rascal has been picked up by premium liquor outlets in every state in Australia, with innovations such as a limited edition mulled cider (featuring spices of cinnamon, star anise, orange, clove, nutmeg, vanilla and its 100% real fruit blended apple or pear cider).
Recognising that innovation and creating unique, boutique flavours were key to its success, Ruth and her team created seven new limited edition varietals for summer including Gingerberryâ„¢, Ginger Apple, Apple Guava, Strawberry Apple Mint and Passionfruit Pink Lady (which pre-sold before it was even on the market!).
I spent a bit of time with Ruth on how she got started in business, and the recipe to her success.
Ruth on Her day-to-day schedule:
My key responsibilities are overseeing sales, managing distribution partners and overseeing our marketing and PR functions. Basically anything that touches the consumer while my husband oversees production and finances.
The fact that every marketer says â€œfocusing on your customerâ€ is the answer to business success:
While focus on the customer is important, I think you also have to anticipate their likes and interests to give them something new interesting and relevant. Not just meeting their need, but taking it further and actually leading them to new experiences relevant to their interest.
Why Rebello & Cheeky Rascal stand out:
No one else is working with fruit the way we do, for example working with strawberries and the range of different fruit. The limited edition range is a great way for us to experiment so we can showcase different flavours.
Blending is also one of our strengths in this game you’re blending different fruit wines, each with distinct characteristics and you need to consider the sweet, dry and acid. Something may SOUND good but it may not blend up well in terms of taste!
Succeeding in the competitive beverage industry:
We only have less than 10 staff as we recently downsized to be a bit more nimble. We work with lots of consultants and contractors so we can scale up and down when we need. Business is very volatile so you need to be scalable, that’s the key.
How having children has helped Ruth in business:
I have 2 little daughters aged 2 & 5, and whilst I don’t hold any specific ambitions for them other than being happy people, I hope I am a good role model for them at work. I try to demonstrate good work ethics and morals. I want them to learn to treat people well in business and be a model for the next generation of working women.
Juggling both work and family:
It’s give and take and really trying to be present in whatever I’m doing. When I’m working I try to be there 100% and when I’m a mum I try to be 100%. It’s a mental discipline to juggle one ball and put that ball down before picking up the next one.
For example, if I’m checking emails on my phone and thinking I have to reply to that email while my kids are running and jumping up my leg, all that means is I’m not attending to that email but I’m also not present for my children.
Making the mental transition in that time you have between home and work to prepare yourself for the next thing you will be doing, also helps. For example, on my journey home from work, I try to close off my business thinking for the day and change to my mummy-thinking.
Words of wisdom for entrepreneurs:
To be successful you have to be passionate about it. But that passion might not always be obvious. Sometimes once you’re involved in something your enjoyment and fulfillment might come from a different part of the business than you originally thought.
I also think you have to be realistic about what your passion truly involves. For example, you might like baking cupcakes but once you have a cupcake shop you’re actually in a retail service position. So in the early days give consideration to what your dream business will mean day to day for you.
After speaking to Ruth, I went to my local bottle shop and found a bottle of Cheeky Rascal cider in Summerberry (the other flavours were sold out!!). It was absolutely delightful.
Ruth demonstrates that innovation, creativity and constantly staying ahead of your customers wants is the key to success in any business. Cheers to Ruth and her team, and remember – if you know of an amazing woman to interview, drop me a line and let me know!