David Laity was one of the thousands of people displaced by the 2009 Black Saturday Bushfires in Victoria.
At the time of the blaze, Laity was living in Chum Creek and working at a nursery in the Yarra Valley. But after tearing ligaments in his knee while fighting the flames, he couldn’t return to work. “Like so many others I lost all my belongings and my job,” says Laity. “But I was overwhelmed by the support we received from charities and from within the local community.”
Laity received recovery assistance from Centrelink, and through one of its programs undertook a three-month new-enterprise course, which helps those eligible start and run their own small businesses.
Laity’s business idea was inspired by the charitable response to his own time of need. He would label and repackage end-of-production wine – leftover product that isn’t cost-effective for wineries to label, package and distribute themselves. He’d then personalise each bottle and sell on, passing around 50 per cent of the profits to selected charities.
“It’s a way for the wineries to move those last cases without added costs,” says Laity. “Sometimes they’ve got a couple of cases of absolutely high-end wine but it isn’t viable for them to do another label print run. They’re too good to give away or sell as cleanskins, and we can agree on a reasonable price since they can also feel good about where the wine is going.”
Laity and his partner at the time received $15,000 from The Red Cross Bushfire appeal. With this money they purchased a printer and their first batches of wine from local boutique wineries. In August of 2010 they launched Goodwill Wine online, passing along half of the profits from each sale to the Country Fire Authority.
Five years down the track Laity is still being approached by vineyards around the country. Before committing Laity usually gets a tank sample of the wine variety and will decide if it’s the right fit for Goodwill. Bottles are labelled with the year and area of origin, but not the wine’s source, as some are well-known, award-winning wines being sold at a much lower price than usual.
Some of the winemakers he’s sourced wines from include Owen Latta, a young winemaker based in north-western Victoria; Graeme Miller, winner of the Jimmy Watson Memorial Trophy (Australia’s most prestigious wine award); and Franco D’Anna, winner of James Halliday’s Best Value Vineyard of the Year award 2015.
“Charity wines have a terrible reputation,” says Laity. “So it took a while for people to understand that all the wines we are selling are seriously good.”
Customers on the Goodwill Wine site select a charity or organisation to receive 50 per cent of the profits. Charities on the site now include Sea Shepherd and Animals Australia. Wine can also be bought through Good Spender; a retail platform launched by Social Traders and Australia Post that guides consumers in buying directly from social enterprises, which are businesses that exist to benefit the community.
“We’ve been on board with Good Spender from the very beginning,” says Laity. “It's impressive that such a large company like Australia Post maintains that partnership with Social Traders. I think Social Traders is doing such important work expanding the field of Australian social enterprises.”
While each bottle was initially hand-labelled by Laity to reflect the charity it supported, Laity now has a labelling solution that unites the wines and reflects the ethos of his enterprise.
He approached artist and musician Reg Mombassa who agreed to donate his iconic artwork for a new label, which is being developed this year. Labels will be printed with the varietal information and there will be a place on each bottle for the personalised charity sticker that indicates where the profits are going.
Top-notch wine from independent vineyards that’s cheap, delicious, benefits local charities and features striking artwork by Reg Mombassa? It’ll be hard to look past that.
This article is presented in partnership with Social Traders and Australia Post.