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Raising the Glass: An Interview with Koni Maliehe, Founder of Koni Wines

In the heart of South Africa's lush vineyards, Koni Maliehe is making her mark as a trailblazer in the wine industry. As the founder of Koni Wines, she combines passion, expertise, and a commitment to excellence to produce wines that are both exquisite and reflective of her rich heritage.



Women in Brewing

Interview with Koni Maliehe

Founder of Koni Wines


Join us in this exclusive interview as we delve into the inspiring journey of this remarkable black-woman entrepreneur, her vision for Koni Wines, and the unique qualities that set her brand apart in the competitive world of winemaking.


Can you share the story behind why you decided to start your company?


I decided to start my wine business when I left my corporate job end 2014. I was always curious about the wine industry since it was something unfamiliar to me as a black person in South Africa. Wine was mainly for the white race and for the rest it was beer and distilled liquor. When I moved to Cape Town from Johannesburg in the 90's I was surrounded by the beauty of vineyards and a rich winemaking heritage of the country. This instilled in me a strong desire to one day create my own wine brand that would reflect the essence of South Africa.


After extensive research and some training, I felt ready to embark on this entrepreneurial journey. I saw an opportunity to contribute to the growth of the local wine industry and showcase the incredible quality and diversity of South African wines to the world. I believe that through my wines, I can tell a story of the land, the people, and the rich cultural heritage of this region. My dream is to connect wine lovers from around the globe to the unique experience that is South African wine.


How do you think your background and identity have influenced the way you run your business in the alcohol industry?


As a business owner with a specific background and identity, I have the opportunity to promote diversity and representation within the wine industry. Leveraging my unique experiences, perspective, I hope to influence inclusivity and a dynamic sector that celebrates different voices and stories.


My cultural connection to South Africa, having a deep understanding of the local culture, values, this helped my branding approach and overall messaging of my wines to resonate with wine lovers. Building and maintaining a solid network of contacts within the business world was instrumental in having strategic partnerships, accessing resources.


My commitment and courage, this intrinsic motivation drove me to overcome challenges, innovate and continuously strive for excellence in every aspect of my business, and to be bold enough to seek help when needed.


What were your biggest challenges when you got started, and what is your biggest challenge right now?


Navigating the complex regulations and licensing requirements in the wine industry was daunting. Understanding legal frameworks related to production, labelling, distribution and exports was challenging. Lack of capital investment, I had to use my own savings as an upfront investment otherwise I wouldn't have started.


Securing funding is still the biggest challenge to date. Market entry, and breaking into an existing competition is a challenge, therefore I needed to develop a focused plan and unique value proposition on attracting the right customers.


What advice would you give to other aspiring entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds who are interested in entering the alcohol production industry?


Embrace your unique perspective, experiences and your cultural heritage as strengths that can differentiate your business. Surround yourself with mentors, peers that can provide guidance, valuable insights and support. Invest in your education and personal growth. Seek opportunities to collaborate with businesses that complement yours. Prioritize ways to improve your customer relationships. Finally remain persistent, learn from failures.


What inspires you to keep going when things get hard?


That closed door can re-open tomorrow, so I have to consistently show up.


Is there anything else you'd like us to know about you or your company?


Koni Wines is almost a decade old! Koni Maliehe was the winner of South African Chamber of Commerce -UK Business Women of the year 2023. We export in few countries since 2021 except USA, so we are looking for partners in the USA.


 

Koni Maliehe's story is one of passion, perseverance, and pioneering spirit. Her wines not only offer a taste of South Africa's finest but also embody the strength and resilience of their founder. Be sure to follow Koni Wines on social media @koni_wines_sa and visit www.koniwines.com to explore their exceptional offerings and support this outstanding black-woman-owned business.



Cheers to celebrating and supporting remarkable entrepreneurs like Koni Maliehe!



Because Diversity is the taste of life®!


Remember to enjoy responsibly.


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