Navigating a career change at 30

Like many entrepreneurs, I didn’t grow up thinking that starting a business and a career change would be a path I wanted to take, rather, it came as a natural progression from my passions and interests.

It started with contraband fireworks. In highschool, I began shipping them from interstate to sell to my schoolmates as an extra side hustle, until it literally blew up in my face… well it threatened to.

After highschool, I went on to study architecture at University and spent holidays visiting my parents in the Yarra Valley, where wine tasting and horse riding were the two main attractions; I opted for the former. Once I graduated I began work as a young architect on a comfortable salary, but one which couldn’t quite keep up with my growing taste for expensive wine. So, I launched a business.

I brought Wine Ark to life while still working as an architect, as a “little” side business intended as a one to two-day a week side project for additional income. The idea was a temperature controlled storage solution for wine collectors. While there was demand for the service, getting initial investment was a challenge. After being turned down by several investment bankers, I was fortunate to find a friend who had previously launched businesses, who saw the potential in my vision and agreed to back me in those early years. The business was growing and just days before my 30th birthday, I took a leap of faith and left architecture behind. For the first few years after launching Wine Ark, I was largely working to buy back equity in my own business, which paid off in the end. Within a few short years we had set up sites across the country. I then leveraged the success of Wine Ark to launch two further complementary businesses. The way I see it, I’m still building all the time, only now I’m building and scaling businesses with many moving parts.

For around 10 years I poured every ounce of energy into building these businesses, eventually accepting an offer too good to refuse. Selling for $8.5 million, I took a break to regroup and determine my next steps. I delved further into researching the wine industry and found that more than 1000 websites were selling wine, but none in significant volumes.

At the time, sites like Carsales.com were booming – harnessing the internet, inventory and information to connect suppliers and consumers at scale. It dawned on me that I could create a similar platform for wine, connecting wineries with consumers. In 2010 Cracka Wines was born.

In a nutshell, Cracka Wines is “the ultimate wine guide.” Our aim is to take our customers on a journey through the world of wine, introducing them to brands, labels and varieties that they’ll never find at their local bottle store. We do this while cutting out the middleman so wineries can sell direct to consumers, creating up to 50 per cent additional margin which is shared between the consumer and winery. Helping to save many small wineries from going under has been a particularly rewarding part of this journey. Currently, we’re in the process of raising capital to expand our platform and allow Australian and New Zealand producers to sell their wines directly to consumers all over the world.

For anyone looking to start their own business, my advice is simple: find an industry you can remain passionate about for the next 10 plus years, because businesses will always take longer than expected to take shape. If you’re truly committed and backing yourself, there’s no other choice. You can leap or live to regret it.

Dean Taylor, Founder and CEO, Cracka Wines

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