A Warwickshire couple are toasting the success of their new wine business – despite overcoming two lockdowns, redundancy and a personal tragedy.
Paul Rowe and Lucy Scrivens, from Warwick, are enjoying a busy start for BRC Collective which they partly attribute to increasing demands driven by the pandemic.
The business signals a new direction and passion project for Kenilworth-born entrepreneur and self-taught wine connoisseur Paul, whose eyes were opened to new opportunities by lockdown.
He said: “Because of my love for wine I’ve also wanted to set up my own business. About 18 months ago friends of mine were having a do-it-yourself-style wedding on a farm and asked me to sort their wine for them. That went really well and gave me more of a push to explore it as a business opportunity.
“I was getting weary of the London commute, which I’d been doing for four years, and so when lockdown hit in March, it allowed me to take stock and realise that this wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
“It was a passion project to begin with but there was quickly a realisation that there is a demand for it out there. I’ve always been someone who has pushed other people to pursue their dreams or passions. If you have something you strongly want to do you should throw the kitchen sink at it.”
As well as more than 250 wines in stock from vineyards and wineries across the world, the business also works with some local ale and spirit producers including Windmill Hill, Radford Semele, Warwickshire Beer Company in Cubbington and Newbold Spirit, in Leamington Spa.
Paul, 34, and Lucy, 30, are proud that at the heart of BRC Collective is their desire to take customers on their own personal journey when it comes to selecting a vintage.
“Most people when they walk into a wine merchant’s are not sure what they want to buy. They like to be educated, that’s one of the most exciting things for me,” added Paul.
“Or if you want a specific wine it is very difficult to find that on the internet so we work with a number of importers and distributors at vineyards and wineries across Europe.”
But it has been a bitter-sweet ride for the couple who found themselves juggling the demands of a new business against the backdrop of a pandemic pregnancy, Lucy’s redundancy, in August and the recent sudden death of her mother.
She said: “I found out I was pregnant just before lockdown and we were over the moon. Then when lockdown hit, and as time went on, it did get quite hard, not being able to see people and the lack of understanding around how the virus might effect pregnancies or newborns with it being so new. It was quite a tough time.
“Paul wasn’t allowed to accompany me to my first 12-week scan because of COVID-19 rules at the hospital. It was extremely scary and I had no contact with a midwife throughout. All the worse case scenarios were going through my head.”
After complications following baby Callie’s birth on November 10th – and a spell in the Special Care Baby Unit – mum and daughter were eventually reunited and allowed to return home.
But the celebrations were tinged with sadness as Lucy is still coming to terms with her loss. Mum Dawn, from Rushden in Northamptonshire, died just six days after complaining of tummy pains and then being diagnosed with an acute leukaemia, aged 62 – and just one month before Callie’s arrival.
Lucy said: “It just all feels so surreal. The timing is incredibly sad because she never got to meet what would have been her fifth grandchild. There is so much I want to tell her.”
She added: “It’s also been incredibly hard for my dad who is grieving his wife and hasn’t even been able to meet his new grandchild yet because of lockdown.”
But, despite everything – and with a healthy pre-Christmas order book in front of them – the couple are looking ahead to the next chapter with optimism, even eyeing up plans to open their first retail unit by the end of 2021.
“Because of my roots – having lived most of my life in south Warwickshire – I would like that unit to be in either Kenilworth, Warwick or Leamington. I think there is definitely a space for us’” said Paul.
“Once this pandemic is out of the way we look forward to interacting more face to face with our customers,” said Paul.
In the meantime he hopes to bring back some festive cheer as part of home-grown lockdown celebrations this year – and believes it’s a trend that could set a future precedent for small businesses.
He said: “There is light at the end of the tunnel and hopefully there are some positives around shopping local at the moment and I think that will continue because, after the strain that they’ve been under, people want to support them. It won’t be an easy ride in 2021.
“People have started to change their habits. The big corporates will still rule but I think there will be more consideration for shopping local.”