My name is Bunty Khan. I am the owner of Cape Dreams wines, one of the few woman-owned wine companies in South Africa. Historically the wine industry, was very much a male dominated industry but now there are an increasing number of woman — owned businesses that are actively and successfully transforming the value chain in the South African Wine Industry.
— How did you get this idea?
Living in Cape Town, surrounded by majestic mountains, two oceans and the vineyards that colour our landscape, it was just a natural tendency to lean towards the wine industry. I feel very passionate about this industry and am committed to making a difference by contributing to the South African economy whilst advancing transformation. This motivated my vision to create an internationally recognised brand. What was also important is that I had the full support of family during this exciting journey, especially as the earlier years were extremely challenging.
— Did you have a lot of failures in the beginning?
In the initial stages, my knowledge of this industry was very limited as I was new to it but I was determined to learn and be a success. I spent the first two years learning about the growing of vines, wine production, styles of wine and quality / price as well intensively researching different markets internationally to understand consumer tastes and preferences. For me this was a very fulfilling experience because as my knowledge increased I became more focused on ensuring that I offer wines that were suitable for that specific market. Admittedly, I made a few mistakes in the beginning but quickly learnt from them. Generally the quality of South African wine is very good and there are very stringent rules to ensure that the quality is of a high standard. Wines are analysed and tested independently by the Department of Agriculture before any export order can be released for shipment.
— Tell us about the history of the trademark.
Basically, Cape Dreams is my dream to build an internationally recognised brand while making a difference. As mentioned, I am passionate about transformation in this industry and having a successful international brand that is 100% owned by a woman will hopefully also inspire other women to empower themselves. It will also help me to contribute towards the upliftment of underprivileged people, especially the communities in our vineyards. All our wine bottles have a label that certifies the origin, integrity and sustainability of our wines. We also have a WIETA (Wine Industry Ethical Trade) certification that ensures that we guarantee and comply with all requirements with fair labour practices etc.
— Why Cape Dreams?
Cape is from Cape Town, and Dream is for my dream to build an internationally recognized brand. And I’m pleased to say we are now exporting to over 20 markets after starting from scratch and being newcomers to this industry. It’s been hard work, a lot of sweat and tears, but we’ve tried to be as successful as we can. I was also recently appointed to sit on the Board of Wines of SA, a marketing body for the whole of SA’s wine industry.
— How many countries are you in now?
— Which countries had the easiest markets, were easy to go to, and which ones hard?
No market is easy, every single market needs a lot of work, going into the market, building relationships and working with the people on the ground. We travel extensively to work closely with our customers in various markets but we also love working with different nationalities and cultures. We have built an established customer base and most of our orders are repeat orders from people that we have strong relationships with and who trust us. We were awarded 5 stars at VinItaly, Verona in April — we are very pleased with that! We’ve also just been listed in a supermarket group in Italy, which is a very rare thing, because Italians are good winemakers. It’s quite an achievement to be part of the Italian market as well.
— Are you going to expand?
Of course, there is always room for expansion, improvement and continuous learning.
— You were in China?
We travel to China annually with our most recent trip being in May 2017.
— What about the Chinese…as far as I know there is not a lot of wine in Asia, and they usually drink beer. What about China?
The Chinese market is a very interesting market. When we first started visiting China about 10 years ago, the Chinese were just starting to learn about wine and they didn’t know much, especially about wine from South Africa. Now we visit China twice a year in May and November and are always astonished about the remarkable increase in knowledge even after every 6 month period. People in China are constantly learning and trying to improve. I love working with the Chinese, I love their culture! It’s amazing, and it’s definitely a market to invest in, as long as you honour and do things the way they should be done with respect and integrity.
— When did you come to the Russian market?
I first came to Russia in 2010. It was extremely cold and temperatures dipped to –22 degrees. Living in Cape Town, South Africa it is cold when it is 10 degrees!
— How did you survive?
I stayed in the hotel, and tried to walk as fast as possible without slipping and breaking a leg, as we’re not used to walking in snow either! It was interesting, but also beautiful. I drank a lot of vodka. Good Russian vodka!
— What are your short-term and long-term plans?
My biggest plan right now is to ensure continued growth into the Russian market as our previous importer ran into financial difficulty.
— This is very much a family business?
Cape Dreams is 100% family owned but we also have strong external partners.
— Which countries are you in?
United Kingdom, Germany, Netherlands, Finland, Italy, USA, Canada, China, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, Ghana, Angola, Mauritius, Nigeria, Poland etc.
— Have you been in New Zealand and Australia?
No, we haven’t tried because they are also wine-producing countries. I’ve been approached about Australia, but it’s so far and the styles are so similar. It’s going to be a lot of work for a very small volume. It’s not something I want to pursue at the moment, maybe in the long-term.
— Do you know there are problems with fake wine production in Russia?
I heard about it yesterday but I’m uncertain of the facts.
— Is there anything else you want to say?
I just want to give a message to women. Follow your dreams, follow your heart. When I started in this industry I didn’t know how I was going to sell a single bottle of wine, let alone a container or how to get to a market, but never gave up. Keep trying and have a plan to pursue your dream because dreams DO come true!
That’s what Cape Dreams is about. If there’s anyone out there that needs our advice, approach us and we will assist anyway we can to inspire anyone or to help them to follow their dreams. Just know that it’s possible, Nothing is impossible!
Irina Rakhimova / Glen Ruffle