Previously the preserve of men, now more women are staking a claim in the wine industry. One such ‘wine-preneur’ is Sheryl Manchisi, Managing Partner at SMCG Group, exporters and suppliers of South African boutique wines.
Voice Woman caught up with the mother-of three, who is transparent about SMCG wines; she says they are affordable, organic wines created in partnership with Franschoek, Stellenbosch, Western Cape and Hermanus vineyards.
“Wine, for us, is about the beautiful mouthful experience you have, wine is derived from a fruit, and the farming and correct harvest, natural fermentation process, have been at the forefront of the group’s strategy, because taste, quality, ‘no-hangover’.” Apart from Botswana, SMCG wines are distributed to countries like Cote D’Ivoire, DRC, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
Manchisi transitioned from a career in print media where she was co-founder and originator of the Lapologa Magazine before relocating to Cape Town, South Africa, where she spent a decade in CSI-Corporate Social Investment, Project Management and Business Development fields.
Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to do this long overdue interview. Please tell our readers about yourself.
Well, at school, I was that child that got excited when the afternoon activities timetable came out.
I wanted to experience them all!
And all I did, except Tennis, ‘cause the courts were too hot.
In one of my high school business studies classes, I heard the term ‘Conglomerate’.
I was fascinated, and that’s when my passion for diversified business sprouted. I also come from a political home, with some of my grandparents having participated in the original treaty of SADCC in 1980, now SADC. So, its no surprise, my mind and heart thrive when I interface, learn and do business with different countries.
You’ve been away for over a decade traversing the continent and now you’re back with bang – breaking boundaries in this male-dominated industry, locally. Have you always had a passion for wines?
Firstly, I didn’t actually realise it was male-dominated, until your question, and that’s probably because I see an industry and the business and not the gender.
I’ve had to ignore that having started my business career in 2008.
I love good food full stop. When I would travel – or even here at home – the wine wasn’t always what it was advertised to be – nice tasting, naturally alcoholic with no side effects.
Considered one of the most distinguished beverages.
When I discovered good wine in the South African winelands, I knew then I wanted to transition fully into the curation and supply of consumer goods, and what better way than to start the Trojan horse with than wine. Wine reaches all corners of the earth and this way we will be able to chart a pathway for other African products and brands to trade among one another.
I see your media background has come in handy in your current business; talk me through the transition from media to full-time entrepreneurship.
The power of media is truly undisputed.
The instant PhD in humans, life and current affairs gave me the principle of discernment in all and as much as I could, and in some cases has made me a semi-activist for the marginalised populations.
I’ve always loved business and setting up my companies in South Africa was an amazing lesson and exposure.
It was just God’s timing that aided the transition.
You mentioned SMCG Wines are “good farm wines”. So, for someone yet to enjoy them, how else would you describe your wines; what sets them apart?
It’s the untampered with nature, farming process used to make the wine, like that chapter in the bible of wine to water.
Therefore, what is left is to simply decide if it’s to your taste/liking or not.
Wine must taste good, it’s not meant to taste bad and be diluted to mask the taste.
If you are doing that, you shouldn’t be drinking that bottle.
In closing, we have selected based on popularity from our wine tasting and exports to the USA, UK, Switzerland, Italy – our selections were entered into FISAR (Federation of Italian Sommeliers and Hoteliers), Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Tanzania, UAE, Mozambique, Botswana, Kenya, Namibia, Angola, DRC, Zimbabwe and Zambia.
People’s taste buds are different, and they should spend money on what they like, so we listen and watch during tastings to ensure we supply what people will enjoy.
We are excited to be setting the production of our private label wines here in Botswana.
You’ve had quite successful partnerships thus far, with The Afro Jazz Fest early this year where I experienced the wines for the first time (and I give ’em full marks), the Women’s circle fundraiser, BOSJE International Jazz Day, Notwane Wine in May event and your own designed event – The International Food Fest. What can we look forward to next?
Wine is synonymous with food, this is why we decided to create our Annual International Food Festival, themed ‘A Global Village’, where we saw brands like Ina Paarman Spices, Nestle, Dairymaid, Pepsi, Rhodes from PST Botswana come in full force with the supply of ingredients to help us create a global food menu.
We will host another smaller networking event in the summer with intimate food and wine pairings that are already in full swing with our limited wine consultants.
We are also scouring locations for our upcoming Cheese and Wine Deli franchise.
You also mentioned that you distribute regionally; how has the reception been overall?
We have been able to acquire clients and distributors that we have never met in person.
The respect for business and paying on time is a culture I wish to see more of due to the knock-on effect when customers don’t settle bills on time.
Locally, where can one find SMCG Wines; price range?
At our full-fledged E-commerce site www.smcg.wine.
This is your guide to where you can find us, or a contact in the world, price points in any currency and a knowledge centre.
There are also the very important wine consultants who have been vetted and distribute in their own manner and style without our intervention.
What’s your personal favourite wine currently?
Sauvignon Blanc any day!
However I have been charmed by the red varietals which sell out in Botswana.
What advice can you share with aspiring women distributors?
It can seem daunting, however, most distributors are women – the mobile spaza shop is a distributor.
I classify her as a micro-distributor.
This is where we are advocates for formalizing the informal markets to grow local business and industry.
It’s the only way we will see our countries thrive; when local majority can trade among themselves and retain money locally and employ others.
Lastly, what is Shez’s life philosophy?
What is impossible with man, is only possible with God.
Have faith, conduct a risk benefit analysis, know your threats, wins and weaknesses, and do it.
But have fun while doing so and respect others.