Wittenborg and Wine - A Unique Blend! If you asked Wittenborg University graduate Pouyan Kalanaki 4 years ago who he would be most likely to start a business with, fellow graduate Grigorios Pavlidis and Yvan Lopez would not have been his first answers. “Greg and I didn’t get along when we first met,” says Pouyan “but everything changed over a lunch at the local Chinese Wok.” After learning more about each other’s Iranian and Greek backgrounds, Pouyan and Greg found out that they actually have quite a lot in common, including the ambition of starting their own business. A few months later, Greg and Pouyan met Spanish student Yvan Lopez and a friendship began to form among this trio that would lead to a business partnership under the clever moniker: The Three Wineketeers.
Operational for about four months now, The Three Wineketeers markets young and moderately aged wine from the Valencia region of Spain to consumers and restaurants in the Netherlands. This project, a subsidiary of GPA Solutions (a jointly-owned consulting company), represents a blend of these three students’ passion for good wine and their drive to own and operate a highly customer service-oriented business. “Customer service is what differentiates our business from other wine importers in the Netherlands,” say the founders. Clients of The Three Wineketeers receive post-sales services and care beyond the standards of their competitors. Where other companies employ impersonal delivery services, The Three Wineketeers will, if necessary, deliver a product themselves if a buyer has an urgent need and even go so far as to stock the product in the client’s warehouse. The Three Wineketeers also offer a menu modification service; updating the menus of new clients to facilitate the introduction of their product in their bar or restaurant. Finally, a small percentage of every order is reinvested by The Three Wineketeers in marketing initiatives for the buyer allowing The Three Wineketeers to develop a better understanding of their clients and offer increasingly personalised service.
The inspiration for this brand of customer service is perhaps as unlikely as the partnership was. While working as interns at Disney World in Orlando, Pouyan and Greg were introduced to a business model built around the principle that the “Customer is King.” Customer satisfaction is guaranteed not just to the point where money is exchanged between client and business, but also long after the product or service has been delivered. Furthermore, the amount of the purchase has no bearing on the quality of post-sales service; customers that spend $100 are treated just as well as customers that spend $10,000.
Yet despite this proven model of success as a guide, the founding and developing of The Three Wineketeers has not always been easy. “Earning client’s trust has definitely been the most difficult part of development” says Greg. “Customers are sometimes scared or reluctant to buy products at lower prices than they currently pay, simply because the seller is unknown,” adds Pouyan. The Three Wineketeers offers competitive prices not as a result of lesser quality, however, but by strategically reducing operational and logistical costs and transferring these savings to the client.
Working as a trio has also been a unique experience for this team of Wittenborg students. “There are days where if you were to walk into our office you’d think we were about to kill each other” they say. Rest assured that this is only a byproduct of “debate and development,” as they attribute their sometimes chaotic way of thinking and discussion to their backgrounds. What makes this partnership unique, however, is that no matter what the issue, they are always able to set aside their differences at the end of the workday and share a drink as friends. And friendship is indeed what characterises the relationship that The Three Wineketeers have for it is a friendship firmly grounded in their belief that the “team is more important than the money.”
by Andy Fekete
©Wittenborg University Press