When the nation was free to see their friends and family again, albeit briefly, last summer, one of the key rules for keeping the coronavirus at bay was to practise social distancing.
This meant seeing smaller groups or ‘bubbles’ only while indoors, so many took to reuniting with loved ones in the great outdoors – and fortunately we had a summer that actually made such a difficult time somewhat enjoyable.
But while 28-year-old Lucy Hitchcock loved meeting up with her best friend in her local park, she often found the bottle of wine she’d taken with her failed to remain chilled, despite being in the fridge all day.
Lucy Hitchcock’s small business, Partner in Wine, launched during the pandemic in 2020, produces wine shaped bottles and tumblers designed to keep drinks chilled for 24 hours
She told This is Money: ‘I thought about taking my insulated water bottle but there’s nothing worse than the tinge of alcohol in your water, plus it would not be able to fit a full bottle of wine.
‘On my way home I began to think, that surely there was a brand out there that resonated with me, has something to keep a full bottle of wine cool, and looked good. But I couldn’t find anything that ticked all of those boxes.’
As a result, and like many others that have launched businesses in response to changing behaviours during the pandemic, Lucy went on to create Partner In Wine.
The company produces wine shaped bottles and tumblers with insulation technology that allows wine enthusiasts to keep their drink cool for 24 hours while on-the-go.
The materials mean hot liquids can also be kept at their desired temperature for up to 12 hours, making them perfect for mulled wine during the colder months.
Within two weeks of launching in July, sales were already in triple figures, and during November, an item was selling every hour.
Partner in Wine bottles can keep an entire bottle of wine chilled for up to 24 hours
In December, sales were up a staggering 699 per cent month-on-month as consumers snapped up the products as Christmas gifts.
Lucy added: ‘The special thing about Partner in Wine is that it was born during what has been a challenging time for many, helping to bring a little joy into their lives.
‘People have recently started seeing the beauty in picnics and the Partner in Wine makes the experience that much easier
‘Our customers have said it’s allowed them to feel safe while having socially distanced drinks during the pandemic.’
An already established entrepreneur, Lucy owns digital marketing agency, Sassy Digital, which she founded six years ago.
This meant marketing costs for Partner in Wine were covered and her brother, a product design graduate, helped her with the product development phase.
She was able to self-fund the first run of stock and used the profits from that to fund the second.
She said: ‘This meant that unit costs have been higher to begin with, but I know that in the long run it’s going to be for the best.
‘I don’t see the need for us to have any outside investment right now, but who knows! We’ve seen extraordinary growth in recent months fuelled by the boom in online sales. We’re so young and it’s all to play for.’
Going for growth
There are currently six colours to choose from for both the bottle and tumbler and the company has also released a rose pink edition especially for Valentine’s Day.
It has also already enjoyed brand collaborations including one with Mirabeau Wine, which significantly boosted its customer reach and raised brand awareness.
Despite being less than a year old, the success Partner in Wine has experienced so far has encouraged Lucy to think ahead and think big.
She said: ‘I think even after the pandemic, we’ll all be spending more time in parks as people have found such joy in meeting up with loved ones over a picnic in the summer rather than spending time inside.
‘It’s often more fun when the weather is nice, and is a more affordable option than an afternoon in a beer garden!
‘I also think this sort of product is a must for holidays. In the future, I’d love to see hotels in hot destinations using our bottles instead of ice buckets, and perhaps looking into some sustainable initiatives that help reduce waste, such as filling them up from a chilled cask.’
Lucy said she thinks a Partner in Wine would be the perfect addition to a hot holiday
But no matter what her goals and dreams are for hew new business baby, Lucy knows the people that know best are her customers, many of which have come from social media.
Partner in Wine uses features such as polls to ask followers on Instagram, for example, what they would like to see next.
‘We’re currently working on new products for 2022 which will be focused around both alcohol and picnics, but I want to make sure we continue to increase brand awareness and our customer base before we take the next steps,’ she added.
‘We are a very customer opinion driven business and have found that all they really want at the moment is more new colours.’
Instagram accounts for 90 per cent of Partner in Wine’s sales, a figure Lucy anticipated due to the ‘Instagrammable nature’ of the product.
Courage in conviction
One thing Lucy did not anticipate is just how far the business would travel. Customers have come from all over the world including Singapore, Australia, USA, France and Italy.
She hopes to branch out further overseas and to increase sales and marketing in other areas where demand is coming from. Market research and social media analytics have been useful for helping to work this kind of information out.
There are currently six colours to choose from for both the bottle and tumbler at Partner in Wine, and the company has also released a rose pink edition especially for Valentine’s Day
Commenting on the advice she would give to others hoping to start a new business, especially during the current challenging period, Lucy added: ‘Have courage in your conviction. You’ve got to really rate your ideas.
‘I coach a lot of the female entrepreneurs we work with at Sassy Digital, not only to achieve their marketing and business goals but also boost their confidence.’
‘If you truly believe your idea is a good one, then that will shine through in everything you do, but you’ve got to make sure you give your business the best possible chance of succeeding.
‘This means investing in the areas that are important to your ideal customer. For example, I was always going to heavily invest my time into the branding and marketing.’
And judging by the past six months and Partner in Wine’s success so far, that decision has proven to be the right one.
Small Business Essentials
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