Business Leader recently sat down with Jackie Fast, a leading entrepreneur, investor, public speaker and former The Apprentice contestant to talk about her time on the show and her new disruptive ice wine brand, REBEL Pi.
Can you give me an overview of REBEL Pi Ice Wine?
REBEL Pi Ice Wine is the only Roussanne Ice Wine in the world – and quite possibility the best! Not only is it exceptionally rare, its subtle sweetness of pink grapefruit and honey makes it ‘a rebel’ in terms of its flavor in the dessert wine category.
Ice Wine is produced by letting grapes naturally freeze on the vine past harvest. They can only be picked below -8C, which often means at 4am by hand. The producers, the wine pickers, and everyone involved in its production are known as ‘extreme winemakers’ and are true craftsman, taking wine production to another level.
By comparison, one table wine grape produces 10 drops of liquid while one Ice Wine grape produces just one drop because the water has crystalised leaving just the nectar. From a flavour perspective, drinking one glass of Ice Wine is like tasting 10 glasses of white wine – but without the high alcohol content.
Often paired with desserts, we recommend that you rebel against the traditional and pair your REBEL Pi Ice Wine with shellfish or blue cheese. It also works well with a dash into dry champagne to create the Sky Scraper cocktail.
What was the inspiration behind the company?
As a Canadian, I wanted to bring something unique from my home country to the rest of the world. Although Ice Wine is incredibly well known in Canada, due to its low volumes because of the complexity and risk to producing Ice Wine, sadly very little of the world has seen much of it. I spotted this gap in the market and am now capitalising on it.
This has been leveraged through the shifting drinking patterns in the UK, with more people (specifically young people) becoming interested in different varietals and unique production. Gone are the days when you just plop a bottle of Merlot on the table. People want to relish in their new knowledge and share that with friends and family. Bringing a bottle of REBEL Pi Ice Wine to a dinner party not only kicks the night off right, it creates a whole dialogue and conversation amongst guests. It doesn’t hurt that it tastes amazing too!
Can you tell me about your history as a marketing and sponsorship entrepreneur?
I launched my first business – a sponsorship agency called Slingshot Sponsorship – in a bedroom of my rented flat in London in 2010, just after the recession. With very little money, connections, or help I managed to single-handedly grow it into a multi-million-pound business with exceptionally high-profile clients including The Rolling Stones and Sir Richard Branson’s Necker Island in less than a couple of years. It scaled quickly through sheer determination along with my conviction of challenging the current model of logo badging. I wanted to do things differently and was lucky that others wanted to jump on my bandwagon.
Because of the unique approach I developed, I have now become a regular keynote speaker around the world on topics including disruption, marketing, sales, sports, and digital transformation – helping brands and organisations think outside of the box to change their mindset in order to achieve more together.
Can you tell me about Slingshot Sponsorship?
My sponsorship agency was solely set up to support large rights holders in packaging, valuing, and ultimately selling their sponsorship assets to brands. Although this sounds basic, what was instrumental in what we did was more commercial management than anything else. By looking at the value of their organisation and uncovering assets that were of significant value to brands, but minimal cost to them – we transformed organisations to build entirely new and significant revenue streams, hugely impacting their bottom line. As much of our work in building new assets was around digital and technology, we acted as digital transformation teams to upskill and educate businesses who then could monetise these new platforms.
I was very verbal in my approach and continue to believe that what we did wasn’t great sales and presentations, what we did was great insight. Once you have an attractive sponsorship proposal, priced at the right cost, the package sells itself. That’s the key – rather than trying to fit a round peg into a square hole which is how most sponsorship sales is done.
Now almost 10 years later people are finally starting to actively discuss the value of sponsorship beyond logos and branding, and although I wouldn’t claim to have started that conversation completely – it’s nice to see it’s finally catching on.
What does it take to build a company from just one person on a laptop – to selling it for millions?
Inspiration, focus, a strategy, and hard work.
I truly believe everyone has the capability to become a millionaire entrepreneur, if they have a profitable business. It’s being able to quickly and effectively scale that business which turns someone making an average living, to being able to sell a business for millions. You need to have a clear exit strategy and all decisions need to be focused on getting to that place. Today, it’s not enough to have a great product, you need to build a brand – build loyal customers and drive engagement. Without that, you just have a product.
Inspiration can be achieved by looking at the future, having a point of view, and inspiring others – including yourself, that you are on a mission to achieve something great.
Once you have that, you need to drill down into what is working and what is not – and quickly fix areas of the business that are not driving the business forward. Too often people identify the issues, but don’t put in effective plans to manage and control the issues. If you have people problems, then you need to replace them. If don’t have the skill set to achieve something you are failing at, then you need to find it and hire people (or consultants) to fill that gap. Basically, you need to act, a business doesn’t just become a million-pound business by luck and time. It’s called ‘working’ for a reason.
Finally, you need to put in the hours. Like any good rock band or footballer, they didn’t just wake up that way – you need to put in the time to practice in order to be the best!
How would you describe your experience on The Apprentice?
I was very nervous about going onto the programme once I was confirmed as a candidate. I originally applied just to see what the application process was like and kept being asked back to the auditions, so was a bit surprised when I actually got on. Then I spent every spare second watching every The Apprentice episode I could!
Having gone through the process and starred on the show, I can say that I would do it again in a heartbeat – where else can you compete with other entrepreneurs and learn how to bake donuts and sell art in a couple weeks?
The things that I thought would be hard weren’t (e.g. sharing a room), and the things I didn’t even see coming were the hardest (such as internal house politics). Watching a reality show on TV doesn’t prepare you for the actual experience of it. But I learned a lot on how they make reality TV shows and have a ridiculous amount of respect for anyone working in television.
I’d also add that it’s not scripted and no-one is edited – what you see is literally what happened!
What was your favourite task?
I absolutely loved the art task. I used to be an artist and even had a couple shows and sold some work, so this was in my wheelhouse. One day I’d love to be a gallery owner, as it taps into my education in art history whilst utilising my sales and presentation skills.
What did you gain from the experience?
It was interesting to gain an insight into different people’s perspectives and viewpoints. As a workaholic, I am surrounded by people that are like me because I hired them or work for them, or my friends (who are also similar). That can sometimes give you a skewed perspective not only on your own opinions, but also how to interact with people.
I have very little patience (as evidenced in the gardening task) and so I hope that by working alongside a group of such diverse people over the months we were living together has broadened my perspective, and hopefully increased my patience.
When you were fired from The Apprentice, Lord Sugar gave you some very positive praise – what did that mean to you and your future career?
Whilst I am grateful for the praise, especially by someone like Lord Sugar, it hasn’t made me want to take out posters or put it on my CV. Whilst I loved being part of The Apprentice, it certainly isn’t the biggest success of my career to date.
I’ve won many entrepreneur awards and think I’m a pretty good businessperson, which is why I thought it would be great to test that by going onto The Apprentice. For example, if you think you are good at sports or chess, you can play against someone else and get better by playing your opponent. How do you grow through competition as an entrepreneur? You join The Apprentice and see how well you fare!
If you could go through the process again – what would you do differently?
I was naïve to not consider how badly some of the contestants wanted to win, and therefore didn’t anticipate how some of them would react and act in order to get there. I think if I was more prepared mentally for some of the situations I was put into that ended up getting acted out on camera, I would have been more cautious and potentially more calculated in my approach with the other candidates.
Although many people thought I was too strategic (and by the way, I see that as a positive), I didn’t nearly turn that on as much as I could have, and in hindsight, should have. I could have played the game much better.
In terms of the work part of the tasks, I was happy with everything I did and although I would have likely done better had I presented in the TV sales task (of which I got fired for), it wasn’t my decision to not present as I wasn’t the Project Manager. So, you win some, you lose some.
Plus, my wedding day was held on the week after I left the house, so if I stayed any longer I would have been cutting it fine with my actual wedding!
What was the most challenging part of the experience?
When you arrive, you don’t know anyone’s backgrounds nor experience, and they don’t know yours – which is very different to real life where you can go online and find out everything about a person’s history. I hadn’t realised this until I joined the show, but in hindsight I’ve not had to fight too hard to have my opinion heard in any room because I’m often asked to provide an opinion.
By coming in totally cold, I had to fight hard for people to take my opinion seriously – and this is something I have never had to do in my entire life. This was a huge learning curve – be too aggressive in your approach then people will think you are belligerent and a know-it-all; too soft, no one cares. It took me a couple of tasks to figure out how to find that balance so people listened to what I had to say.
What does the future hold for you as an entrepreneur?
The success of REBEL Pi Ice Wine has given me enough experience and industry connections to launch a second product that is much more accessible – a reduced alcohol, Ice Wine spritzer in a can called ‘8 Below’ that is targeted at women. As a woman who loves a sporadic summer’s day, it’s incredibly inconvenient to be hauling around wine glasses, bottle openers and an actual glass bottle in your dainty handbag – or in my case, Gucci Belt Bag. It’s completely unreasonable to expect women to do this and creates a complete dampener on an experience. Plus, when compared to how many options men have (did someone say craft beer?!), it really is a joke.
I want to change that.
My ‘8 Below’ will be an exceptional drink with the flexibility of being in a can. What’s more, I’m doing away with eCommerce as it will only be available via Instagram and WeChat. Welcome to the future of drinking better ladies!
I will also continue to manage a number of my tech investments including FinTech start up The Money Platform, SaaS ad company Radiate B2B, and in my spare time working to launch a global event for the gender investment gap on Necker Island in 2020!!