Rapidly expanding Norwich wine merchant Naked Wines enlists in London Stock Exchange ELITE scheme

Eamon Fitzgerald, chief operating officer of Naked Wines. Eamon Fitzgerald, chief operating officer of Naked Wines.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014
9:48 AM

A Norwich-based wine merchant is targeting rapid expansion after joining a business support scheme driven by the London Stock Exchange.

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Rowan Gormley founder of Naked WinesRowan Gormley founder of Naked Wines

Online retailer Naked Wines has enrolled in ELITE – a two-year programme designed to help fast-growth firms attract investment by putting them in touch with a unique pool of investors and business advisors.

The scheme is being offered to just 19 companies across the UK and will provide classes at the Imperial College Business School in London, and face-time with entrepreneurial fellow Sean Phelan: an angel investor and founder of internet navigation tool Multimap.

It comes just six years after Rowan Gormley first founded Naked Wines, which is now a £60m international organisation employing more than 100 people in Norwich.

Eamon Fitzgerald, managing director of Naked Wines, said: “We hope to take three benefits from the ELITE programme. It will be an opportunity to network with similar companies with the same motivations. We will be able to meet the accountants, tax specialists and venture capitalists which we would normally have to pay big bucks to access.

Looking back...

Naked Wines founder Rowan Gormley first sewed the seed for the company back in 2008 with the aim of making high-quality wines affordable.

His vision was underpinned by a unique business model where he recruited investors willing to back independent winemakers in exchange for products at wholesale prices.

Such was its success that tens of thousands of people stepped forward to become Naked Wines ‘angel’ investors, sparking the Eastern Daily Press to recruit the firm into its Future 50 – a list of Norfolk’s most promising companies.

Since then, turnover has spiralled from £4m, to £9m, before it broke through the £20m barrier in 2012.

Now, the business is a £60m international organisation with more than 180 staff worldwide, including 85 in the United States and Australia.

“And while we have already developed from a small start-up in Norwich to a worldwide organisation, we now want to put plans in place for the next stage of our growth.”

Last year, Naked Wines secured £6.4m cash injection from its founder shareholder WIV Wein International AG to spearhead further growth in the US and Australia.

The ELITE scheme will give the company further insight into ways it can raise its profile and boost its access to private equity.

Xavier Rolet, chief executive of London Stock Exchange Group, said: “We believe that the environment in the UK is ripe for a programme to support high growth businesses.

ELITE cohort of companies

Naked Wines will join 18 business in the London Stock Exchange ELITE scheme across a range of different sectors.

Five of the businesses the company will be working with include:

• MedicAnimal: An online retailer of pet health products providing medicines, food and accessories to pet owners across Europe.

• Unruly Media: A marketing technology company providing a platform for social video marketing.

• Amplience: A software developer providing media tools for mobile phones and other digital platforms.

• Graze.com: A natural snack company employing 300 people across the UK and the United States.

• PostcodeAnywhere: A digital company which auto-fills addresses on web-based forms based on a person’s postcode.

“Innovative businesses are often the most ambitious companies, but to get ahead they need new resources, new relationships and new funding which many businesses find challenging or time consuming to access.

“ELITE will provide high growth companies with the essential tools they need to develop and help foster a connected financial ecosystem, promoting the right type of funding for businesses at each stage of their journey.

“We firmly believe that these companies will fuel the long-term growth of the UK economy, and that ELITE is a unique platform to help them achieve their full potential.”

Sean Phelan, ELITE Entrepreneurial Fellow, added: “As an entrepreneur and investor in early stage, high growth businesses, I know only too well the challenges that ambitious companies can face as they develop beyond start-up status.

“The ELITE programme will be of huge benefit to these companies providing them with not just world-class advisors and partners, but a community of like-minded businesses and CEOs.”

Are you a business mounting fast growth? Tell your story to business writer Ben Woods on 01603 772426 or email ben.woods@archant.co.uk

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