“The only thing that stands between you and your dream is the will to try and the belief that it is actually possible” (Joel Brown)
These words resemble the journey that Bunty and Wahed Khan embarked on when they decided to make their dream of building their own business, a reality.
The Khan family moved to Cape Town when Wahed was transferred by the company he worked for at the time. While exploring their new environment, they were captivated by the beauty of the Cape Winelands and the vibrancy of its communities who nurture the vines – this became the inspiration for their own wine brand, Cape Dreams.
“We knew that it was going to take immense dedication and hard work for many years to create an internationally recognized brand but we were committed and with the support our family, believed that it was possible”.
Their vision was to develop and grow the Cape Dreams brand to be synonymous with wines of superb quality with a compelling value offering that was appealing to both the emerging and established wine markets.
The early years
Bunty initially started the business and built a firm foundation based on sound principles until it was possible for Wahed to join full time. She thoroughly researched the wine industry, which was unknown to them at the time. Together they drew up a comprehensive and strategic plan supported with a solid company structure before taking their brand to market. As the local market proved to be much more difficult than they anticipated, they turned their focus to international trade from the outset. Bunty had to travel extensively and frequently to source new markets. “Balancing family- and work life became challenging, but we made it work.”
They invested their own funds to set up the business and launch their brand. Marketing efforts were later increased by participating in export promotion programmes offered by the various industry bodies such as Wesgro, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), WOSA (Wines of South Africa) and later support from the South African Wine Industry Transformation Unit (SAWITU) became available. Over the years Bunty collectively travelled to Russia, Germany, China, Nigeria, India, USA, Italy, the Netherlands, Sri Lanka and the UK to introduce their wines and establish new markets.
Bunty remembers her first trade show at Prowein Germany “It was overwhelming to attend a show of this size. We were placed amongst South African brands that were big names in the industry, but I remembered the faith my family and parents had in me, and it gave me courage to push through”
The dream takes flight
Over time, Bunty gained an in-depth knowledge of the markets they operate in and started to build strong relations with international retailers and importers. Their dream could eventually take flight! Since initially exporting 5 containers in 2010, they have increased exports to over 20 countries to date. Part of their success is working as a synergistic unit and sharing the responsibilities as a cross-functional team with a common purpose.
Cape Dreams produces nine varietals in their portfolio. These include a Pinotage Rosé, four white wines which are Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Colombar as well as four reds, which are Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot and Pinotage.
The Khan’s continuously plough back into their company to ensure longevity and help build the South African economy. They both believe that we all have a responsibility to help our country grow.
Their passion for their product, country and continent is clearly evident through their wine label, which is a boundary map of Africa containing a poetic description of the beautiful environment their wines are sourced from and produced in.
Adapting to a new environment
Sadly, Bunty’s international travels came to an abrupt halt when the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world in 2019/20 and travelling to most countries was restricted. The pandemic changed the dynamics of trading, but this resilient and well-grounded team refuses to be deterred by it.
Keeping to their core business strategy, the impact of Covid however necessitated the realignment of their marketing plan. This includes the development of an online sales facility as a support base for growth in the local market.
They also had to adapt to changing regulations in their existing markets and find ways to absorb the increased shipping tariffs for exporting their wines.
Bunty believes in personal attention and physical presence when it comes to trading with clients and is hopeful to resume her travels again soon to gain back the momentum they had.
Taking their dream into the future
Building a business in an industry they weren’t born into or worked in before, was challenging at first, but for Bunty and Wahed it is passion and determination that are the key ingredients of success no matter what industry it is. They learnt a lot and made mistakes but always remained focussed on their long-term goals and stuck to it. Even through the toughest times, quitting was never an option. “When we start something, we finish it”, says Bunty. “This is also what we teach our sons.” They acknowledge with gratitude the organisations like the DTI, WOSA, WESGRO, Department of Agriculture and especially SAWITU for their support over the last few years.
Although Cape Dreams has a credible and established platform for future growth, it is relatively ‘young’ in an over 350-year wine industry. Bunty and Wahed are building a solid business and a lasting legacy to leave to their sons one day, who will ensure generational continuity of the brand and the dream they passionately nurtured and grew as a family.