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The Origin Story of Goodwill Wine

Posted by David Laity on
The Origin Story of Goodwill Wine

Life for me is divided into two distinct parts - before the fires and after the fires.

Before the fires I was a filmmaker living deep in the Australian bush. I had a love for good food, good wine and a simple life.

And while I have been a volunteer firefighter for much of my adult life, nothing would have prepared me for seeing my own home burnt to the ground after Black Saturday..

All I could think was, "How do you begin again from this?"

With almost everything I owned destroyed, I found myself for the first time ever needing help..

Teaching fire safety at my local kindy

“ How do you begin again from this? ”

I knew that life would never be the same again

I felt like all was lost. There was nowhere to turn and no coming back.

And then a charity stepped in and
offered me a grant.

I was given $15,000 through the Red Cross Bushfire Appeal. This was money that had been put into tins all over the country by people like you, and it gave me a glimpse of light at the end of a very dark tunnel. So, in the spirit of the hundreds of thousands of Aussies who helped me get back on my feet, I decided to start a wine business that gives back.

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I had a plan... A good plan even

Thanks to some friends in the wine industry, I knew a secret.

I knew there were loads of great wines in quantities too small to be of interest to big online wine players. And I knew there were lots of these wines tucked away in wineries all over the country.

My plan was to deliver these hidden gems to really good people at really good prices, while passing on 50% of my profit to the charity of their choice.

It sounded so easy.

“ 50% of businesses fail in their first 5 years. Giving away half the profit made it twice as hard again. ”

It was tough going

I moved into a derelict warehouse and with the money donated to me, I bought my first batch of wines and opened an online store.

For four years I slept in a swag alongside the boxes of wines, hand labeling every bottle and working part-time jobs to make sure the charities still got paid.

But the sacrifices started to pay off as Goodwill Wine began to grow.

“ My customers became my contact with the outside world. ”

Picking up the pieces

Life was still far from normal and while the business was becoming healthy, I wasn't doing so well.

I had been deliberately isolating myself in my little shed and it became clear that like so many others who went through Black Saturday, I was suffering from PTSD.

Thankfully help was available and I slowly began to reconnect with the outside world. I started writing personalised 'thank you' notes to every customer and putting them in with every order.

And the replies came flooding back. They came via emails, Facebook comments, Google reviews and even hand-written letters.

In a few short years, we had created a tight-knit community of wine lovers who cared about the world around us as much as they loved our wines.

It was these interactions that kept me going at a time when everything else was screaming at me to stop.

In 2021, I wrote my 50,000th 'Thank You' note.

“ We're very grateful to have the support of a business with such a great ethos. ”
- Animals Australia, after we funded five international animal cruelty investigations.

But was any of this making a difference?

I received a call from Sea Shepherd around the time I waved goodbye to the derelict warehouse and moved into a little rental house.

The voice on the end of the line said we had donated enough money to pay for three days of diesel fuel... I felt deflated by this news;

I didn't want our donations going towards fuel.

But then they told me that for those three days the 'Steve Irwin' had been able to sit in the slipway of the Nisshin Maru and stop the Japanese whaling fleet from unloading its catch. That meant three days the fleet couldn't resume their hunt.!

She sounded excited, but I still couldn’t grasp the significance of what she was telling me.

And that’s when she said, “Your customers saved twelve whales from being killed."

Whoa!

Up until this point I had never asked any of the charities we supported for feedback on how they spent their money. I had simply wanted to try and create some good in the world. How they chose to spend their money was their business.

But now I was really curious - I wanted to understand the impact we were making, and what it meant for our customers who were choosing our wines.

When the answers came back, I was stunned.

I still am.

“ Most of the problems in this world come from the relentless pursuit of profit above all else. I wanted to be part of the solution, not the problem. ”

In a few short years our customers have achieved so much:

🍲  Provided over 200,000 meals for people living in poverty here in Australia.

🚒  Bought fire-fighting equipment, hi-vis wet weather gear and defibrillators for volunteer fire brigades.

🐮🐷  Funded five International Animal Cruelty Investigations for Animals Australia.

🐒  Helped re-home over 50 orangutans.

🐶🐱  De-sexed, vaccinated, microchipped, wormed and re-homed over 100 rescue dogs and 150 rescue cats.

🤱🏽  Provided 40,000 hot meals for people seeking asylum here in Australia.

🐢 Played a role in introducing a plastic bag ban in Queensland.

🐳 Saved 12 Whales for Sea Shepherd by paying for fuel for their Southern Ocean campaigns.

“ Since we began with $15,000 from the Bushfire Appeal, Goodwill Wine has given back over $450,000 ”

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