Current Issue #488

Andre Eikmeier builds a new empire

Former Vinomofo co-founder Andre Eikmeier reflects on starting over with a new venture.

Andre Eikmeier is best known for co-founding Vinomofo in 2011 with his then brother-in-law Justin Dry. The company was launched in Adelaide, after Eikmeier had moved from Sydney with his former partner and their firstborn child to be closer to her family. Together, Eikmeier and Dry created what became a successful multimillion-dollar business with more than 100 staff members, an international consumer outreach and an annual turnover of $50 million.  

Having tasted failure in his earlier professional life, Eikmeier says Vinomofo’s success reaffirmed his sense of self-belief. “It was really relieving and validating,” Eikmeier says. After five failed business ventures and a few failed careers before Vinomofo, that had really manifested into this sense of underlying self-doubt.

“It was a moment of reward for a lot of hard work and risk and it was rewarding to see a team grow. Suddenly you’re in boardrooms negotiating on transactions of millions of dollars with venture capital firms, other firms want to buy you or buy into you, it’s the stuff you read stories about and you’re in there doing it.”

In mid-2018, Eikmeier resigned as the company’s co-chief executive and later as a board director, decisions Eikmeier says were the result of conflicting issues in his personal and professional life as well as a desire to move onto a new project.    

“It was linked with hitting a point in life where I realised I needed to make a lot of changes, so I think it was an acknowledgement and understanding of where happiness and fulfillment would lie,” Eikmeier says.  

“Justin and I as co-founders, we put in 12 years of our lives together building this thing, there were lots of ups and downs and I think there was this sense of maybe we don’t have to be wedded [to this] forever. Each of us felt the need to be doing something on our own without being in a partnership together.”

Eikmeier’s latest venture Good Empire was inspired by his aspirations to drive change towards global issues which he developed a deeper awareness around during his later years at Vinomofo. Founding the new company 12 months on from leaving the wine retailer, Eikmeier says he initially struggled with adjusting to starting a business again.

“It’s a big thing and a lot of your identity comes from being successful, that was one thing I had to reframe in my life,” Eikmeier says. “I remember having this moment from flying into work into a really cool office with 120 people to do this thing that’s reaching hundreds of thousands of people, to being alone in a co-working space working on my next thing.

“There’s such a romance with your first start-up that worked because it’s the one you went through all the chapters with and you’ll never really have that in your second one, you’ll have new things, but it’s different.

“Now, I’ve got a chance to do everything with purity with no compromise and I fiercely wanted to do that because I knew that was the path to creating something special this time around.”

Good Empire designs online programs delivered as written and video content to guide people through making gradual changes in their lives that have a positive impact on the planet such as reducing waste, a topic that is covered in their Year of the Planet campaign launched earlier this year.

The start-up originally began under a different business model before their first initiative was introduced which requires a pay-what-you-can subscription for participants. When the outbreak of Covid-19 swept the globe, Eikmeier says the subsequent lockdowns and health concerns heavily affected his new start-up.

“Covid-19 hitting was devastating for the business,” Eikmeier says.We had close to 10,000 people doing the [Year of the Planet] program from 44 countries around the world and we had to pause it while people coped with the pandemic and lockdowns.

“So, we as a business had this thing that was working stopped, we had no revenue and we’d just raised a bit of capital to do that.” In response, Eikmeier’s team of four staff collaborated with life coaches and counsellors to develop their ‘One Million Butterflies’ program for individuals and groups to help them overcome personal struggles during the pandemic through weekly self-development tasks.

“We created and launched One Million Butterflies to help people and to take up from where we left off in terms of revenue streams,” Eikmeier says.

“We’re starting to get back on track financially and were able to relaunch Year of the Planet a couple of weeks ago as well. Still, without JobKeeper we wouldn’t have been able to keep the team together through this time.”

As he endeavours to expand Good Empire with more programs and ideas, Eikmeier says he also wants to mentor new entrepreneurs in Adelaide’s growing start-up scene in the future. “I’m in an advisory group for Southstart, which I see as a real pillar in the start-up ecosystem,” Eikmeier says.

“Early next year I’d like to be more involved with the Chief Entrepreneur’s Office, helping mentor and grow SA’s most promising start-ups and founders, and inspiring more kids in high school and university to connect with the start-up ecosystem.”

Anthony Dodd

Anthony Dodd

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