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Wine and friends make a great blend

Ezanne and Lesego got to know each other during the Virtual Manager Training Programme in 2020. Then they met each other in real life and became friends. At one of their get-togethers, they hit on the idea of creating their own wine range. And that was the beginning of “Khai Wines”. Khai means “rise up”, and the brand represents the passion the two entrepreneurs have for their home country South Africa.

Ezanne Gouws-du Toit holds a bottle of wine in her hands. It is a very special moment in the life of the long-standing winemaker. She takes a paper label from a pile and hands it to Lesego Holzapfel standing next to her, who carefully sticks it onto the bottle. Together they proudly examine the result. It is a day in March 2022 – the day that marks the birth of „Khai Wines“.

Lesego Holzapfel and Ezanne Gouws-du Toit with their first wines © Khai Wines

Ezanne grew up in the wine sector.  As a child, she played on her parents’ wine farm, surrounded by the sweet scent of the fermenting grape skins and the heavy aroma of the oak barrels. Later she drove a tractor, pumped wine into tanks and studied oenology. She has been in the business for 19 years now and knows it inside and out.

Lesego is the other half of Khai Wines. Despite a perhaps less idyllic childhood, Lesego managed to study in America and London. Today she is a successful social entrepreneur promoting small enterprise and producing honey. In addition, with her non-profit organisation, “Raise the Children”, she is committed to improving the lives of orphans. The two friends are a diverse team. And that is exactly what makes up the character of their joint business. “South Africa is a culturally diverse country; we want to emphasise that with our wine. Our target group are cosmopolitan people who appreciate good wine at a reasonable price”, says Ezanne.

The two are still right at the start of their journey. “In the wine business, you don’t do quick deals; everything takes a bit longer”, says expert Ezanne. Her aim is to be listed with commercial chains abroad. She says the brand is suitable for this purpose because it is affordable and at the same time of a high quality. Currently, a white wine and a red wine are available; the latter is a cuvée of Pinotage, a grape variety grown specially in South Africa.

Successful cooperation through the Programme

For the time being, the two entrepreneurs want to concentrate on the most important sales markets for South African wines, particularly on Germany. This is Ezanne’s responsibility. She has a close relationship with the country: her father did his training as a winemaker here, and she speaks German well.  During the MP, she expanded her business contacts in the wine sector. An incentive company in Hamburg has added four premium wines from her family’s firm “Ernst Gouws & Co” to its range. “For me, the MP was also a mini-MBA in terms of the management knowledge imparted”, says Ezanne.

And Lesego was also able to realise new projects for her firm Bokamoso Foods. Her enterprise produces not only honey but also beehives and trains beekeepers too. She started her exchange project with a boarding school near Munich. Students visited her firm within the scope of an exchange. The measure is part of her future-oriented project to sell one million beehives within ten years.

The wine labels reflect the personal history of the entrepreneurs © Khai Wines

Lesego recently travelled abroad with wine samples. “Our wine is very well received. Particularly because it is so closely linked to our personal history”, she explains. The reference is clear in the colourful Art Nouveau design of the label, which was created by a friend, who is a designer. It depicts two female figures, the one dark-skinned and the other fair-skinned. Like Ezanne and Lesego.

“Wine and friends make a great blend”. This well-known quotation, which is said to be by Hemingway, applies in a very special way to Khai Wines.