Kimberley Ohayon, owner of Canberra’s first pop-up wine bar, The Pop Inn, reveals how she gets paid to drink some of Australia’s best wines

Sarah Lynch

In the June issue of BucketOrange Magazine, we catch up with Kimberley Ohayon, wine aficionado and owner of Canberra’s first pop-up wine bar, The Pop Inn. Launched earlier this year, The Pop Inn is the culmination of Kimberley’s desire to combine her love of wine, business, and the hidden treasures of the ACT’s underutilised outdoor spaces in a brand spanking new business and career.

Tell us a bit about your career and what made you decide to branch out into the startup space?

My background is in communication and project management. I had worked for the same company for about 9 years and was fortunate to have diverse roles and experiences. I had the opportunity to take a year off without pay and spent about 8 months of that time overseas and travelling. When I came back, a few things had changed both with me and my role in the organisation. I wasn’t feeling like I was challenged and there was no obvious career path. I felt more and more that I was dreading going to work, even though I worked with some great people.

I decided I should turn my passion and interest for wine into my career – learning about wine (and yes, drinking it!), and working with interesting people. I left my job and had about 4 months focusing on establishing The Pop Inn – it didn’t all happen as quickly as I imagined it would so I took a contracting role with the government while I continued to work on the business.

This period was quite nerve wracking (my parents were most nervous!).

It was exciting and motivating working on something I had a passion for and where every decision was my own.

I am still working in my government role and run The Pop Inn over weekends – I am really enjoying both jobs. All going well, my goal is to give away the 9-5 and focus on The Pop Inn full-time towards the end of this year.”

You launched the Pop Inn, Canberra’s first pop up wine bar, earlier this year. How did you come up with the idea and what can wine-lovers expect when they visit you?

“Canberra has so many gorgeous parks, lakes and areas that are lovely just to sit and soak in the sun all year round. I noticed that many of these spaces were under-utilised and thought that if people could relax comfortably with a glass of wine they may linger and enjoy these beautiful public places more.

The Pop Inn was designed by a local architectural firm, Daryl Jackson Alastair Swayn (DJAS Architecture), to create a modern but warm pop-up bar. Our key difference is that guests are invited into the bar to taste and experience our selection of wines.

Canberran’s have really embraced the concept. Locals love being outside and taking in the views of Lake Burley Griffin or watching the autumn leaves fall in a suburban park over a glass of wine and bite with friends.

We supply many Canberra district wines as well as wines from around Australia and the world. For us, part of the experience is sharing the story of the wines, the winemakers, the regions and the romance of the drink.

I love getting to know our regulars who can always expect a friendly and welcoming experience.”

Many young Australians dream of starting a business but, perhaps, scary startup failure statistics or crippling self-doubt hold them back. Was there a particular moment, or past experience, that galvanised you to take the leap and launch your own startup?

“When I first started sharing my plans with others, I received a lot of ‘helpful’ advice and statistics on how hard it is to succeed in business. That, combined with many of my own self-doubts, triggered moments where I wondered if it was a mistake. At the end of the day though, I still had people around me offering encouragement and who believed in me and the business idea.

Once you gain some momentum, and start seeing progress, focus on that and just keep going.”

What has been the hardest aspect of launching your own business? Were there any setbacks you didn’t anticipate?

“It’s funny – now I’m up and running some set-backs seem like distant memories but at the time they felt devastating. I had some real challenges throughout the build and early registration of The Pop Inn.

At times, I have felt very let down by different suppliers in the process which I didn’t anticipate. [For new startup owners] I would recommend having a contingency in terms of time and funds to address unanticipated setbacks.”

Even the best laid plans can go awry so give yourself a buffer.

How do you cope with stress (aside from opening a bottle of wine)?

“Yep, a bottle of wine and a few friends usually reduces the stress levels!

Sometimes I can get fixated on an issue and can’t focus on anything else until I know I have a solution. It can be counter-productive, particularly if I am waiting on others so I usually try and talk to someone about the issue. Sharing can help me think more clearly and takes some of the pressure off.”

How difficult was it for you to negotiate the legal aspects of starting a business – for example, registering your business name, coming up with a legal structure for your company, and obtaining approval for various locations The Pop Inn sets up each weekend around the Canberra region?

“For my business, the challenge has been navigating the many levels of government and legislative requirements, especially as there was no precedent to follow. Early engagement with relevant departments helped me build strong relationships and to work through these challenges collaboratively. The key is to be persistent and focus on solutions.

In the ACT, Access Canberra provides assistance to new businesses and helps connect them with departments they need to engage with (which can be many!). I understand that this type of service is becoming increasingly common in other states to help encourage and support new businesses.

There are resources out there to help you so make the most of them as it can save you a lot of time.

[For new startup owners] get advice early on about the best structure for your business or idea. It means you can lay the best possible foundations based on the level of risk and your plans for the future. Other key considerations are insurances and protecting your IP. The processes are pretty straightforward to establish a business and register your business name, however, it can be reassuring to get advice from an accountant or lawyer before you lock in the structure.”

What advice would you give someone who is toying with the idea of launching a startup?

“Be prepared to work hard: it’s really easy to underestimate how much effort goes into starting up a business or enterprise.

Be resilient: there will be setbacks at times that make you question or doubt yourself but find a way to stay motivated and focus on the bigger picture.

Be prepared to pivot: my idea has continually evolved and I almost stumbled at the last hurdle. A couple of weeks before opening I was advised that I couldn’t secure some amazing sites that I had been working with government to use. I was pretty disappointed but it forced me to think outside the box in terms of locations. Some set up spots that I thought would be less than ideal have actually turned out to be extremely popular.”

What do you enjoy most about your work?

“I love talking to my customers and meeting new people. Being outdoors on a nice day really relaxes everyone and creates a great vibe for a pop-up wine bar. Families, couples and groups of friends all come to enjoy The Pop Inn so it is quite a diverse demographic but, somehow, everyone seems to fit.”

The hardest aspect of my job is researching and selecting the best wines to serve [hah!]

What music helps you hustle at your best?

“My friends and family know I am a bit of a control freak when it comes to a playlist. I have quite diverse taste in music but my classic go-to choice is pop music. Catchy tunes and upbeat melodies keep me hustling.”

What is your favourite wine at the moment and does it change depending on the season?

“It does tend to change with the seasons and right now I am loving the Italian varieties like Sangiovese and Nero D’Avola. It’s also hard to go past a glass of champagne.”

Find out where The Pop Inn is popping up next on their website or by following The Pop Inn on Facebook or Instagram.

BucketOrange Magazine / June 2017 🍊

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