← Techstars Blog

Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 4.59.10 PMAnswer provided by: Olga and Shane Rai, Co-Founders VinoRai, LLC – importers of quality Turkish wines. Bringing the Turkish wine renaissance to America.

Previous Employment: Olga- Marketing consulting at Accenture and other consulting firms followed by two years of marketing and strategy at Starbucks Corporate.

Shane – IT strategy and implementation consulting at Deloitte Consulting for seven years followed by two years of product management building social intelligence products for a UK based customer experience technology company.


There are many reasons why a business would consider partnering with foreign suppliers.

– Cost efficiency
– The superior quality of goods or services
– A personal or emotional connection to an overseas land

For us at VinoRai, our raison d’être is introducing the United States to a unique experience that only a foreign partner can provide.

Our unique experience is wines – wines from Turkey. Our honeymoon adventure to Turkey a few years earlier led to this fortunate and serendipitous discovery of wines that we soon realized weren’t just only unique to Turkey but also embodied the deep and rich history of the region.

Turkey is regarded as one of the birthplaces of grape domestication and ancient wine making, and home to 800+ grape varieties many of which are unique to the country. While many established wineries exist in Turkey today dating back to early 20th century, the last 10-15 years has seen an encouraging surge in new and prolific wine producers after the wine industry was opened to privatization. Many are heralding this Turkey’s wine renaissance and it is poised to blossom further.

We’ve now been importing wines from Turkey for a year and a half, and over this period we’ve been fortunate in expanding our portfolio of wine producers to five.

With zero prior knowledge of the trade, there were many on-the-job lessons learned, good and bad, just like many of you have surely experienced or will experience.

For those of you contemplating kick-starting your own venture that would need extensive partnerships with foreign suppliers, we’ve compiled our top 4 things to consider:

Vet, vet and vet some more: it’s imperative to vet your suppliers and their products before you ink that deal and sink those funds. Making onsite visits and in-person meet-ups are a good start but not sufficient. Bring in a few samples or prototypes, test & validate in your market with your customers, and then make a decision. Repeat for every new supplier and product. This iterative model has been our bread and butter approach.

Success needs to be mutual: sounds cliché but can your partnership really thrive if success is mutually exclusive to either of you? Spend the time & money to build a relationship. Genuinely get to know your suppliers, their culture and their business practices. Go visit them, share your market success stories as well as challenges, and seek out government export/import subsidies that might be beneficial to them. Relationship building takes time, so be patient and invest the time. The pay off is well worth it down the road: you’ll get better pricing terms, consistent quality and many other benefits that incrementally will help your business thrive.

Adapt and don’t unnecessarily accept: nothing is perfect, and chances are cultural and business differences will almost certainly exist between you and your foreign supplier. Common yet crucial differences will relate to pricing terms and sense of urgency/timing based on our experiences. Try to uncover these differences as quickly as possible and then decide which ones are acceptable to your business and those that aren’t. Surprises later down the road are always costly and a blow to your relationship building efforts.

Protect yourself: congrats, you’ve built a market for your products. Chances are competition is not too far behind now. What stops your competitors from partnering with your valued suppliers? You can start by seeking exclusivity agreements from your suppliers (if applicable) and seek legal counsel to draft the agreement. Understand what legal action you can undertake later should you (unfortunately) need to.

Olga and Shane Rai can be found on: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Vinorai.com.

, , , , , ,