Munificent Wines

Owain Southwell


Can you tell us a bit about your background?

Both my parents were teachers so I had a clear appreciation of the importance of education from a very young age. Then going on to receive a university education empowered me to choose my own path in life and become financially independent.

Unfortunately, a lot of people including a disproportionate number of women, especially from refugee and migrant backgrounds, have not had that same opportunity.

It’s an obvious saying to quote and ironically, one which normally references ‘man’ so I’ve improved upon it: “Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day, teach a person how to fish and you feed them for life”.

It encapsulates the whole purpose of education and the work we do together with [non-profit social enterprise] SisterWorks perfectly.

How did you get the initial idea to start your business?

About 6 years ago, my partner Chris and I left the corporate world to set up a wine distribution company focused on supporting small, local independent producers.

We said on day 1 that we wanted our business to be about more than just making money; we also wanted to be able to give back in some way. We didn’t know how at the time.

In the early years of launching a new business, there is a commercial reality of creating financial security but once we reached that goal, we identified an opportunity to create our own wine brand and structure it as a social enterprise as our way of delivering on that day-1 aspiration of giving back.

What’s the best part about running your own business?

Consumers are increasingly seeking out products that have a purpose and clearly Munificent Wines delivers on that by donating 50% of profits to SisterWorks.

What sets Munificent Wines apart though, is that by being vertically-integrated into a wine distribution company, it means there is more profit than there would be from a stand-alone producer. In fact, 100% of profits from the winery component are donated and the rest of the costs are covered by the distribution arm. That has enabled us to donate over $52K in our first 18 months.

The word “Munificent” means a display of great generosity, and I believe we deliver on that.

What’s the highlight so far with running your business?

So far it has simply been how much we have been able to donate in such a short space of time. We’ve donated close to $75K in a little over 2 years!

Any exciting future plans you can share about your business?

In terms of future plans, we just launched into Queensland in 2022, and plan to launch into NSW in early 2024.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about you and/or your team?

As I mentioned before, our distribution business was created to support small local independent producers. So when we were seeking a partner for Munificent, we were looking for an alignment to those values.

Being a small local charity, SisterWorks fits that philosophy perfectly. The fact that SisterWorks helps educate and empower women to become entrepreneurs like ourselves, and often as producers of crafted products, similar to the products that we distribute, meant that we could really relate to and appreciate the impact of our contribution.

A few years ago, I attended a lecture by Malala Yousafzai, who at the time was still only in her early 20s, and the amount that she had achieved in her life already in spite of everything she has faced was awe-inspiring. A truly fearless advocate of the right for all humans to be educated equally, which will hopefully one day make the work of SisterWorks happily redundant!

Do some research on the concept of shared value. Like most people, we always had the belief that a social enterprise would be entirely altruistic and that essentially we would lose money by donating to charity, but that was our choice. In actual fact, what has happened is that we have sold so far in excess of our forecasts (more than double) that even by donating 50% of profits, we have actually made more total profit than if we had set up Munificent purely for financial gain.