Supply chain · 9 August 2018

Mirabeau co-founders ditched The Old Smoke to start up in the South of France 

Mirabeau co-founders Jenny and Stephen Cronk

For the price of a house in London, they could buy a vineyard in the South of France. That realisation convinced this couple to start their own business.

After compiling market research and finessing their idea, Stephen Cronk was then offered a big promotion at his corporate job. He looked at his wife Jeany and they both decided to make the leap and leave London in 2010.

As part of our “I fell in love with my co-founder” series, Business Advice caught up with this Anglo-German couple who founded a premium Provence Rosé brand in Mirabeau, now employing 10 members of staff with a turnover of £5m.

How did you both meet?

We worked in the same technology business.

What inspired you to start a business together?

We both enjoy being our own bosses and we saw opportunity in wine given our backgrounds and passion for the subject.  

We both had a long-standing affinity, a love affair with rosé! Almost every celebratory picture of our marriage or babies – there’s rosé. 

In a relatively short amount of time it had gone from quite badly made wine that you only really drink when you’re on holiday or a beach. Even when we brought it along to dinner people would think it was a bit odd and so different, but we used to always drink it.

It has since then coincided with this phenomenon that people really love, and it’s great surfing the wave.

We’re here to stay and bring something nice to people, and quite a lot of people, which was our goal – we didn’t want to have something only 1500 people could enjoy, we wanted to make something that most people could buy and have a nice time with.

What specific roles do you both have?  

Stephen broadly looks after sales and all our key customers (with a small team) and Jeany manages all the Marketing functions, as well as looking after product development.  But we cross over an awful lot, as any good partnership will do.  

How do you separate work from your personal life?

We don’t even try…

Do you have any rules to leave work at work?

Nope we don’t.  We try and keep a balance, but if you love what you do you don’t tend to be able to separate the two. Luckily our family puts up with it.  

What are your individual strengths?

Stephen is a fantastic communicator and finds a solution to almost any problem.  He will talk to anyone about anything without fear of rejection or ridicule. This has yielded some great and unexpected results and it is the one thing I would say is the most important determinant of our success.

I am more grounded and make sure the team functions well on a day to day basis.  I also do a lot of work to understand the market and to optimise design and new product development, both of which are areas I find very fulfilling.  We are very different people, but actually the combination has been good for our business.  

What’s been your biggest business achievement to date?

To be selling our lovely Rosé in over 40 countries all over the world.  It is still the biggest joy to us to sit in a restaurant or walk through a supermarket and see someone pick our bottle over the many others on offer.  

What is the hardest part of working together?

To stay professional, especially when you are both opinionated.  Luckily we pick our battles…

What is the best part of running a business together?  

I guess that we are both on the same page and understand why we are on this journey. It’s relentless but we are both equally invested in the future of Mirabeau, so there is no resentment in our relationship about one being more successful or working harder. And we can share problems too, and we all know a shared problem is only half a problem.  

What celebrity couple are you most like?

Wow, how hard is that question- in my dreams we are Goldie and Kurt, but our daughter Josie thought we were more like the Osbornes.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Carly Hacon is a reporter for Business Advice. She has a BA in journalism from Kingston University, and has previously worked as a features editor for a local newspaper.

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