A CRAVEN mum who found herself out of work just before the first Covid lockdown is raising a glass to the success of her online wine sales business.

Karol-Ann Hewgill has now sold more than 50,000 bottles of wine from her garage in Austwick through her company Lekker Wines. Starting with a range of 150 wines, mainly from her native South Africa, she now stocks around 450 varieties from countries including Italy, France, Spain, Argentina and New Zealand.

Mum-of-three Karol-Ann, who has been supported by AD:VENTURE, a business growth programme for early stage businesses in North and West Yorkshire, has plans to launch her own wine warehouse which would also be open to the public.

But the beginnings of Lekker Wines were not as certain. In January 2020 Karol-Ann, who had previously worked in sales, left another wine company and started looking for work.

“I thought there are loads of jobs around and I had several interviews. But then the interviews dried up and the world went crazy,” said Karol-Ann.

“So, I thought what am I going to do with myself? I decided while I am looking for something I will take my personal licence exam and then I thought why don’t I see if I can get my garage licensed, and I managed that, and then I thought, why don’t I buy some wine and create a little website – and it literally grew from there.

“I just want to choose nice wines, quality wines. The range isn’t vast, but it is wine I am happy to drink and recommend.”

Initially Karol-Ann sold to the public via her website, but soon had local shops, hotels and bars asking for trade pricing and bulk ordering. She turned to AD:VENTURE, who gave her a grant of £4,806 to pay for improvements to the website, and for IT equipment and marketing materials.

As well as receiving a grant from AD:VENTURE, Karol-Ann was given a business mentor and attended several webinars and workshops.

Karol-Ann is due to take on a member of staff. She also employs one of her sons at the weekend to help pack orders.

“It’s baby steps for me. I can’t believe I have my own business,” she said.

AD:VENTURE is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), with other funding and delivery partners across including Craven District Council.

Craven District Council’s Councillor Simon Myers, lead member for Enterprising Craven, said: “Lekker Wines is a great example of a successful business literally growing from someone’s passion.

“We know that there are lots of budding entrepreneurs out there and with help from programmes like AD:VENTURE we can turn dreams into reality and create much-needed jobs in the region.”