Market News Publishing

Over 13 years, Robb Denomme has focused on building Genuwine Cellars into one of the world’s premier manufacturers of custom-made wine cellars. To-day, the thriving business caters to an “A-list” clientele of renowned hotels, business figures and celebrities. In recognition of the company’s remarkable success, 31-year old Robb, Genuwine’s co-owner, has won BDC’s Young Entrepreneur Award for Manitoba and will be honoured tonight at a ceremony in Vancouver, British Columbia.

From its start in a Winnipeg garage in 1995, Genuwine Cellars has grown to include a team of 50, with a design centre in every major city in Canada and many in the United States. At the beginning of 2008, it also opened an operation in Nicaragua to help keep up with demand. “We’ve done work all over the world, including Hong Kong, the United Kingdom and Bermuda,” says Robb, who co-owns the business with wood craftsman Lance Kingma.

After making a wine cellar for one client, Lance was asked to do another one. To get the job done, he asked Robb, who was 17 at the time, to help. Neither of them had specialized training in wine cellars, but they continued to build them on request through their single client: a specialty wine shop. “I knew you should never have just one client, but it wasn’t until that client ran into trouble that I took action,” Robb explains.

Knocking on the right doors

He went on the road, knocking on the right doors and approaching high-end wine stores, dealers and luxury home builders in major cities. “Business just started flowing in. We’ve been able to build a brand without any advertising.”

With no formal business training, Robb believes he was born an entrepreneur. “My father had his own construction company and I learned a lot from him about how to deal with customers, and how every job is different.” Experience as a manager in the restaurant industry also helped him hone the skills needed to run a business. His business partner, Lance, continues to work at Genuwine, doing what he loves most: woodworking.

Robb believes that Genuwine’s design capability and the quality of its products are what set it apart. “There are a lot of companies that sell custom wine cellars, but they don’t manufacture them.” But handling both

design and manufacturing has also posed a significant challenge. “One of the biggest hurdles was to develop an infrastructure to support all of this. None of what we do is standard; it’s different every time.” To address the issue, he and Lance introduced lean manufacturing principles and an organizational structure that incorporates sales, design and manufacturing functions. Hiring an outside business consultant, who has become Robb’s mentor, has also helped.

“Robb has applied his instinctive entrepreneurial know-how to build a business that is now flourishing in a highly exclusive market niche,” says BDC President and CEO Jean-Rene Halde.

Beyond the appeal of Genuwine’s distinctive craftsmanship, Robb feels that the company’s success can also be attributed to an in-depth understanding of customers and a great team of talented people. “We could never have done any of it without this team.”