The Grapevine Interview with Richard Siddle & REBEL Pi Founder Jackie Fast

The Grapevine Interview with Richard Siddle & REBEL Pi Founder Jackie Fast
For those who don't know you from BBC's The Apprentice what is your business background?
When I graduated university from Canada I came to London to backpack Europe - and ended up never going back. I've now been here almost 15 years. I got a job as a sponsorship manager at the Direct Marketing Association. I then set up my own business Slingshot Sponsorship in my bedroom with only £2,000 and a laptop. It soon grew to a multi-million pound agency with four offices worldwide and clients including Sir Richard Branson and The Rolling Stones. In 2016 I sold my business and started exploring other opportunities. By a chance discovery, I landed on ice wine and set up REBEL Pi in 2018.
So why an ice wine?
Being Canadian I have always been familiar with ice wine, but it was never something that resonated with me. On a recent wine tasting trip I ended up getting into a fascinating conversation about the production of ice wine, which I had never heard before. Having spent a lot of time exploring products following the exit of my agency in 2016, this was the first time I got excited about something. But I didn't particularly like the product because it was so sweet - so I set off to try and make a less-sweet sweet wine. By using Roussanne, we strike that balance which is what makes our ice wine so exceptional and unlike any other ice wine or dessert wine currently available in the market.
How did you choose which winemaker to help you make the wine?
I had done a lot of research previously into vineyards in regards to an investment property and that led me to Paul and Julie at boutique winery, Pentage, in the Okanagan Valley, in British Columbia - which coincidentally is my birthplace. When I had the crazy idea to make ice wine not sweet, Paul was the first person I asked to find out if it was even possible.
How did you come up with the name REBEL Pi?
I've always been known as a disruptor in my career so I wanted to have a bit of my own personality in there, hence ‘Rebel'. Pi is to allude to the mathematical precision required to create a bottle and the care required to pick the grapes at exactly the right moment.
Ice wine is not a big market in the UK - is that not a problem for you?
We see that as a huge opportunity. As much as we want people to drink REBEL Pi, we are also happy for them to drink and learn about ice wine in general. We have little competition at the moment and hopefully once we prove the model works, we'll pave the way for more Canadian ice wine to take the risk and start bringing their exceptional product to the UK.
How do you intend on spreading the word and getting people to give ice wine a go?
I'm approaching it in the same way I approached spreading the news about my last business, Slingshot - pure hustling. I am not someone who will just sit around and wait for orders to come through, I will be stomping the pavements, going to events, writing about wine, and telling the world about it.
It has a high price point - around £60 trade price and just under £140 to consumers - do you see that as a challenge?
My mum always said “you get what you pay for” and in this case, the product speaks for itself.
What was appearing in The Apprentice like?
There were lots of highs, when you win a task it honestly feels like the best thing in the world. I personally just loved doing all the tasks. The most memorable moment so far, even though I lost, was being project manager on the designer shoe. There were also a lot of lows. It's very isolating with almost no contact to the outside world, which helps you to stay focused, but also means everything seems much bigger than it actually is. There was also lots of emotional turmoil in the house with very diverse personalities.
Would you go do it again?
Absolutely without hesitation. Where else could you have 10 different jobs in that short space of time? It was super exhilarating!
Tell us something about how The Apprentice is made that you don't think we would know?
You literally only have 20 minutes to get ready in the morning. Before I went into the house, I assumed they gave us clothes and we'd have hair and makeup people, but nothing could be farther from the truth. It is a marathon to just look decent at 4am and isn't the most pleasant way to wake up! Most of us shower and do our hair the night before so all you really have to do is throw on make up and most importantly for me, grab a coffee!

This interview first appeared in The Grapevine and can be read here.