A new Calgary wine distributor, Paperman Wine, hosted its public launch on Wednesday, Mar. 27th at the St. Louis Hotel. Founder Joel Bombenon is entering a market where others have failed but says he’s confident that Calgarians’ love of European wine that’s rarely sold locally, will fuel the subscription business.

His entrepreneurial family started Desirée Imports – where Bombenon is currently president – to bring some of the greatest European wines from select vineyards to Calgary at a reasonable price. Bombenon says it was important to allow regular people to try amazing wines and “not give up half their salary.”

Paperman Wine is one of two companies delivering boxes of wine ordered online to Calgarians’ doorsteps.

The challenges of subscription services

Ray DePaul, director at the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Mount Royal University, says that subscription service businesses face challenges when it comes to adding additional value to the offer.

“How can we give [customers] the sense that they’re getting [a] product that’s unique, that when they’re out for their weekly shop, they probably couldn’t find?”

Bombenon understands the market demand for an exclusive product, which is why every box delivered includes items from local companies that have partnered to make the boxes about more than just wine.

Subscriber Angela MacPherson welcomes the extra products such as candles from Milk Jar Candle Company, goodies from Sweet Relief Pastries and locally-made bath salts. She attended the launch party and says she loves the wines and that the bath salts “smell amazing.”

The conception

Bombenon went through years of school where he studied design and received a masters in architecture. While in Germany, he “stumbled upon a fun love of wine” and changed his mind about what he wanted to do with his future.

“It was so readily available to have these amazing wines and things that you couldn’t get in North America.”

He saw the demand in Calgary for premium European wine and decided it was time to offer it to the public regardless of their wine proficiency.

“We want to pull out the stipulation that this is something you should be fearful of or that it’s like this old-world, snooty, non-inclusive kind of thing. We’re trying to break the barrier of basically saying, ‘Everything about us is inclusive,’” says Bombenon.

More than just wine

The company is also giving back, not only to the community but to charity. A portion of the proceeds from every box is given to Hero Girls, a chapter of Her International that supports and teaches young girls about entrepreneurship and innovation. 

The company is also in partnership with Pride in Business, a Calgary group that empowers LGBTQ+ business owners and operators in the city.

As for what’s next, Bombenon has decided to expand the business to Edmonton and is hoping to include British Columbia for their deliveries in the near future. He plans to continue promoting their message of being an all-inclusive and local business.

“We have our whole lives to make money, we just want to make sure that we give everybody else the opportunity to live out their dreams as we started doing ourselves.”

Editor: Emma Stevens | estevens@cjournal.ca