In conversation with 3sixty2 founder, Alice Rule

In conversation with 3sixty2 founder, Alice Rule

Captured as one of those people who continue to influence and inspire us, we talked to Alice, founder of 3sixty2 about founding the business and the change she hopes to bring to the wine business. 


How did 3sixty2 come to be? 

I’d been working with wine since being kicked out of school.  From a very young age I’ve been captivated by wine but particularly viticulture. I nearly always preferred vineyard roles, until I did my first vintage at 19. I was pretty young when I realised the value in having a holistic approach to both viticulture and wine. From then, I always split my years quite evenly between both cellar and vineyard. After a few years of working in Hawkes Bay I applied to Lincoln University with special consideration. I remember it being pretty embarrassing asking bosses over the years to write me references so I could get into University and admitting to being an unruly teenager. But anyway got through the degree in two and a half years, landed a dream job back in the vineyards working under Larry Morgan at Te Mata. From there I went to Craggy Range and it was that vintage I decided to brave it out and fly solo. 



Are there any standout hardships you’ve come across?

Where do I even start. When I first started, I was working massive weeks freelancing to finance the business, building up capital, fixing expensive mistakes. Still do actually. I put a huge amount of trust in a rep who was moving a lot of my wine, because I had little time to be on the road selling, who didn’t pay me for months - she said her merchants hadn’t paid her - and my accountant was getting real mad with me because I wasn’t making her pay. That was hard and pretty awkward. I think the standout hardship is doing this all on my own. I don’t have investors, family money financing this dream, partners in the business to help me in areas I'm not so good out or to just help manage the workload.  During COVID lockdown I broke my shoulder and needed surgery so had to learn to ask for so much help. I was left handed with a broken left wing, so my boyfriend and friends helped make wine boxes, dropped off wine for me, drove me around because I wasn't allowed to drive, I even remember not wanting to go out for dinner for my birthday because I was so embarrassed I couldn't cut up my own food. I remember thinking - c’mon Al try harder, at least your business didn't have to entirely close down like restaurants so that made me harden up and get through it. But was a wake up call that perhaps staying a solo founder isn’t sustainable long term. 



What have been some key learning experiences? 

I started out feeling so scared to fail that I just worked relentlessly hard.  There's this saying you need to slow down to speed up, and that's something I wasn’t that good at. I have been brought up to just get on with it, keep trying with little appreciation for how important rest is. There have been some hard times and very hard conversations but you can’t just throw in the towel everytime it gets hard. You just get better. For me sustainability has always come first; before sales, before marketing, before paying myself. Building a business with integrity right from the start has been a tough lesson - because it financially makes little sense. And it takes a huge amount of faith that what I set out to achieve will be recognised in the long term by customers for doing the right thing.  So I guess I've learnt making decisions about sustainability from the very start has become embedded in little 3sixty2’s DNA, our ethos and what my business stands for.  In the vineyards we are thinking 50 years ahead - the choice of rootstock on the site, row spacings, plant density and so on will determine viticulture practices for the entire lifespan of that block. My approach to running 3sixty2 is similar - thinking for the long term.



You were the first wine producer to partner with CarbonClick, can you talk about how this partnership works and the impact it has? 

When I started 3sixty2, climate change wasn’t something on our industry radar so through the Air New Zealand carbon offset program I discovered Jan and Dave.I learnt heaps from them and helped as much as I could testing their products. Now little 3sixty2 has become their first wine producer to have an entire climate positive wine portfolio with them. Half my carbon offset portfolio with them are local New Zealand reforestation projects and that's credit to CarbonClick consciously choosing what carbon offset projects they align with.  It’s also choice to be able to support a local kiwi company making a global impact. 



Do you have any daily rituals?

Black coffee gets me out of bed in the morning. And running Cooper - we either run Te Mata peak, head out to Ocean beach or walk/ run the river. 

 

Who’s your biggest inspiration? 

My Dad. As a dairy farmer he always cared about sustainability.  Our family farm ran alongside the Waitangi river and I remember from a pretty young age helping Dad plant riparian corridors. He took real pride in caring about water quality - one year he even won a Ballance environmental award for it - he wouldn’t have nominated himself so goes to show his efforts are well known in Northland. He knew I wasn’t too interested in high school. So he gave me a project to build this huge roof over the feedpad to one stop effluent leaching, but also harvest water to feed into the cowshed. So yeah - I guess he’s taught me the value of sustainable farming, business and just working really hard.



What does success mean to you? 

Being a good person and leaving New Zealand a cleaner, more beautiful place. 



Where do you want to be five years from now? 

I’m pretty passionate about my sustainability work - I’m excited to find out where this journey takes me. I’d love to see my wines listed in top restaurants. I’m working through export plans so it would be pretty epic to see my wines enjoyed globally. I’d love to do my Masters part time. And I'm keen to work on a carbon sink legacy with my Dad. He doesn’t know it yet, but I have a few ideas fermenting and the right people around me to help. 


What change do you hope to see in the world?

Climate change being taken more seriously and more businesses adopting circular economies. There are estimates that there will be more plastic than fish in our ocean by 2050, so we need to do something about that. New Zealand has the fourth largest marine environment in the world, and I think we have a commitment to doing what we can to nurture it.