How Ed Sheeran’s Photographer Turned an Idea Between Friends Into a Successful Canned Wine Brand

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Three co-founders launched a now successful canned wine brand in the pandemic, that continues to grow with the aid of simple entrepreneur-savvy tools like Adobe Express.

Zak Walters has always had a creative entrepreneurial mind. “I wasn’t particularly good at English, maths and that stuff, but I always loved music, design and art,” he says. After studying graphic design at Falmouth University, Walters began working for a large London design agency, working on graphics for multinational drink brands. But at the same time, a friend of Walters, Ed Sheeran, was becoming an internationally-recognised music superstar – and he needed someone to photograph his world tours.

Walters handed in his notice at the design agency and spent three years travelling the world with Sheeran as he played some of the world’s biggest stadiums.

Then the pandemic hit. Walters was due to jet off to shoot Lewis Capaldi’s world tour in March 2020, right as countries began shutting their borders and venues began cancelling and postponing gigs.

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Music tours shut down as the world did, and Walters was at a loose end. But he had always wanted to launch a drinks brand of his own, and a text from a friend, Jack Green, inspired him to launch Vinca Wine, a canned organic wine brand, alongside Green and another co-founder, Charlie Vass. Initially founded in September 2021, the company has run three batches of its unique canned wine products, all of which have sold out. “We’ve completely sold everything out, which is amazing,” says Walters. “People seem to love it as much as we do.” Vinca’s returning customer rate is 52 percent—incredibly high for a direct-to-consumer product.

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Shortly, the company will launch a canned red wine, expanding its product line from white and rose wine, further expanding Vinca’s possibilities—all while touring with Sheeran has begun to start once more as the pandemic subsides.

Juggling both a full-time job launching a business and a side gig as a leading music photographer is challenging, says Walters. “I went freelance back in late 2017,” he says. “I’ve been juggling freelance design work and shooting work for a while. I’ve got used to plates spinning, being stressed and not sleeping.” That, he says, is just part of starting up a business.

How Ed Sheerans photographer turned an idea between friends into a successful canned wine brand

But some of the stresses and strains are alleviated by Adobe Express, the mobile and online design app launched in December 2021 that has enabled him and his co-founders to design and develop work on the move. As a designer, Walters had been using Adobe apps for years, so when he heard about the ability to use Adobe Express with thousands of beautiful templates and assets on both desktop and mobile devices, he was thrilled.. “It’s so intuitive and easy to use,” he says. That’s helped him speed up the process of designing and publishing work, keeping momentum high as Vinca Wine expands apace. “A social post that might have taken me an hour to build before, only takes me 10 minutes on the app,” he says.

“Having Adobe Express on my phone frees up my time,” Walters explains. “I can do designs on the train into work and be creative really easily using templates.” As a small start-up business, where the co-founders are expected to chip in with every aspect of building the organisation and brand, that’s crucial. For instance, from speaking to fellow founders at networking events, Walters has recognised the importance of TikTok to building a direct-to-consumer brand, and wants Vinca to have its own presence on the app. But finding the time to make high-end video content is difficult. “It gets to 6pm on a Friday and I still haven’t done that day’s post,” he says. But having a high-powered editing tool on his phone within easy reach can help alleviate that problem.

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It also means that the burden of designing all the work for Vinca Wine doesn’t fall solely on his shoulders. Although his co-founders don’t have the same design experience, they’re able to produce high-quality assets that can be used in marketing materials, all without his oversight. “Sometimes when I’m busy plate spinning, shooting at Alexandra Palace like I was last night, they can go away and build a post,” he says. “It looks amazing because they use the templates. They don’t have to be a designer to use it. Even though I generally head up all creative social output for our business, having Adobe Express means the other founders can jump on and do it.” That’s been a real benefit to Vinca’s small team. “I’m so glad we found it, because it does genuinely, genuinely really help.” Since December, the easy-to-use tool has become a key part of his business.

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Adobe Express has freed up time that previously didn’t exist, allowing people like Walters to spend more time devoted to building their business from the ground up, rather than stressing the small details like how to design flyers, social media posts or ad campaigns. It means he’s been able to think more deeply about where Vinca Wine has come from—and where it’s going to—and what advice he’d impart to others in his situation.

“If it was easy, everyone would do it,” he says. “I don’t think we were naive in setting up the business, but we definitely thought: ‘You make the plan, you do the plan, and the plan works.’ That’s just not the case. Everything changes every week.” It means that there’s little time for sleep. “I just wake up in the middle of the night,” he says. “I dream about Vinca. I wrote notes on my phone about an idea I’ve had in my subconscious about outreach for certain people, or a way we can change our online strategy.”

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It’s all in aid of meeting what Walters and his co-founders wrote on the first page of their business plan when they came up with the idea for Vinca Wine. “We want to be the brand synonymous with wine in a can,” he says. He hopes that in the future, people around the world will say: “Get some Vincas, we’re going down to the park.”

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