The word ‘folc’ is Old English for community, people or family. “It really resonated with what we wanted to do,” says Tom Cannon, co-founder of English rosé brand Folc. “We make a wine that can be enjoyed by lots of people - a light, dry, pale rosé with notes of strawberries & cream and pink grapefruit.”

Folc rosé is made using grapes grown in Kent and East Sussex. There are seven grape varieties blended into their rosé, grown by multiple vineyards and produced and bottled by one winery, Defined Wine, in Canterbury. “Supporting local vineyards is high on our agenda and the winery uses zero plastic from grape to glass when producing the rosé.”

The wine is also vegan. You might think that all wine is vegan, but actually in the production of many traditional wines, animal-derived products are sometimes used as fining agents (for example casein a milk protein), to give the wine clarity.

Tom, 30, co-founded and launched Folc with his fiancé Elisha Rai, 31, in 2020. Their first vintage sold out just before that Christmas. Folc rosé is distributed to individual customers through Folc’s website, wine websites and local shops in London and the South East of England. It has also recently become available in a few restaurants, mainly in Oxfordshire. They launched their second vintage in April 2021. Folc is a Starling business customer.

Elisha Rai and Tom Cannon, co-founders of Folc

Best of the bunch

“I’ve always wanted to start my own business,” says Tom, who runs Folc alongside his full-time job in venture capital. “I wanted to be able to practice what I preach when speaking to other businesses raising capital.” Folc is currently preparing for its first round of funding.

Elisha also works full-time, as a lawyer. She says: “I never thought I had the qualities of an entrepreneur but… as long as you have a passion for what you’re doing, everything else will follow with experience.”

In an industry not known for its diversity, she is bringing about change. “There are many reasons why there isn’t much diversity within the industry from a gender and race perspective - the cost of an education in wine is one barrier,” she says. “There’s also a lack of visibility. There are a lot of incredible women who work in wine but you don’t often see them as part of a brand’s identity or in their communications.”

Tom and Elisha have always included their own story as part of their marketing. They’re also committed to using more accessible language. “We describe our wine in a way that you would if you were talking to a friend, rather than how a highly trained sommelier might describe it,” says Elisha.

Heard it on the grapevine

“Before choosing any service provider, we look into their sustainable efforts,” says Elisha. Their Kent-based winery is accredited with the WineGB Sustainability scheme. The certification is a mark of Folc’s efforts to use water and energy efficiently. All their packaging is biodegradable, recycled or recyclable.

This focus on sustainability contributed to their decision to bank with Starling, a paperless, branchless bank committed to lowering its carbon footprint.

“Starling felt like the better bank for businesses compared to competitors,” says Tom. “It integrates really well with Xero and Shopify, which we use for our website. I like the way payments are categorised and the instant notifications are super helpful for knowing when you’ve been paid.”

Folc applied for a Bounce Back Loan with Starling a few months into lockdown. “We used the loan as a buffer,” he says. Originally, they planned to sell their rosé at a number of summer 2020 events, all of which were cancelled. “The application was remarkably quick and effective. We’re really happy with Starling.”

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