Our story

How Millione started

In 2010 I traveled to Sierra Leone in West Africa with the international development organisation ActionAid. I had supported ActionAid’s work around the world for a long time through their child sponsorship scheme and occasional donations but had never been to see what was happening on the ground. Visiting Sierra Leone was a reality check. After many years of civil war, the now democratically elected Government was starting on the long journey of reconstruction and building a brighter future for its citizens.

Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries in the world, near the bottom on the United Nations Development Index. There is a lack of just about everything we take for granted, from health care to roads, education to consumer goods. Illiteracy is high and life expectancy low.

I visited a school in a community to the west of the capital city Freetown. It was a ramshackle construction of corrugated iron sheets and palm leaves. Hundreds of kids aged between 6 and 14 were crammed into open classrooms side by side. There was no well for water and no toilets. The insanitary conditions meant that many girls did not go to school. It was obvious that without better primary education there was little chance of many kids receiving secondary education, and without that there would not be enough well educated people to rebuild the country.

A community elder, a woman in her 70’s, stopped me during my visit and asked me to raise the funds to build a new school. She said “you provide the tree and we will harvest the fruit”. By which she meant, you provide the funds to build the school and we will run it and educate our children.

Back in London I told this story to Mike Paul and Cliff Roberson, two friends who, like me, had spent their lives working in the wine business. We decided to create a wine brand and use all of the profit to fund the building of schools in Sierra Leone. We like tough challenges and set a long term target of raising £1m and called the wine Millione. £1m will build 20 schools and educate 10,000 children. We set up The Millione Foundation as a social business, to own the brand.

We asked a wine company in the Veneto region of Northern Italy to produce a delicious lightly sparkling rosé for us and set about approaching retailers to sell it. We got support from several well known people including Stephen Fry and Emma Thompson. Sales began in the summer of 2010 and within six months we had the first £50,000 needed to build the first school.

Jerry Lockspeiser, Co-Founder

 

Making a difference - schools are being built

In January 2011 we transferred the £50,000 to Sierra Leone and work began on the first school. It was a massive moment for us to see the work that had been put in start to bear real fruit. You can read more about that here.

Since then we have conducted tastings, appealed to opinion leaders at the House of Lords, served Millione at ActionAid’s annual Call My Wine Bluff fundraising event and built up a loyal base of supporters and wine lovers around the UK. By April 2013 three community primary schools had been built and were fully functional, and building was underway on the fourth. Each school has its own water well, separate toilet blocks for girls and boys, and a block of six well-equipped classrooms. Reports back from the communities are that school attendance is up, especially among girls.

So far so good. But the need of the communities in Sierra Leone for us to ‘provide the seed’ is huge. We want to build more schools more quickly. We are hoping to launch additional wines within the Millione range as partners to the Italian Frizzante Rosé. And we are launching Millione Holidays as a second source of revenue. Every time you take a holiday by renting a property through Millione Holidays your money helps build schools in Sierra Leone.

 

Who are we?

We are, from left to right, Mike Paul, Jerry Lockspeiser and Cliff Roberson. Pretty old guys – we calculated that we have 106 years experience in the wine business between us! We know about wine, and the business of making and selling it all over the world. Between us we have worked in different countries in many kinds of wine businesses from large international corporations to tiny organic wine companies. Fine wine merchants to high street supermarkets. And we like to think we know a good idea when we see one.

When we got together and decided to create Millione, we wanted it to be clear that this was not for our benefit. So we formed The Millione Foundation as a not-for-profit business. It is a company limited by guarantee, not by shares. There are no shareholders, no capital and no dividends. We make a small profit on each bottle sold, all of which goes towards building the schools, after the basic costs of administration and communications - such as this website. We are helped by our suppliers working at a lower margin than they would normally do, giving us a cheaper total cost.

Why do we do this? Because it’s worthwhile, because it matters, it’s fun, exciting… and because we can. But of course it counts for nothing unless you and others reading this get the bug too and buys lots of Millione.

Enjoy the wine with your friends and make a difference at the same time. What is not to like?

Be one in a Millione!