Us Two: Invivo Wines' Tim Lightbourne and Rob Cameron

Invivo Wines co-founders Tim Lightbourne, left, and Rob Cameron.
CHRISTEL YARDLEY/FAIRFAX NZ

Invivo Wines co-founders Tim Lightbourne, left, and Rob Cameron.

Tim Lightbourne, 40, and Rob Cameron, 41, were friends at school before Tim went on to become a marketing guru and Rob a winemaking master. Ten years ago, they combined their talents and founded Invivo Wines.

TIM/ Rob and I are old school mates and we played in the same social cricket team when were about 13 or 14.

School wasn't my strongest point; Rob was in much higher classes than me at the time.

I went off to Otago University and Rob studied in Auckland, but we always managed to catch up in the holidays.

Later on I was working in the UK and while Rob was working as a fine wine maker across Europe in 2006, we caught up in London at The Colton Arms pub in West Kensington.

We started chatting about getting into the wine industry together, and unlike many ideas you have over a few drinks with your mates about launching something, we actually went through with this one.

I had no background in the wine industry; I did work a vintage in Burgundy once, but it was just literally picking grapes. Rob was really helpful getting me up to speed.

We spent about six months writing up a business plan and doing tastings and he was teaching me throughout that time.

When we first started, I was just working out of my flat and Rob was crushing grapes at his home, so we didn't really see each other much but we trusted each other to do the job.

It's not for everyone, starting up your own business, and we did some tough yards in the early days.

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Travelling overseas, we used to have to check our accounts every day to make sure we could pay for the hotel that night, and it's quite challenging being away from your family. You sort of start wondering, are we doing the right thing here?

But Rob shared the same enthusiasm as me and now we're seeing the hard work paying off.

Rob's very passionate, hard working, and he's also a dedicated family man with three boys under 7.

He's not a really loud or out-there kind of guy, but just really relatable and gets on with most people really well.

When we met Graham Norton to blend his wine, Rob was really keen to educate him about the wine- making process and Graham loved it. Rob's really patient like that and did the same with Paul Henry.

As well as wine, Rob's really into his food and cooking, when we have lots of customers he'll often get out the barbie.

I'd say we're mates first and colleagues second. The business is obviously very important, but we can still have a beer and not talk about work. In terms of our roles, I think being a marketer I tend to talk a bit more, spread the hype and that sort of thing, and Rob does the hard yards in terms of the winemaking and the numbers side of the business. But the balance works really well.

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ROB/ Tim and I grew up in the 80s, so we're from the generation where we kind of lived for cricket as kids.

I remember at school he had great hair, he was very proud of his hairstyle, and he was very fit.

About 10 years ago at a party one night I was discussing with Tim that there was a lack of really good branding with New Zealand wine, and I think light bulbs went off quite quickly in our heads.

We could just see an opportunity to combine our skills in quite an exciting way.

Next thing, Tim's sending me meeting invites and writing notes – it was all getting quite serious.

He is a good talker, but I don't think that should be underestimated.

We make extremely good wine and have won loads of awards, and I'm not afraid to say that, but it's also about putting that wine in the way of people so they can engage and have fun with it.

Tim recently became a family man – he's enjoying the trappings of a young baby and not sleeping much.

We had my oldest boy when we were just starting the business, that was interesting. I think Tim can relate to all that a bit more now.

Health and fitness is his passion outside of work. I go to the gym, but he's the one that's ripped and I'm probably battling, as most 40-year-olds are these days, with the "dad bod".

It used to bug me when we were travelling, and we didn't have a lot of money, Tim always had to find somewhere with a gym.

But what I realised quite early on is that for Tim, stress relief is that workout– it's his alone time and it's where he does a lot of his creative thinking.

I liken our working relationship to one with a partner – if you're a good communicating pair, then you know how far to push things. Then when it's time to leave it alone, you leave it alone, and I think that's the key with us, we don't go so far as to get personal.

We've both grown a huge amount of respect for each other and I think I'm a better friend now with Tim than ever before.

The key to our company's success is our relationship, without a doubt

 - Sunday Magazine

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