RICHIE VANDENBERG - From AFL Captain to Environmental Advocate

Richie Vandenberg wearing STITCH UNTITLED fearless hoodie

Richie Vandenberg on Fearlessness, Resilience, and Determination: From AFL Captain to Environmental Advocate

In an enlightening conversation with Richie Vandenberg, former captain of the Hawthorne Football Club and co-founder of The Hidden Sea wine brand, we delve into themes of fearlessness, resilience, and determination. These qualities have defined Vandenberg’s journey from the football field to the vineyard, where he now champions an innovative environmental cause.

The Leap from Football to Wine

Richie Vandenberg’s transition from the familiar territory of football to the wine industry was not an overnight decision. Growing up around vineyards, he developed a passion for wine that eventually guided his career post-retirement from AFL in 2007. Faced with the choice of staying in football or venturing into business, he chose the latter. "At the age of 31, I thought it was the right time to break away from football and explore new opportunities," he recalls.

Starting The Hidden Sea in 2013, Vandenberg and his business partner, Justin Moran, were determined to create a brand with a purpose. "We wanted to build a brand that took people on a journey with us, creating a tribe that shared our values," says Vandenberg.

A Brand with a Purpose

The Hidden Sea’s mission goes beyond producing quality wine; it pledges to remove ten plastic bottles from the ocean for every bottle of wine sold. The brand's name is inspired by the vineyards in the Limestone Coast, which once formed part of the Great Southern Ocean, embedding a historical connection to the ocean within the brand's identity.

Vandenberg explains how this mission came to be: "We started understanding the plastic issue around 2015-2016. By 2020, we had established our consumer promise. For every bottle of wine sold, we remove ten plastic bottles from the ocean. Our North Star is to remove a billion plastic bottles by 2030."

To date, The Hidden Sea has removed nearly 20 million plastic bottles from the ocean. With a clear target and a growing tribe of supporters, they are steadfast in their mission. "We want to be known for doing the right thing by the planet," Vandenberg states.

The Transition: Fearlessness, Resilience, and Determination

Leaving the football world behind was not easy for Vandenberg. "Making the decision to leave football was a big moment for me," he admits. The years following his retirement were challenging, filled with moments of doubt and uncertainty. However, it was the values of fearlessness, resilience, and determination that helped him navigate this new path.

"Building a business comes with its own set of challenges," he notes. "We've had lockdowns and setbacks, but resilience means never giving up. You just have to get back up and keep going."

Overcoming Doubt and Building a Tribe

Self-doubt is a constant companion in any ambitious endeavor. Vandenberg and his team have built a supportive tribe that shares their vision, which helps maintain momentum during tough times. "Building a tribe of people who believe in what we believe in creates momentum. When things get tough, we lean on those around us," he shares.

Richie emphasises the importance of teamwork, drawing from his football days. This collaborative spirit is central to The Hidden Sea's mission and success.

Partnering for Success

Richie Vandenberg and Justin Moran complement each other with their different personalities and shared values. "We've decided on a set of values for ourselves and the brand: courage, enthusiasm, and consistency. These values guide our actions and decisions," Richie explains.

Their partnership has been crucial in navigating the complexities of building a brand with a purpose. "We've seen full islands of plastic in the ocean. The plastic crisis is a global issue that needs to be addressed," he says. By educating consumers and making a tangible impact, The Hidden Sea is leading the charge against ocean plastic pollution.

The Future Vision

The Hidden Sea's vision extends beyond 2030. "Our brand's evolution starts with our current goal. Once we achieve that, we want to be known for our commitment to the planet," Vandenberg says, citing Patagonia as an inspirational example.

For aspiring entrepreneurs, Richie offers sound advice: "Unless you're in the tech space, forget about overnight success. Building a business requires passion, resilience, and a great team. It's about enjoying the journey as much as reaching the destination."

Get Involved

Consumers can support The Hidden Sea’s mission by purchasing their wine or signing up for their newsletter, which removes additional plastic from the ocean. "Everyone can play a part. The world is waking up to the plastic crisis, and every action counts," Vandenberg encourages.

In conclusion, Richie Vandenberg's journey from AFL captain to environmental advocate is a testament to the power of fearlessness, resilience, and determination. Through The Hidden Sea, he is making a lasting impact on the planet, one bottle of wine at a time. To learn more and join the mission, visit The Hidden Sea.