DARREN Haunold’s story of personal courage, tenacity and vision shone out among this year’s collection of 40under40 nominees.
His accomplishments, both personal and commercial, belie his 27 years and are a tribute to the determination and optimism of the human spirit.
On the path to becoming owner and managing director of award winning vineyard Wills Domain, Mr Haunold has had to overcome many life challenges.
As a 13-year-old, he suffered severe spinal damage after falling from the roof of his family home. The injury paralysed him and he had to undergo six months of rehabilitation.
Even in these early years, he showed his strength of character and sheer love of life, vowing to remain positive and show others that the future was still his, despite his injury.
"I just refused to lie down and forget life," Mr Haunold said.
"I am determined to make my mark on this world and by sheer determination I will succeed no matter how hard the way, for what is truly worth having, is worth earning."
Within four years of his accident Mr Haunold was captain of his junior wheelchair basketball team and later played with the State and national men’s wheelchair basketball teams.
After leaving high school he joined has family’s rapidly expanding business, quickly progressing his way through the financial sector of the multi-million dollar company.
After six years he was offered a promotion to the position of company accountant, an offer he declined in order to travel Australia.
It was this decision that led Mr Haunold to discover both independence as a paraplegic and, ultimately, his path as a wine producer.
After his travels, Mr Haunold began working at a family friend’s vineyard in Dunsborough to gain experience in winemaking.
"You would think that a vineyard would be the last place you find a wheelchair," Mr Haunold said.
But with the aid of his trusty four-wheel motor bike, Mr Haunold discovered he could perform many of the tasks required in a vineyard.
In 2000, after just one year of experience, Mr Haunold purchased Wills Domain, located in the northern Margaret River region, and set about creating an icon vineyard committed to quality.
Over the past four and half years Mr Haunold has single handedly directed all facets of the viticulture, wine making, marketing and distribution, while increasing the vineyard capacity by 14,000 vines.
Today, with five vintages under his belt, Wills Domain has carved out a niche in the premium wine sector and has attracted gold, silver and bronze accolades for his wines.
At this year’s Mt Barker Wine Show, Wills Domain’s gold medal winning semillon was described as "undoubtedly a potential world beater from WA".
Since he bought the vineyard, Mr Haunold has driven turnover into the millions of dollars and is poised to launch the Wills Domain trademark onto an international resort and hotel chain arena.
Mr Hanould is developing unique, ultra-premium wines, which under his stewardship he hopes will ultimately compete against the globalising wine giants that are finding their way into many local vineyards.
“I am determined to make my mark on this world and ... I will succeed .”
- Darren Haunold
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