Updated: Feb 9
If you’re an avid lover of wine, then you may have toyed with the idea of starting your very own label once or twice. After all, now is an interesting time to get into the business, with people treating themselves to more wine while in lockdown. But a deep love for Cabernet isn’t the only thing you need to start a business — you need to be determined, hard-working, and meticulous in order to succeed. If you think you have what it takes, then read on:
First thing’s first
Before you start investing, it’s important to start with a name and some idea of how you want your business to operate. You wouldn’t want to go all-in with a name that’s already been taken, so check with your Secretary of State’s office. Try searching on social media to see if your potential name is available, too.
From there, you can start writing up a business plan. It’s not the most exciting part of the process, but it is an integral one, as you’ll be using this plan for the entire time you will be operating. It should outline what your company aims to be, what your products are, how your business is organized and managed, as well as what projections you have for finances — all supported by research about the industry and your competitors.
Compliance and paperwork
Once you’ve got your name and business plan ironed out, it’s time to start thinking about legal requirements. If you are registering a limited liability company, then you’ll need to choose a registered agent, draft up a certificate of formation, and an operating agreement to start. Most states allow entrepreneurs to submit all these online, via mail, or in person, but fees will depend on your state, so be sure to inquire with your Secretary of State’s office, too.
Next up are licensing and permits. The winemaking industry is heavily regulated, and you’ll need to apply for a permit to operate a winery, register with the FDA, and have your company approved by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. It’s a lot to think about, so it’s best to consult with a lawyer to avoid making any mistakes on compliance.
The production process
Here’s the fun part. For starters, you’ll need to think about your desired grapes and where you will source them from. This can make or break the final flavors and feel of your wine, so take your time searching. There’s also the matter of supplies like barrels, glass bottles, corks (or screw caps), and labeling to consider.
Next, you also have to think about how exactly the wine will be made and bottled. You don’t actually have to have your own facility, as you can hire others who have mastered the art and science of winemaking to do it for you. This way, you can spend your time handling the many other aspects of running your business. If you want to make the wine yourself, then it’s important to understand that it will take some time to get comfortable and build up your experience in winemaking.
Lastly, you’ll have to think about storage. Look for a reliable warehouse that can house your wine during the aging process and send your bottles where they need to go. Be sure to think about temperature control, insurance, and proper storage and handling so that your wine arrives at your customers’ dinner tables in great condition.
Budget and funding
At this point, it’s clear that breaking into the industry isn’t cheap, so you have to be meticulous about your budget and consider where you will get your funding. Not everyone is born into wealth, so after you’ve computed your startup costs — including employee payroll, equipment, and insurance — then you’ll have to think about how you’ll pay for them. Bank loans, business lines of credit, and investors are all options you can consider.
Marketing and sales
Last but not least, of course, is getting the word out! Today’s unique circumstances have brought about some interesting ways to build a community around wine, so there’s a ton of room to get creative. Do your research to find brokers and distributors in your area, and look into potential campaigns you can run on social media.
If you need a little help with brand identity and customer engagement, then be sure to reach out. Starting your very own label isn’t the easiest of hills to climb, but it is very rewarding and definitely possible — especially with the right support.