How To Start a Wine Business | 12 Important Steps

People love wine in every corner of the globe. If you’re looking for confirmation for that fact, look no further than the global market capitalization of the wine industry. It’s esteemed that people drink nearly $30 billion worth of wine each year.

With numbers like these, you might be interested in getting into the wine business yourself. But doing so can be a bit complex.

If you want to start a wine business, you first need to decide whether you want to create your own label or not. Then you can figure out whether you’ll grow your own grapes or purchase them. You can also rent the facilities and machinery that you need to create your wine to save money.

1. Decide Whether You’ll Launch Your Own Label

The wine industry is larger than you might initially think. There are tons of different ways that you can get involved — regardless of whether you want to create your own wine or not. 

For example, you could create a subscription service that ships already-made wines to customers at set intervals. Or you could build a website that makes it easier for wineries to sell their wares directly to consumers across the globe.

The point is that getting started in the wine business doesn’t necessarily mean finding a plot of land, growing grapes, and turning them into wine. You can also resell products that have already been made or try something completely new. Just be sure to make this decision before moving forward with your plan.

2. Choose Between Growing Your Own Grapes or Buying Them

If you do decide to create your own wine, you have another important decision to make. That is, you have to decide whether you want to grow grapes or purchase them. There are some pros and cons to each option.

Growing your own grapes gives you complete control over your production process. It gives you the freedom to make the exact type of wine that you want without having to deal with any external parties.

However, growing your own grapes typically requires you to own or lease a plot of land. This can be very expensive. So if you don’t have a ton of funds upfront, you may be better off purchasing grapes from another grower.

If you purchase grapes from someone else, you’ll still have a lot of freedom to make the wine that you want. You’ll just have to choose who you buy from carefully to make sure you can still bring your vision to life. This option could save you a ton of money.

3. Rent or Buy Facilities and Machinery

If you’re going to be making your own wine, you’re going to need a lot of equipment to do it. You also need a facility where you can allow the wine to ferment. At this stage of the process, it’s a good idea to figure out whether you’re going to rent or buy these things.

Renting is often a better choice for new wine companies that are just getting started. It lets you get what you need without having to pay the full purchase price upfront. Then, as your business grows, you can begin buying things as your budget allows.

Here’s a quick look at some of the gear that you’ll need to start making your own wine:

  • Primary and secondary fermenters
  • Airlocks
  • Hydrometers
  • Lots of tubing
  • Bottles
  • Closures
  • A corking machine
  • Corks
  • And more

4. Do Some Market Research Before Launching Any Products

It’s important to clearly understand the value that you’re going to provide your customers with before you launch any products. Otherwise, you risk investing a lot of time and energy into an idea that doesn’t actually have a demand in the marketplace.

As you think about this, be sure to look into what people spend most of their money on when it comes to wine. It’s even better if you can find data for this on a local or regional level.

For example, you might discover that people in your area spend most of the money they dedicate to wine on visiting tasting rooms. In that case, opening up one of those may be your best bet. Or, perhaps you’ll find that there’s very little demand for tasting rooms in your area. In that case, you might realize that you’re better off launching a wine delivery service.

5. Write a Business Plan

At this stage of the process, you’re ready to create your business plan. Writing a business plan is really important no matter what type of company you want to create. That’s because your business plan is basically the outline that you’ll follow to turn your company into a successful one.

Here’s what every great business plan needs to include:

  • Your financial projections
  • Your analysis of the wine business and where you fit into it
  • A description of the products that you offer
  • An overview of your leadership structure
  • A description of what your company does

Research the Competition

As you can see, one section of your business plan should be dedicated to how your company stacks up to its competition. In order to create that content, you first need to have a solid understanding of who your competitors are and what they do.

The point of doing this research is to figure out how you can differentiate your wine business from theirs. You might be able to stand out with better service or a unique product type.

It doesn’t really matter what you do to stand out. You just need to make sure that you have a clearly defined niche. Otherwise, why would a customer choose your new business over one that they already know and trust?

6. Apply for Licenses

Most wine businesses need to have several licenses in order to remain in operation. But the specific ones that you’ll need will vary some based on what state you live in.

For example, wineries that operate in California often need to have each of the following licenses, among others:

  • Bonded winery license
  • Wine wholesaler or retailer license
  • Wine bar license
  • Wine and beer store license

Your state may have more or fewer requirements than these. Just make sure to check in with your state’s health and consumer safety boards to figure out what you need.

7. Secure Financing, If It’s Needed

Starting a wine business can be really expensive. It’s great if you have some savings that can cover some of your early costs. But you don’t necessarily have to pay for everything that you need out-of-pocket. Another option is to look into securing financing for your new wine company.

There are actually quite a few different types of financing available. For example, you should look into each of the following:

  • SBA Loans
  • Short-term business loans
  • Business lines of credit

You can also try tapping into other resources for financing that aren’t as common. For example, you can try raising money on a crowdfunding website like Kickstarter. Or you can ask your friends and family for some support.

8. Build a Website

Most consumers today look up a company online before they visit it in person or buy from it. That’s why it’s super important to have a solid website that you can direct your customers to when they want to learn more about you.

You don’t need to spend a ton on creating an ultra-high-quality site either. Instead, even a basic site will be enough to earn your customers’ trust and find new buyers for your products.

The most important page on your site is your homepage. It should be simple and clean with great images that showcase what you do. After that, you’ll also want a contact form so that you can get your customers’ information and begin marketing to them.

9. Market Your Company

Marketing your company is essential to its long-term success. It’s how you’ll get the word out about your wine business and what it does. Marketing can sound kind of scary if you haven’t done it much before. But it’s actually really simple.

You need to start by creating a brand image for your company. This just means figuring out how you want to present your business to the public. You might be a fun, quirky brand. Or you could be more serious and refined. It depends on which types of customers you’re targeting in the marketplace.

Once you know what your brand image will be, it’s time to begin sharing it with the world. You can do that by using some of the following marketing strategies:

  • Social media marketing
  • Email campaigns
  • Word-of-mouth marketing
  • SEO content marketing
  • Pay-Per-Click advertising on Google

10. Decide How You’ll Accept Payments

After you begin marketing your company, you should begin seeing a growth in the number of customers that you have. So now it’s time to figure out which types of payments you’re going to accept.

This will depend on whether you plan on running an online wine business, an in-person one, or both. But generally, you’re going to want to accept cash, credit, and debit at a minimum. Some wine businesses will also do well to accept alternative payment methods like Apple Pay and Google Pay.

Pick the Right Payment Processing Company

In order to accept payments online, you need to partner with a payment processing company. There are tons of them out there and it can be a bit overwhelming to have to choose just one.

However, you really can’t go wrong if you just pick one of the big names in the industry. Here are some options to look into:

  • PayPal
  • Square
  • Stripe
  • Helcim
  • National Processing

11. Hire Employees

Finally, you’re ready to start hiring your employees. There are tons of different places that you can find applicants online. Most new wine businesses start by posting job openings on popular job boards like Monster and Indeed.

If you think that there’s a lot of local talent in your area, then you may also want to post ads on a local-oriented site like Craigslist. Ultimately, it’s probably best to just post your ads on as many different sites as you can. Doing so will help you attract as many qualified candidates as possible.

12. Pick Your Payroll Service

After you hire your employees, you’ll obviously need to start paying them. This can be a labor-intensive process if you end up doing it on your own. That’s why most wine businesses choose to use a payroll service.

Payroll software will enable you to manage your company’s payroll with minimal effort on your end. Using it is a great way to free up your time to focus on the other important aspects of managing your new company.

If you’re interested in picking a payroll software, here are some options for you:

  • Paychex
  • Square Payroll
  • OnPay
  • ADP TotalSource
  • Gusto

The Bottom Line: Is Starting a Wine Business Worth It?

There’s a huge global demand for wine products. So you could potentially make a ton of money if you’re able to tap into the right segments of the market. However, not every business will be able to do that. You’ll need to make your company stand out in order to carve out a lasting niche for it.

For example, let’s consider how much the average winery makes. In Sonoma County, estimates suggest that winery owners can bring in about $11,000 in annual revenue per acre that they farm. 

Of course, you need to subtract your costs from that. These are typically around $5,000 flat and then $150 extra for each acre you harvest. That means, all in, you could walk away with roughly $5,850 in net income per acre that you farm.

So, using this model, you would want to farm as many acres as possible. The more that you’re able to farm, the more that you can make each year.

Other types of wine businesses can also be very profitable. But there’s little data available about them. Ultimately, you will need to compare what you’re making now to what your potential salary would be in the wine business.

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