Home Wine News Articles Shop for Wine Accessories About Links Downloads Contact

Good Grape Wine Company

Left side of the header
Right side of the header

An Eight Step Winepreneur Therapy Program

… I settled into my too small aisle airline seat outbound from SFO, a long anticipated weekend in wine country now just a memory; I closed my eyes and let my mind wander. 

The movie director in my mind’s eye yelled, “Action” and I loosely guided the narrative in my half-awake half-asleep state of obliviousness …

I entered the small panel-lined room that felt like a cross between church basement and the labored Zen motif of a therapist’s office; a fake tree with dusty leaves adorned the corner. Gunmetal gray folding chairs haphazardly created a semi-circle. My eyes darted as I sized up the strangers who were to become my friends.  The dank air filled with nervous perspiration.  I chewed my lip as my stomach knitted knots of anticipation. I cleared the knot that had jumped up from my stomach into my throat and said to the other wine lovers assembled, “Hi.  My name is Jeff and I’m a would-be wine entrepreneur.” 

In an instant, the room settled and tension released like a clock striking 5:01 on a Friday. The group responded, as if channeling a Catholic responsorial psalm, “Hi, Jeff!  I’m a would-be wine entrepreneur, too.”


What followed was a therapy session of big ideas waiting to be uncorked from the proverbial bottle ... each of my cohorts living a life of secret dreams and half-baked desires centered on the good grape, certain success assured if only “Temerity” would first get in the ring with “Security” and kick its ass, before dispatching security’s tag team partner, “Risk.”

Abruptly jarred back into consciousness by a fleshy, grinning, chirping faux-friendly flight attendant of a certain age, somewhere in that predominant airline nexus of tenure that is older than “Cougar,” but younger than Grandma, she was using her beverage cart as a blunt force object, bumping my shoulder, knee and foot in one questionably inadvertent thrust.  I quickly left my mental respite and imaginary new friends in group wine therapy and wondered when 6’1 and 190 lbs. became outsized for the airlines …

While the above vignette is fictitious, it is emblematic of a shared thought pattern because most wine enthusiasts harbor a deep-seated interest in starting a wine-related business of some sort, aligning their passion with their profession, a thought that eats like yeast on juice sugars.

Perhaps, more than any other industry aside from technology, the US wine business WAS, and IS an industry built on entrepreneurs starting small business concerns with hopes and dreams for success.

Couple this manifest reality with a sea tide of self-help books encouraging, nay, excoriating the restless to follow their dreams and you have a tipping point of interest in getting into the wine industry.

Certainly, the economic tide of the last several years has dampened the pace of development of small wineries and small businesses serving the wine industry, but the growth continues unabated.

Yet, you have to ask yourself, “Why?”

The familiar anecdote is that 90% of the wineries in the US battle for 10% of wine consumption by volume.  The vast majority of the wine that is guzzled comes from large corporations.  If you couple the notion of a “sea of many” wineries fighting for a slim percentage of “mouth share” with Small Business Administration statistics about success rates for new business (over half will fail in the first five years), it paints a picture of extreme risk.

The dream and the pursuit marches on, however.


This post isn’t about daydreaming it’s more about the delta in between dreaming and doing, moving from point A to point B and thinking while you’re doing it.

Thomas J. Watson, IBM’s President for nearly half a century in the 20th century famously said:

“And we must study through reading, listening, discussing, observing and thinking. We must not neglect any one of those ways of study. The trouble with most of us is that we fall down on the latter—thinking—because it’s hard work for people to think.”

Here are eight steps and additional resources for “thinking” about your wine venture:

1) Start by using either a “Passion to Profit” template OR a mind-mapping template.

The difference between the two is the Passion to Profit template is for identifying and aligning your strengths around your interests.  The mind-mapping template is for brainstorming business ideas if you’re already certain about which direction you’d like to go in a new business venture

2) Once you have a business in mind, use the Business Model Canvas for mapping out your business model and ALL of your revenue streams

The business model canvas comes from a fantastic book called, Business Model Generation.  A must read not just for entrepreneurs, but also people that want to look at their job in a paradigm shifting light.  The book is partially available as a free ebook here.

3) Once you have your business model identified, do a PEST analysis.

A PEST analysis outwardly examines the Political, Economical, Social and Technological aspects of a particular market, including competitors – important in wine, a highly regulated, highly competitive business.

4) Once you’ve done your PEST analysis, which is largely market facing, do a SWOT (Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis. 

There is some overlap with a PEST, but a SWOT is primarily an inward facing exercise designed to examine a strategy and business proposition.


5) Once you have a finite grip on your PEST and SWOT, go through the Porter’s Five Forces of Competitive Position analysis.

If you make it through Porter’s and you haven’t completely thrown yourself into discouraging turmoil, congratulations!  You are now a candidate to create a business plan that addresses your desire to create and support a
wine business with projected financials and strategic marketing.

6) Abundant software resources exist for business plan generation, but I’ve always used the templates from the Service Corp of Retired Executives (SCORE) found here.

Once you’ve done all of this, take a break and mentally separate yourself from the creation process.  You’ll revisit all of your planning with fresh eyes and a detached ability to edit in order to create the best plan possible.

Assumingly, you’re going to be able to find funding for your new wine venture and start as a business.  The following are fantastic resources for early stage businesses to avoid common pitfalls in poor planning:

7) ShortTrack CEO

I’ve mentioned this eBook before.  It is a fantastic and head-nodding affirmation on many of the challenges of small business and the ways to avoid or correct them.  The ebook can be accompanied with coaching services.  Follow the ebook to avoid pitfalls to your first million and then engage the coaching to super-charge growth.

8) GrowthPanel

Everybody thinks they’re a marketer extraordinaire, yet hardly anybody actually “plans their work, and works their plan” instead relying on a grab bag of tactics in a haphazard way.  GrowthPanel is an organized program of marketing planning covering the entire landscape of marketing engagement.  If it’s not here, chances are you don’t need to do it.  A tremendous planning resource.  Ebook to get started here.

In sum, good luck on your thinking, planning and development of a wine venture, if I’m not with you in person, know and trust that I am with you spiritually and in my mind’s eye.

Additional Links and downloads

* Credit to for several of the templates including the Passion to Profit template which I formatted for download

* Business Model Canvas template

* PEST Analysis template

* SWOT analysis template

* Porter’s Five Forces of Competitive Position Overview template

* SCORE templates

* GrowthPanel ebook Download

Photo Credit: Will Engelmann


Posted in, Wine: A Business Doing Pleasure. Permalink | Comments (5) |


On 11/13, Michael Ellis wrote:

Thank You for such a helpful post.  Some great links and resources here to take an idea and make it a reality.  Cheers!

On 11/13, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

great stuff!

On 11/15, Joe wrote:

any books on how to do it haphazardly?

On 11/15, Galen Struwe wrote:

The picture painted by stats from the SBA do indeed point to extreme risk for business start ups but any entrepreneur worth his or her salt will understand that inside them lies the inescapable truth that the risk they are referring to is the actual canvas that we create on. You see, I believe starting a business in the wine industry is an art form, albeit a sloppy form but an artistic one nonetheless.  Success doesn’t come here by the numbers or with “logical” plans.  Too many variables for that.  And honestly I couldn’t tell you for sure how it comes.  I suspect that the short answer is that it comes by the seat of your pants as it has for me. Pay the ticket, take the ride.  My journey with Sacre Bleu has been amazing at every turn.  I’ll pour a glass of wine sometimes while thinking about it and recall the Russian poet (can’t think of his name) who wrote the line “To live is to burn” and bring some perspective to bear on a trip like mine.  This business is not for the faint of heart but I can say with certainty that when it works, when plans finally come together, there is no greater industry to be in in the entire world.  Come on, we sell wine. We sell freaking wine.  How cool is this?
I’m rambling, again.  Great post, Jeff.  Lots of heart..lots of heart.

On 11/16, janet majors wrote:

Great post Jeff, but you left off one last point.  Once you’ve done all of the above, then make an appointment with your local therapist to check you sanity level. We all know this industry is not for the weak or unstable. If you have passed everything, then you’ve earned a glass of wine!


View More Archives