The story of getting Jávi Cellars off the ground after graduating Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in '17 was a long one but also an adventure that was in itself well worth it. The best part is that it continues each day with the help of Club Jávi advocates that have helped greatly and that I am very grateful to...here is that story;
The Idea |
It would be important to start this story with stating I had no clue what I wanted to do in life, a very real part of every 20-somethings journey. Of all the advice; do what makes you happy, work hard when you are young, try as many things as you can...but nothing was more impactful and tied it all together than "Think Big". So that is what I did, but it took some time to come full circle.
In the end of that circle, it was very clear that the largest business within the wine industry would have to encompass the world. This was a short time after taking a wine curriculum study abroad to Australia, and a sensory class that explored wines from all over the world. In my mind, anything smaller than multinational would not capture 'Wine Culture' or my interest for long.
Shaping the Business |
How the "Club" portion came to be. I worked at a great winery in Edna Valley--still some of my favorite wines to date. What I really enjoyed and the patrons enjoyed were stories of wine, stories of place, an experience that they could buy now and have again at home. It was my thought that if they bought a wine that tasted just as good at home they would absolutely come back as an advocate, as a multi-year club member with all their friends. Well I got in trouble for not pushing the wine club enough, to me this was just plain silly, I was always pulling 6-packs and 12-packs, but the real money was made with locked in club members. (most of which only stayed on the required year) This was a part of the business that was not so romantic as the rest, to me at least. Thus Club Jávi was born, I am going to make a club that is no obligation! Eh, who cares, there are businesses already doing that...it doesn't actually make me different. Then, part two came! What if my club 15% discount was good in every major growing region of the world? Oh **** I remember saying, maybe there are clubs doing that already but they are just California or just France, but how about the whole world? It will definitely take some time to get to that point, and I know wineries would have to get something substantial back in return for buying into this model...but if it came together it would be the first of its kind. Simply, an ordinary idea elevated with 'Thinking BIG', and I was going to go for it!
How the "Video" experience of came to be. Bare with me, we have to quickly go back to when I was 15. Before I could drive I was well on my way to getting a pilots license in a Cessna 172, this passion is still very much a part of me and tied into the launch of Jávi Cellars. Keeping up with AOPA/FAA news had me starring in the face of new drone regulations. I knew about drones but it wasn't till I read you need a drone license to sell your photography/videos that it clicked that I have a head start on doing this because current pilots could simply go in and get the license... I thought, wow I could help pay for this new wine venture by doing Real Estate & Winery Estate Videos. Little did I know that this was really fun and I did make me a little money on the side. Also showing me this could be a unique experience that I could provide to every single winery I worked with. This was a part of my give back to the wineries. An added experience to expose their brand to the world not just in text but in a video. A passion for flying & the opportunity seen helped this 'Think BIG' idea get its shape.
How the "winery selection" came to be. In the beginning days of approaching wineries, it was hard. Not only where wineries not very receptive to my original business models (there were many), but I often didn't like the wine or the experience of many. No matter how many hours of research I did before going to taste the region, it was the same. So I tried something unconventional and often time-consuming. I did no research (points went out the window), and instead went to each region and tasted as many wineries as I could fit into a few days. Stopping when I found a winery that was everything I was looking for in a partner: Down to Earth, Fair Prices, Experience Driven, and of course open to working with just a kid still in school. Some days I found a winery just after 3 stops, some regions I left finding nothing that had all 4 criteria but that was better than lowering the standard. In this case, it was still 'Think BIG', not for me but for the winery.
How to get the first members and find a good business model. Shortly after getting back from studying wine in Australia I started putting together the core concepts; when would I ship, the pricing, ect. Furthermore, I did have a 30 something page business plan at the recommendation of 'business academia', but the problem for a new business like this is that I was rewriting that thing 2-3 times a month. A lot of time wasted. So I tried something new. I wrote 4-minute pitches of the current business model with 3 survey questions, after which I went to grocery stores and polled people leaving. A success to me was an email address with the intention of letting them know when I launched. These successes picked up with each new model but at the snail pace of approximately 10 successes an hour. Fast forward 100 hours and I have amassed a pretty large list to start with. While many of these people were pitched a slightly to very different business model, it was my first data point pointing to YES. The end of this story is launching with 1600 email addresses, 500 unsubscribing on the first email...that was a hit but the saving grace was 200 new sign-ups from email shares or family and friends.
Getting the Passion for Wine |
How wine came to be a part of my life. With a Father that built a wine cellar, and a Mother that shared the home winemaking culture with me, it wasn't too much to imagin that wine became a fun part of growing up. From a young age I was involved; fortifying the Port, tasting a sip of wine at dinner with a pause and to only exclaim, "It's red wine", to working at a winery (for tips) directing cars and some cellar chores season to season to help out. Even with this upbringing I didn't know if it was for me, bird netting by hand was tedious work and harvest overall was grueling. Yet, when I got into Cal Poly for a BS that allowed me to learn business in the context of wine, I couldn't have seen a better 5 years to pursue.