Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Doozy, Part II

My husband and I had been looking for a business to get into for some time. With our recent unfortunate experience in long-distance apartment ownership, we realized that we needed to have complete control over our investments. Once we sold the apartments, we would have some money (read my prior posts to find out how much we netted from each sale) to use prudently to start a business. But we didn't know what was best for us. However, we knew what we didn't want. We didn't want to lease a space whose rent would eat up all of our profit. We didn't want teen-age, snot-nosed, unreliable employees (we had already surrendered control of our apartments to managers--and you know where that got us.) We didn't want a restaurant. We didn't want to spend day and night slaving at a business and losing touch with our children.

April 22, 2007, was a beautiful clear Sunday. We were driving to church that morning when we passed one of the many wineries out here. This particular winery allows vendors to shop their wares to tasters every weekend. As we drove by, my husband looked over at me and said, "I have a crazy idea and I don't think your going to like it." Well, that was a positive set up that made me want to hear more. I rolled my eyes and asked, "What?"

His idea was that we sell souvenir embroidered polo shirts. As soon as the last word left his lips, I was excited about it. It was the best thing that either of us had come up with in a long time. That day, on our way back, we stopped at those same vendors and tried to find a similar product, but no one knew where we could buy one. The next day, we visited many of the winery gift shops, and again, these items did not exist. Wineries sold apparel with their names on it--not a generic one that commemorated a visit to the entire region.

We decided that we would launch our products at the annual Temecula Valley Balloon and Wine Fesitival. However, the deadline to become a vendor was in ONE WEEK! Yikes! We only had an idea. In that week, we filed for a business license and reseller's certificate, (we received our business insurance a couple of weeks later), contracted with a friend to do the embroidery, developed our logo, trademarked it, filed our fictitious name, got our PO box, started ordering apparel from distributors, and applied to be a vendor at the festival, which was June 4. We had much to do.

It was a very exciting time, consisting of many family meetings and late nights. We made it to the festival with our men's and women's shirts, hats, canvas bags, blankets, sweatshirts, and more. We also had created a kids line of embroidered apparel, bearing our "Whine Country" logo (hence the name of this URL). We were at the festival with 300 other vendors. It was quite an experience. Things were slow until Saturday evening when it got chilly and we sold out of our sweatshirts, women's light jackets, and blankets. We made all our money that night. Within a couple of months, we were breaking even!

Well, in those few months, our business has evolved somewhat. We now rarely sell directly to consumers. My husband developed a broad base of wineries, hotels, and retailers who buy our products for resale. We still offer our original apparel (although the polos never really took off), but have added promotional products that have become very hot sellers. One product, in particular, has everyone out here really excited. We received our first order yesterday and have almost sold out already. To protect our business and territory, I don't want to spill the beans yet. Once we have established some reorders and have a solid customer base (we are branching this product to other areas and types of businesses), I will let you know what it is. Bear with me. I'm not being coy. We just can't afford to screw this up. Business people will understand this.

So, that's it. That's what we do now. My husband works, but his office is right off the kitchen and his clients are within a ten mile radius. The best part is that we own this business and we have total control over it. I hope to be able to give you even more details about it later on.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I will not be posting for a few days because I'll be busy visiting with my family. I'm sure you'll be doing the same. I'll catch up with you next week.