Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Kelly Allen, Owner of Artemisia Farm & Vineyard, located in Bentonville, VA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I own Artemisia Farm & Vineyard, a small farm and micro-winery in the foothills of the blue ridge mountains. We have a subscription-based, home delivery CSA (community supported agriculture) membership in which we collaborate with other farms to grow and deliver local food to folks in our general area. We also make aromatized wine (think vermouth) from hybrid grapes, local fruit, and native herbs and botanicals. We sell this primarily to local individuals, small restaurants, and independent wine shops in the Virginia and D.C. areas.
Tell us about yourself
I started Artemisia with my life partner, Andrew, in 2019 just before the Covid-19 pandemic. We're wine industry veterans and wanted to keep our professional lives centered on wine without the toxicity of the service and sales industries. We felt that the best way to do that would be to return to the vineyard, growing grapes and making wine. Our work is dedicated to preserving the beauty and terroir of our unique growing region, as well as to promoting a sustainable alternative to dominant trends in viticulture and agriculture.
Our CSA began as a Covid-19 business pivot but has since become a wildly successful aspect of our work. We combine produce that we grow with that of other farms and delivery throughout Northern Virginia and D.C. We also have a CSA members-only online recipe box and add-on marketplace written exclusively by us. Each recipe comes with beautiful photos and a historical backdrop. Whether it's our wine or our CSA, our goal is to enrich the lives of our customers through beauty, inspiration, and experiential narrative.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Releasing my first batch of aromatized wine (we call it botanical wine) was a dream come true. While I interned at a few wineries locally, I'm largely self-taught when it comes to technical winemaking. There are few winemakers in my region specializing in aromatized wine, so I basically had to learn the technique through trial and error. When our first bottles landed on the market, I was sure no one would buy them. They sold out in a handful of months.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
In agriculture and wine, cash flow can be tricky. There are a lot of upfront costs and unexpected expenses to account for. A great example is the Covid-19 pandemic. While we were able to pull through our first year, we're still in financial recovery years later. Striking a balance between marketing, sales, and growth is the key to long-term stability.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Know your numbers. A strong accounting system is absolutely essential. Whether it's complex tax categorization or compartmentalizing spending projections, financial fluency is the bedrock of success.
- Become a storyteller. I see plenty of brands out there with beautiful marketing but absolutely no personality or relatability. People aren't interested in brand signaling. They're interested in being a part of an experience. A strong storyteller makes their customer base feel as though they're walking the adventure of entrepreneurship together.
- Reality-check your timeline. In our modern culture, both customers and business owners expect results within a year or two. Sometimes that happens, and it's great when it does. More often, you won't start to see real traction until year three or four. Be prepared to endure obscurity for a few years at least.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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