Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in wine but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Terrence (Peter) MacInnis, CEO & Co-Owner of Bee & Thistle Winery Inc., located in Debden, Saskatchewan, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Bee & Thistle Winery is a veteran family-owned winery specializing in fruit wines crafted from estate-grown fruit. Established in 2019, Bee & Thistle Winery is co-owned by me, CEO. My wife, Margaret, is a UC Davis-trained winemaker, and my siblings Collin and Anne also manage the winery. Our main customers are local to Saskatchewan, with a smaller mail order from other provinces. Our focus market is women from 19-90 with a taste for quality fruit wine, although men are increasingly part of our tours and purchase wine once they taste it!
Tell us about yourself
Our winery was established as a value-added product to make with all the orchard fruit (particularly Haskap/Honeyberry, Black Currant, and Rhubarb) that we were producing. Our motivation comes with a desire to continue to be recognized as a small craft winery creating award-winning wines for everyone of legal age to enjoy. The sense of accomplishment in going from fruit to bottle to market is the driving force.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Our biggest accomplishment to date was achieving international recognition in 2021 and 2022 at the New York International Wine Competition as Canada's Fruit Winery of the Year in both years. We've established ourselves as a leader in the production and marketing of fruit wines, with a focus on Haskap.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
The most difficult part of being a business owner is the continual rise in the cost to make a bottle, particularly fuel charges and excise tax affect our bottom line more and more each year.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Do your homework. Research, visit/tour, and talk to as many owners of similar businesses as you can. And really listen to what they have to teach you. Establish your brand and your story. Everyone loves a story, and everyone loves a good brand image. Don't skimp on photography, social media presence, and advertising.
- Establish a network of like-minded individuals for support. Belong to your associations and brainstorm ideas to increase your market share.
- Follow all provincial and federal regulations, establish a rapport early with your governing body (for example, our provincial liquor authority), and ask as many questions as you need to in order to fully understand what is expected of you.
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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