Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Mike Owen, President, and CEO of Crystal Basin Cellars, located in Camino, CA, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

We are a locally focused craft winery making award-winning wines from grapes grown in a 30-mile circle around our historic facility. Family owned and operated, we've made our stake in the competitive wine industry through hard work, a gritty ethic, and our Legendary Foothill Hospitality. We create a wide range of red, white, and sparkling wines that showcase a host of flavors and enjoy teaching our customers about new grape varieties and new flavors. Our customers are a diverse group of California and Nevada residents, most of whom are wine club members, and we ship our wine to over 40 states. We take great pride in our independent efforts and revel in our great results and learn from our not-so-great results. We recently opened up an urban tasting room in Folsom, CA, to address the wine demand without involving vehicle trips. We enjoy being a creative and innovative winery that thinks 'outside the bottle.'

Tell us about yourself

We were California kids with active parents in the 60's and 70's. Trips to Napa interrupted by Silicon Valley and the Cote d'Azur led to living the dream of winery ownership. It's a match between artistry and business with a forklift thrown in there somewhere. Our goal is to help prove that the grapes from our El Dorado region are as good as you can find anywhere. Our wines are that good too! My favorite moment is when a 'white wine only' drinker all of a sudden this moment where says - 'wow, I really like these red wines' it is when I know I'm doing my job.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

Not going bust! The only thing that happens fast in the wine business is going broke. Making it through a recession or two, forest fires and evacuations, a pandemic, freezes and blizzards, and psychotic government regulations is an accomplishment. We have been awarded some Serious Medals in our efforts, including Best Syrah at the CA State Fair and Best Mourvedre at the SF Chronicle Wine Competition, along with multiple best-of-class and double gold awards. The biggest accomplishment, however, is that we were able to push back on the naysayers who said it could happen or that the effort was not sustainable.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

Cash flow. Especially in capital and inventory-intensive business like wine. You have to plan on holding a vintage of red wine for 3 + years, during which you are buying two more grape vintages to hold for - you guessed it - 3 + years.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Aggressively pursue ideas - but not at all costs. An old CFO I worked for said, "the object of the game is to stay in the game."
  2. If you can avoid it - never take money out of your business without a cold, hard plan to have it generate income.
  3. You gotta live and breathe your biz if you want it to rock.

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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