Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Colleen Cramsie, Co-Owner of James Cole Winery, located in Napa, CA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
My husband and I are owners and founders of James Cole Winery located in Napa Valley. We are a family-owned boutique winery focused on producing high-caliber, luxury wines. Our wines are sold directly out of our tasting room to people visiting and touring Napa Valley.
Tell us about yourself
My career started in direct marketing, specializing in the financial services and healthcare sectors. It was my husband's experience in the wine industry in Canada that brought us to Napa in 2000, the year we were married. We purchased our property on the Silverado Trail, and then the hard work began. Our estate is just under 11 acres, and we have totally transformed it over the years — from planting the vineyard to building the winery and making it the place we call home. I am most passionate about creating an environment where people feel welcomed and curating experiences that leave lasting impressions while sharing the wines we produce and the stories behind them all.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I am always taken aback when we are traveling and come across people who have visited our tasting room or tried our wines through a friend. Being the small family winery that we are, it gives me great pleasure and pride that people know about us and expresses that they are huge fans of ours.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
Mother Nature has proven to be the biggest challenge in our business. In the early years, that was mostly due to heavy rain too early or late in the growing season that could result in damage to our crops. In more recent years, that has been trumped by wildfires. In 2017, the fires surrounded us during harvest, and we were restricted from accessing our property to continue our wine-making. Thankfully, we found a way around that, literally, and were able to continue to crush and make our wines. The years that have followed have been challenged more by the threat of smoke. I can't count the number of apps I have to help monitor weather, fires, wind, etc. This has also impacted our cost of doing business with dramatic insurance premium increases. I'm a bundle of nerves come to Summer through Fall.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Do what you are passionate about. Starting a business is not easy, so you need to love what you are doing because it will likely dominate most of your time. Yes, it will still feel like work, naturally, but it should be work you believe in and that excites you, so you are charged to stay focused and keep going.
- Hire and surround yourself with people who share your values, have the missing expertise you might not have, and can help you better your company. And then treat them well and work hard to retain them. They will be one of your most valuable assets. Reward them and treat them that way.
- Patience and guts. Every business has ups and downs, and curveballs can be around every turn. The pandemic is a high-level example of that. Be nimble, stay vigilant, and stick with it. Try new approaches and evolve your strategies. Every year will present new challenges. Do your best to embrace them to become a stronger you and a better business.
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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