Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Nicole Ward, Founder, and CEO of Wine Expressions, located in Cardiff by the Sea, CA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
My business has multiple services. I have an online boutique of wine & epicure-themed apparel. I create all the designs and do the printing, so I also offer custom orders for retail and wholesale. I offer small business services such as social media content design, creative materials for wineries, as well as website management. Lastly, I host wine events either at a venue, your home or on trips. I have customers from all over the world but mostly in the USA and California.
Tell us about yourself
I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit and didn't quite fit in with the 9-5 desk job world. I spent the early part of my career working in restaurants and managing beverage programs, which to me, was fun. My passion was in wine, and I have multiple certifications and transitioned to working in outside sales, which requires you to be a self-starter as well as have strong organizational skills.
By 2017, I was an independent contractor for multiple wine companies and also became engaged. I knew it was time to slow down a bit and focus on creating my own brand. Once the wedding planning started, I really saw a gap in cute Bachelorette merchandise, and there wasn't anything unique that I would wear. Everything looked the same. Same colors, same designs, nothing seemed to have a story. I started thinking of different designs that I would want to wear – because not all of us Brides-to-be are "girly girls." I came up with a few designs with the help of a few artist friends and officially launched Wine Expressions in 2019.
I quickly fell in love with graphic design and started to create more and more logos for my e-commerce shop. During the COVID lockdown of 2020, I was really able to sink into my passion for design and also learned how to print my own products. Fast forward to now, I am designing and printing 100% of everything myself. It was also very important to me that I only work with sustainable wholesalers and that nothing was produced in China. I am super proud to say that since 2019, I have only had one return from a customer. Customer service and design are what drive me each day. I attribute that to my background in hospitality and my love of graphic design.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I would say my biggest accomplishment is being entirely self-sufficient in my business. I am a small business, and even that is overwhelming, but I enjoy managing every aspect.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
The hardest thing is the time! Finding the time to do everything since I don't outsource and my least favorite part of owning a business is accounting, so I am a terrible procrastinator keeping my books up to date...haha!
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Be patient. You can't expect sales to come right away, and just having a pretty website isn't going to bring people to your business.
- Social media plays a big role for any business but realize you don't need to be on every platform. You'll drive yourself crazy. For example, I don't like TikTok and Twitter, so I am not on those with my business.
- Don't give up! A reason why so many businesses fail is that people give up.
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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