Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food & beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Tony Gamboa, Owner of Sapphire Hill Winery, located in Healdsburg, CA, USA.

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

We're a small family-owned winery that's been handcrafting limited-production Sonoma County wine since 1989.

Our customers are primarily our wine club members who've joined after visiting our tasting room and trying our wines. We have club members nationwide who've joined while visiting Northern California and, of course, many locals.

Tell us about yourself

I spent about a decade working in tech in the Bay Area. Still, I decided I wanted to spend less time behind a computer working for a large corporation and more time focusing on entrepreneurial opportunities that would bring closer my passions and professional pursuits.

After my wife and I spent about 7-years as Sapphire Hill Wine club members, we decided to ask the previous owners, with who we had become close, if they'd be willing to sell us their business when they decided to retire.

My wife and I are motivated by hosting others and creating a welcoming space in our Tasting Room that leaves folks feeling cared for. Of course, we also love wine and are thrilled to be working in a genuinely exciting and fun space that results in a physical product we can be proud of and share with others.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

When you purchase a business, the customers, employees, contractors, suppliers, and service providers are not obligated to continue working with you, especially when the previous owners were so beloved and respected.

Our most significant accomplishment to date has been winning those groups over by taking the time to share who we are as people and what made us excited about this opportunity while also taking a genuine interest in learning why those groups and individuals like working with our business and giving them opportunities provide feedback on our direction moving forward.

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

When jumping into a completely new industry, especially one as strictly regulated as alcohol, you must comply with many fundamental rules and agencies. As a business owner, there's no one else to point fingers at if something falls through the cracks, so that can be stressful if you don't consult industry experts or take the time to do your homework.

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

  1. Give yourself, the attorneys, and the accountants plenty of time to perform your due diligence when purchasing an existing business.
    We spent over a year "kicking the tires" of this business before purchasing it, which gave us time to ensure it was the right decision for our family while also learning a lot about the business's operations.
  2. When getting started, create formal agreements with industry experts, so you always have someone to reach out to when you need help.
  3. Don't be afraid to give your best or most trusted customers a peek behind the curtain regarding how the business operates and your future strategy. We've received great feedback and ideas from doing this. We also found that it makes our best customers more "sticky," motivating them to do things that help our business succeed, such as referring others and making more purchases.

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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