posted by Ben
One thing Becky and I have learned in all of this is that we have to get out of our comfort zones! When we have gone to events in the past, we tend to stay around each other and do very little mingling. Now, when we go to events, it is usually as much to become known as it is to learn something. We recently attended the NC Winegrowers Association meeting. We did a very good job of mingling and made some good contacts there.
Another scary experience was when we decided we needed to get a feasibility idea from some bankers. We had written up a business plan, had the numbers put together, met with people from SCORE, taken several Small Business seminars, but when it came time to sign a lease or buy equipment, we needed to know that the banks thought we had done our homework too! We stressed and fretted about getting everything just right. We researched which banks we would approach. We armed ourselves with our accountant, but we were still petrified! As long as we didn't ask, no one would say "no way". Well, as long as we didn't ask, they weren't going to say "ok" either, but we didn't really think about that.
We kept procrastinating setting a date to meet with the bankers, because each time we looked at the spreadsheets or the business plan, we found something else to tweak. Finally, we bit the bullet and made appointments. We gave ourselves a week to prepare and figured we would just have to go with what we had. Well, we were very prepared. For a feasibility questions, I'm sure we had more information than these guys were used to. Neither of them would say "yeah, we'll fund you", unless we wanted to fill out an application. What we got was very positive feedback that let us know where our weaknesses were.
Our biggest weaknesses were in collateral and experience. Since neither of us had worked in a related industry, our experience was pretty much non-existent in their mind. Since we were going to lease the building and the equipment was not worth much, we didn't have much collateral. There isn't much we can do about collateral, but we decided to do something about the experience issue. Becky got a job at a local winery. She started in their tasting room and is now the wine club manager. She has learned so much from seeing first hand what goes on in a winery. The winery owners have been great too. They know of our plans to open a winery and encourage us every step of the way!
It is still tough for me to break thru my comfort zone, but with each step we make, it gets a little easier. Especially, when we keep getting such great results!