posted by Ben
At first we were looking at feasibility. How much did we think it would cost? How much could we make off a bottle of mead and how many could we sell? We started doing research. We put together several spreadsheets with every possible cost we could think of. At first, we just listed items, then started putting actual dollar amounts to them based on prices we found online.
We went to other wineries for "market research". As we talked with some of the owners, we found other costs that we had not thought about, i.e. insurance, cost of wine poured for tastings, cards to leave at other wineries, etc. We started figuring out how much it would cost us to buy some land, build a building, plant some trees, get some bees...
Soon, we discovered that we were going to have to become expert mead makers, arborists, and beekeepers. Along with those, we would have to become the accountant, marketing, salesperson, etc. that every small business owner becomes. We decided that we needed to focus on one area, so we chose mead making. We loved the idea of having our own peaches, from which to make peach mead. And our own bees to pollinate the peaches and produce our own honey, but numbers got in the way. To have enough honey, we would need about 13 hives per batch. The first year, we were planning on 4 batches, so 52 hives. The numbers went up from there. We thought the best chance of success was to let the beekeepers do what they do best and use their product!
We drew up plans for our place. It had to large rooms. The front room was the tasting room and the back was for production. We had seen this same type of setup at most of the wineries we had visited. We started going out with a real estate agent and let her know what we were looking for. We figured we needed a plot of land and to build our place. Most of the existing buildings we were looking at just would not work for one reason or another. One we really liked would have cost more to renovate and make it safe for the public, than building a new one. So, we focused on land.
We started looking at different types of buildings. A "stick built" building was very pricey!!! We looked into steal buildings, but they were still not in our price range. We went to U-build it, which was closer to what we could afford. Part of what we were looking at was what kind of loan we could get. Almost everyplace we went, we heard the same thing "at least 20% down". This included the building, land, equipment and first years operation loan. We knew how much we had, so it was easy math to figure out the max we could afford. The land and building in most cases were close to our maximum. Of course, if you get the land and building, but have no money for honey, equipment, etc., it is tough to start a honey-winery.