Year one of Nectar Tasting Room is in the books and it has been a year of incredible life, business, and marketing lessons. Being a business owner I have experienced some moments of extreme joy, gratitude, frustration and sheer terror. Nectar is my first business venture and as an entrepreneurial virgin I learned a great deal during the first year. I’m not offering any of this as expert advice to young start ups, rather consider it some viewpoints from someone who went down the road and experienced a modest amount of success and a great deal of opportunities for growth.
Things that didn’t work
I’ll start with the biggest areas of opportunity that I learned and observed from the first year.
This seems like a simple no brainer but a lot of energy goes into opening a business and making projections, securing funds, getting permits and just opening the flippin’ doors, planning the details of a full year of events and activities can be a challenge. At Nectar we overlooked the various events that pulled people out of the downtown core, the nuances of local events like Hoopfest, Armed Forces Lilac Parade, and the summer exodus for many Spokane residents.
In 2012 we have these events locked in and will be marketing differently during the summer. The best advice I can give to a start up is to take a moment to plan. When you’ve got things planned out, sit down with a group of business friends and plan even more. When that is over, keep planning.
One of my biggest struggles this year was staying organized and on top of all the little details. Some of this comes from the fact I am still managing a full time day job, was going through a divorce, and was also building the foundations for other business opportunities. Being unorganized caused too many things to sneak up on me that made us less productive and less profitable.
This year I am organizing my files and will hand over some of the details to someone else. Many start ups are too small to afford an assistant but struggle with the time to manage everything. Focus on the areas you are good at (for me it’s marketing and communication) and delegate some of the other areas (for me that would be finance and payroll).
We are a winery
While our space looks/feels like a wine bar, we are actually a winery; FIVE of them in one space. One struggle this year has been marketing one of our biggest strengths. Visitors get to experience FIVE Washington wineries and over 40+ wines in one location. We focus on wine education, showcase unique varietals, and also have the space to sit down and enjoy a glass of wine. A focus this year will be getting the word out about the wineries in the spot and hosting more and more Saturday / Sunday afternoon wine tasting traffic.
During our anniversary weekend I was asked over and over, “Did the first year meet your expectations?” That is a difficult question because I have VERY high expectations. Did we meet sales projections? Not quite, but that was mostly due to an unexpectedly slow summer. Did we make money (which is the key question)? Yes, but not enough to quit my day job. I AM very proud of what we accomplished in year one and Spokane residents must agree because we were voted by Inland Business Catalyst Magazine as the “Best Business Start Up” for the year. Below are the key contributors to our success and I encourage any start up to place your focus here.
Over and over again relationship marketing through Facebook and Twitter proved to be the best drivers of traffic. The relationships built through social networks extended beyond the internet into face to face with so many significant partnerships. Success stories include visitors from San Francisco, Washington DC and even Australia who started following my blog through Twitter. Each of these people spent money at Nectar. We also exclusively marketed many events just through our social networks and email list (now over 1000 strong). Many of these events were sold out or packed including the Spokane Wine Magazine release party (close to 100 people), New Year’s Eve event, and our Wine and Dine dinners. Staying completely social, we hosted over 40 people for a tweetup in December. The largest gathering so far for this type of event in Spokane.
A side note to this online marketing is the success of sites like Groupon and Deal Planet. We ran three deals in 2011 and have seen so much positive response. When using these deal sites, there are several important things to consider. Check out my post “Five Tips for Thriving with Groupon”
Membership has its privileges
I love my members. They are the biggest ambassadors and supporters we have. Now over 300 strong, our club membership is the most consistent driver of bottle sales and event tickets. Many of our members make visiting Nectar a regular routine of their weekly schedule. We will continue to look for ways to add value for our club members to reward them for their loyalty. If you’re not a member, check out our two wine clubs (Club Nectar and Quarterly Sip). You can even join online.
It is important to give back to the community in which you do business. Spokane has given Nectar their support and we eagerly jump on opportunities to support charity events and non-profit organizations. We were proud to offer discounted or free event rental services to the following non-profits this year; National Association of Business Women, Green Drinks, Spokane Symphony, American Childhood Cancer Organization Inland Northwest, Project Beauty Share, Make a Wish Foundation, and Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Collectively these organizations raised over $10,000 at their events and Nectar was proud to donate over $1000 in 2011.
Key areas of focus for 2012
I recently completed a S.W.O.T. (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, and Threat) analysis for Nectar. Below are the key areas of focus that you will see to make 2012 even better than 2011. The foundations have been set, now it’s time to launch into the stratosphere of success!
- Menu partnership with 4-5 restaurants that surround Nectar. Offering a greater food option to our guests.
- Introduce a small amount of retail product as the year progresses
- Consistent calendar of events (dinner, wine classes, and new events)
- Greater partnership with local non-profits and charities
- Brand merchandise – soon you’ll be able to wear your Nectar loyalty
- Event coordinator and space rental – We have one of the most beautiful spaces in the heart of downtown Spokane. Our goal is to have the space rented 6-10 times per month for groups of 20-100. Check out our EVENT PAGE for details.
- More consistent blogging. Yep – it drives traffic. Google search is a key driver of business.