Categorized | Shoestring Startup

You’re Welcome – A Love Story from the boys at SLO Down Wines

Why did you start your company?

What other reason is there: girls! In college, we started making wine together because it was the most fun way we could meet said girls (and, consequently, still is). Unless you’re reading this and you’re a girl, in that case, we started it in order to rescue puppies. Regardless of your gender though, our winemaker, Chip, was hit (read: stricken) with inspiration as the winery he worked for during the fall of 2006 almost dumped some leftover wine down the drain. We had better plans for it, and kept it ourselves; using old French barrels to store it under a bridge while we were in school (to be winemakers) at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo.

Date officially launched?

Well, after a few years of sharing with our friends in the dorms, we decided, not only were we getting better at what we were doing as a hobby, but the wine industry was stale. The same stuffy people and practices have been the norm for wayyyyyyy too long. We felt there was room to shake everything up. So, in 2009, we pestered enough friends and family with business plans, and many bottles of our wine, until we got ourselves a little cash, blended some wine, and filled up 9,600 bottles with it.

What is your product or service?

You’re Welcome – A Love Story from the boys at SLO Down WinesThus began SLO Down Wines. We’re a lean machine winery out of California’s central coast. We’ve been bottling our Sexual Chocolate wine for the last four years and distributing it all over the planet. We tricked some friends into helping us plant a few acres of Syrah in Santa Maria by dragging a keg out to the field and explaining how much ‘fun’ it would be (thank you for the inspiration Tom Sawyer). The rest of our wine comes in the form of Zinfandel from Howell Mountain in Napa, CA. It’s grown in a friend’s vineyard and these days, we even pay for it.

All of this comes together in a perfect blend to make Sexual Chocolate a winner, year after year. The Zin brings a rich, warm mouth feel that reminds you of biting into a milk chocolate covered cherry. The Syrah delivers a finish that does not linger after the party is over. Why? Because everyone hates that person, and we hate obnoxiously huge wines.

In the future, we hope to grow into a full line of wines to offer our adoring public. The first order of business is to create the perfect white wine to compliment what we’ve got going with the red that we currently sell.

What type of marketing or advertising do you do?

Every kind. We do all the standard stuff, newsletters, blog, SEO for our online site, all the social media. We also get into events to pour our wine as often as possible, in San Francisco, this usually means dropping in on startup events where we can get the wine out there and also catch up with others from the startup universe. No, we’re not tech, other startups still exist. Getting face time with people is the best way to sell a product like ours. Everybody (almost everybody) has had wine before, and we have to give people a good enough reason to try ours. Pouring them a free glass is a pretty convincing argument. And we like to party.

We’re also always trying for celebrity endorsements (… we’re waiting Hugh Hefner/Ron Burgundy, the phones are always clear for you guys) and reaching out to publications that we can work with where we can produce meaningful results for them, their readership, and ourselves. But the biggest thing we have for marketing is our brand. Proving to everyone that we’re a bunch of irreverent winemakers is actually a pretty good way to sell wine. Staying true to that keeps us in business.

What free online or offline tools do you use?

HARO is a great tool for us as far as marketing is concerned. There’s a free subscription that helps put us in touch with writers.

Elance.com is quick and easy for outsourcing tasks that we can’t or don’t want to do in house.

Agilezen.com has just come to our attention, and we will be using the free version of their service

Do you use Social Media tools like Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn or ?

Yesssssssss… We don’t believe these are tools for everyone (we’re looking at you, toilet paper companies) but we make extensive use of them. It’s a great outlet to announce new shops or restaurants carrying our wine (which is good for them too) or keeping in touch with our young and (mostly) fun audience. Check us out:

http://www.facebook.com/groups/SLOdownwines

Follow us, but not in the way that is going to require a restraining order:

@SLODownWine

Or check out our website- Not gonna lie to you, it’s hilarious:

www.SLODownWines.com

What almost killed your business in the start?

Hangovers.

Would you want to be acquired by a bigger company, run it yourself or sell in a couple of years?

This is ours. And we plan on keeping it that way. So rejoice, Sexual Chocolate is here to stay. A good way to celebrate is to go buy a bottle. The best way is to buy two.

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