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How to Start a Winery: Key Elements of a Winery Business Plan

an image of a winery

Owning a winery may seem like an adventurous or romantic family business to some, but that doesn’t mean it’s an easy job. Whether you’re looking to break into the market or expand your existing winery business, you may be up for a challenge if you’re lacking the right set of tools. As you embark on this journey, you need a well-thought-out winery business plan in your back pocket that outlines essential business information, including growth goals, products and inventory, organizational structure, historical and forecasted sales, accounting, and more.

Your winery business plan is a vital resource that provides your team with the necessary structure to keep your business afloat and ensure everyone is working toward the same goals. From navigating production timeframes to considering distribution costs, there are a lot of details that must be sorted out to ensure you’re prepared for the future. Although your business plan is a written document, it should be fluid and easily adjusted. As you make tweaks to your winery business on the fly, you will need to pivot your business plan to reflect these adjustments. Without total alignment among you, your team, and your business plan, you’ll have limited visibility into your winery’s future.

What to Include in Your Winery Business Plan

While your business plan should be customized to your winery and your specific growth goals, some key elements should always be included in a business plan. Consider including the following sections in your winery business plan:

Executive Summary

At the top of every business plan lives the executive summary. Use this section to provide the reader with a high-level overview of your winery’s history, mission, team, location(s), products, differentiators, growth goals, and financial goals. While there may seem like there is a lot to cover, don’t get too into the weeds in the executive summary. You will elaborate on many of these elements later on in the business plan.

Company Description

Many wineries have years of stories to share, especially when they’re family-owned and passed down from generation to generation. But that doesn’t mean a new urban winery isn’t equally as exciting! Regardless of how long your winery has been open, use the company description section to share what differentiates your winery from others in the local market. What was the reason for opening your winery doors? What trials and tribulations have gotten you to where you are today? Do you produce your product on site? Are you only a winery or do you produce other craft beverages such as beer or cider? Have you been awarded any achievements worth mentioning? Does your staff hold any certifications that set them apart? What financial milestones have you hit? Provide a detailed understanding of your winery’s purpose and offer a sneak peek behind the curtain at what is important to you as the business owner.

Market Analysis

While you always need to have a pulse on what’s happening within your winery, it’s equally as important to understand what you’re up against in the local winery market. Perform a market analysis and include any of your findings in this section so you can easily pinpoint where other wineries are succeeding and what opportunities you have to close any untapped gaps.

Do other businesses offer vineyard tours and tastings? Are they focused solely on reds or does their menu include an assortment of wines? How often are they making changes to their menu? Do they offer food to accompany their wine? Is there a monthly wine club that loyal customers can join? Do they sell their product by the bottle on site or in local stores? Are they investing in traditional or digital marketing to extend their customer reach? Before you can expand your customer base, you need to know who and what you’re up against so you can make strategic business decisions that align with your growth goals.

Organizational Structure

Many factors will play a part in determining the size of your team and the organizational structure of your operation, including your production volume, whether you have a tasting room, and your distribution model. Use this section of your winery business plan to outline the team based on their business section, making it clear who holds leadership positions and who handles production, accounting, front-of-house operations, etc. 

Product Inventory

To run a successful winery, you need to be able to meet the demand of your customers. If you aren’t able to successfully forecast the materials and ingredients needed to produce and package wine, you won’t have inventory to sell. To ensure your winery can handle your production demands, you need to create an inventory management process that is visible to each member of your staff.

When you are running low on a key inventory item, what is the preferred method of informing your staff? How should your team handle the purchasing and forecasting of required materials? Software can help make this process more predictable, but you’ll still want to outline standard operating procedures that work best for your team.. 

Marketing and Sales

Behind every successful winery are effective marketing and sales teams. While you may produce the best-tasting wine in your local market, you can’t succeed if your product isn’t being purchased by your target audience — and the only way to do that is to market to them.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to marketing, but you can use these questions to help put together a strategic marketing campaign that will drive sales and increase your revenue:

  • What are you currently doing to drive new customers to your winery?
  • Is your focus driving customers to your tasting room or to your website for online orders?
  • Are you engaging in tactics to drive repeat purchases, like clubs, allocations, or subscriptions?
  • Are you leveraging digital tools such as social media, email marketing, paid digital ads, etc.?
  • Are there additional opportunities for you to get involved with the local community?
  • When a sale is made, how is the order handled, the customer invoiced, and the products distributed?
  • Do you have a system to track the order history of your customers?

Understanding how you can increase your reach and improve the sales process will lead to a smooth-running operation that hits (and often exceeds) any goals you have set for your winery.

Funding Request

Depending on the purpose of your winery business plan, you may be looking for a loan or additional funds to take your winery to the next level. If you’re using the business plan to source additional funding for your venture, you should use this section to outline the amount of funding needed and how you plan to use those funds. Doing so will provide potential investors with complete visibility into how their money will be used and distributed throughout the business.

Financial Projections

At the end of the day, revenue is key to owning a successful winery business. Use this section of the business plan to demonstrate your winery’s profit growth over the past few years (if relevant) and where you expect the business to be in five years, ten years, etc. Setting financial projections, especially those that are broken down into quarterly segments, makes it easier for you and your team to track your growth against the targets and pivot as needed. Invest in accounting software that can make bookkeeping easier and more accurate so that you can better manage cash flow and quickly identify any gaps you need to close to hit your targets.

When possible, it’s a great idea to add supplemental materials to this section, including bank statements, income statements, cash flow statements, loan information, and any additional documentation that clearly outlines your winery’s financial metrics.

Appendix

To conclude your winery business plan, use the appendix to house any supporting materials that provide additional clarity into anything you’ve included above. Examples include cost worksheets for capital expenses and operations, budgets, the winery layout, contracts, and relevant licenses or permits.

Pro Tip: Successfully Manage Your Winery with Business Management Software

As a business owner, you understand that running a business is a lot easier said than done. From hiring a trustworthy team to distributing products and marketing your winery, there are a lot of factors that come into play. Without effective business management tools, it can be increasingly difficult to handle everything on your plate — especially as you continue to grow your winery business.

By investing in winery management software, you can feel confident knowing that nearly every aspect of your business is being tracked and monitored, freeing up your valuable time to focus on the big picture. When browsing the various winery management software options on the market, look for a tool that can help you:

Using winery management software, you’ll be investing in a tool that can influence the success of your business. By equipping your team with a central hub for all business information, you can have peace of mind knowing you have the data to solve any problem that may arise.

Why Your Winery Needs a Business Plan

Even if you’ve been running a family-owned winery for years without a business plan, we recommend taking the time to put one together now. From understanding little details like how long it will take for the grapes to grow to how your business loans will be dispersed throughout your operation, a business plan is an effective way to give clear visibility into your winery’s present performance and future plans. Here are a few reasons why having a winery business plan is critical to your company’s success:

Growth

Anyone can have goals for their business, but if you don’t write them down and hold yourself accountable for them, they likely won’t be met. A business plan lays out your winery’s financials, marketing and sales strategies, and other elements that must be accounted for when setting growth goals. By having clear visibility into where your winery currently stands, you can make realistic goals and hold yourself to the designated benchmarks quarter after quarter.

Investors

Depending on your vision for your winery, you may need a loan or investor to help you achieve it. Your winery business plan outlines your company’s history, financials, and sales strategy — helping investors determine if your company is worth investing in. Using additional funding opportunities, you’ll be able to accelerate your winery’s growth.

Business Decisions

As a business owner, you’ll be forced to make difficult business decisions from time to time. But those decisions can be made even more difficult if you lack insight into what’s going on with your winery business. With an up-to-date business plan, you will have a pulse on business operations, winery production, and goal tracking, helping you to make more informed decisions that are backed by data.

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