So here we were, years after planting the first vine in the vineyard. We had a few harvests under our belt, selling the grapes to wineries on the Niagara Wine Trail. It wasn't a profitable adventure so far. The countless hours we spent in the vineyard every week to grow top quality wine grapes wasn't something we kept track of, it was just what we did. We were only able to pay our property taxes with the income from the sale of tons of product. But, we made some amazing memories and were able to teach our sons the value of hard work and the pride of producing a good product. That is immense payment, something you can't buy.
We were ready to take that step to building our winery since Adam was looking to retire from the police force and we had saved all our married life. Should we start really small and grow? Do we start big and hope it works out? Should we make craft beer too? What if no one comes? What if we sell out too fast? What if we just can't do this? Night after night and day after day these questions and many more filled our heads. I think this is where most people get stuck. Where do I start? There comes a point when you decide that you are going to do it or not. And if you decide to do it you NEED to be 100% committed, no matter what. Kinda scary? Absolutely!
We decided that, it's go big or go home. We were going to start a winery and a craft brewery. That being said the building needed to be bigger, the tasting room needed to be bigger....everything needed to be bigger. We decided to make the building a statement, it needed to be beautiful, big windows and wood, so we got to work on that. That was actually pretty fun, designing our dream winery and watching it turn into reality. But I am getting ahead of myself.
There was the paperwork, formation of an LLC and an S-corp, a business plan, a financial plan, projections, equipment, accounting, engineering, land maps, architectural drawings, bank loan applications and the daunting liquor authority license applications, state and federal for both the brewery and the winery. We were told we were crazy, it would take 4 years to get our liquor licenses to operate. Waiting 4 years was not an option since the bank loans needed be paid back starting immediately. The pressure was on.
We were doing the application for our liquor licenses on our own. The process was incredibly daunting. There were times I had no idea what they were asking for, so I would call only to get a just as confusing answer. My mantra became just keep moving forward, never stop. If I wasn't sure I did the best I could and hoped I would understand better what they wanted if they rejected it. It took nearly a year of working on the application about 10 hours a week to get both applications done. I will never forget the day I sent in those huge envelopes into the authority, it was awesome!
We submitted the applications in May of 2014 hoping beyond hope we would get the temporary license before harvest, if we didn't the wine producing year would be lost and we wouldn't have our own wine to sell when we opened our winery the following spring. We receive our temporary license on October 3, 2014. We harvested our grapes starting October 5 with the birth of our first Five Sons Winery vintage. If that isn't God's grace, I don't know what is.
The only thing I had to redo on both applications was a hand drawing of the tasting room that they had asked for, funny enough. I was really accurate and careful when I drew it on graph paper and they returned it saying it needed to be hand drawn..... it was! So I quickly drew the layout of the tasting room on a scrap piece of paper and submitted it, it was accepted. Go figure! Government...
I will forever be proud of myself and of my amazing husband for accomplishing the start of our business. Often it was so hard, frustrating, exhausting and at times terrifying. But, we encouraged each other in the process. Doing what you dream is taking a risk, a risk of failure, a financial risk and a risk to your relationship with others. Not everyone will support and encourage you and some will even reject you. But you know what? It's YOUR dream, YOUR future don't let anyone or anything stop you! EVER! Keep moving forward and never stop.