Barbara Moran, Wine Enthusiast, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist
FJ: What lead you to creating your company?
T&B: I’m not sure it was a conscious thought. I landed in the wine industry by default. When you have 500 vines on your property and get involved with someone who has been “doing wine” for more than 25+ years; my business experience and background just lent itself to what we’re doing today, Wine Resources LLC, a fully operational winery in the Lancaster, Antelope Valley area, with Thief & Barrel Tasting Room on the front of the house.
The other side of the conversation might be, I’m not a great employee and have worked for myself for a very long time. My business focus for almost 20 years has been business consulting, marketing, networking and overall business development.
FJ: What was your key driving force to become an entrepreneur?
T&B: As I commented above, I realized early on, I’m not a great employee. I don’t do the 8 to 5 or 9 to 5 process very well. I don’t mind working late into the night and often find that to be my most productive time. Not many corporate jobs will allow you to work, on your own, at midnight. I enjoy working with others, being part of a team, but also work very well on my own and interacting if, when and as needed. I also enjoy working from my patio table or having my dogs at my feet.
FJ: What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
T&B: I believe I have a few favorite aspects of being an entrepreneur. The first would be both a positive and negative aspect; which is your business, the concept, plan, delivery, success or lack there of is based on your choices and decisions. On some days it’s incredibly exhilarating, while on other days or even moments, it’s incredibly stressful. A couple other reasons I thoroughly enjoy being an entrepreneur is the freedom it allows to spend time with my son, who hasn’t quite finished high school. We’re almost there, but it’s allowed me to be present for almost everything. I also enjoy and appreciate setting my own schedule; although it often does not fall inline with others; it always seems to work itself out.
FJ: What are three of your company’s goals?
T&B: Three of our company goals would be to offer a well-crafted, well-made wine from local resources. Antelope Valley offers over 45 local vineyards, most not offering a winery or tasting room on property, however many award-winning wines coming from the area. So many people are not aware of this. Being able to educate, raise awareness and offer an opportunity to introduce and encourage the experience of wine tasting, observe wine being made, offering classes in wine education for fun or long-term application, all fall under the wine experience. We are also big on giving back to the community through charitable events all over the Antelope Valley and a small handful into Santa Clarita area. We are also focused on establishing a minority owned wine business, representing that anyone with a true interest and willingness to learn and work hard has a place at the table, with the wine glass half full, of course.
FJ: What challenges have you encountered?
T&B: Lots of challenges. We opened our doors October 2017, with big dreams and expectations. Then reality hits. I believe many people are not aware of what it takes to plan, open, run and operate your business. We were slated to open in Spring or early summer 2017. Due to cutting concrete, drain installs, permits, approvals and more, we missed the 2017 harvest and opened our doors at the very end of harvest season. For our line of business, this was a huge obstacle. Harvest season equates to very hard work to get grape juice in a vessel, to be bottled at some later date, then sold, then money in the bank. We missed all of that. With chin up and hopes high, we pushed through. We tried to be creative and carry on. We came up against other issues over the following 18 months, with learning curves on how to do business with multiple government agencies that do not always agree on how we are suppose to do things, social media “haters” that decided to try to speak out against us. To this day, we’re not sure why. The amount of work required and the number of people to get the work done and done correctly, sometimes proved to be a task. Hiring people has been a challenge in that “good help is sometimes hard to find” cliché turns out to be true, for many reasons. Now, as we are passing our 2.5 year mark and making big plans coming into year three, voila COVID-19. The big question we needed to clarify, is the sale of wine an essential business. We were thrilled to find out that people agreed with us. Yes, the sale of wine is an essential business. Long pause, deep breath and here we are. We cannot pour wine in our tasting room, but we can sell for off premise consumption. Anyone who is comfortable and will abide by the social distancing is welcome to walk-in and purchase wine. Others call in, place their order and we deliver curbside. Others call in, place their order, back into a parking stall, pop their trunk, we place the wine in the trunk and off they go. For those in the local Antelope Valley area, we can and will deliver. As with everyone else going through this unfortunate and very scary time, all we can do is hope for the best while we do our part to offer a small bit of happiness and normalcy in very crazy times; all while minding our distance, disinfecting everything, including ourselves, often and washing our hands while singing for at least 20 seconds. LOL! Yep, obstacles seem to be ongoing, but at this point, we’re still chin up and hopes high.
FJ: What thoughts would you give to others who have similar aspirations?
T&B: Have twice the money you think you need to start up in the wine business, at least. Plan to work very hard, both mentally and physically. Use your resources and be willing to be a resource to others. Love the wine business, or any business you are looking to get into. If you do not absolutely love what you’re doing, with each obstacle it will get exponentially more difficult. Don’t be a quitter. If there’s a problem, then there must be a solution. It’s amazing how quickly people are willing to “quit” or “give up” on their plans or dreams. I had seen and experienced it in the past, but it seems to be even more so now; or maybe it’s because I’m getting old. LOL! Last but not least, have a business plan, know it inside and out, then remember, this is important, remember that it is fluid, it’s living, and it WILL CHANGE, sometimes daily. Just don’t lose sight of your end goal. The reality is, you may not get there the exact way you had seen it in your minds eye or on paper; but with determination, grit and perseverance, it’s still possible.
FJ: What are your responsibilities as the business owner?
T&B: Depends what day you ask. I do everything from working in the vineyard, assisting with harvest, working as a winemaking assistant, clean up
in the winery, driving a forklift (yes, fully certified), working in the office, working with the accountant, inventory, sales, scheduling events, networking with local businesses and organizations and working the tasting room. This would include just about everything; as I said, it depends on what day, what time and what kind of deadlines we’re working with.
FJ: Why will customers stay or do repeat business with you?
T&B: Per conversations I’ve had with our customers and things they’ve shared on reviews via social media, most people really enjoy our wines and love the small, quaint and inviting atmosphere. So many are shocked to find out that we have a fully operational winery in the back half of our space. To see equipment, barrels, 500-gallon tanks, forklift and other winemaking equipment and materials is exciting for many. Others enjoy our quaint atmosphere, great wines, our customer service and the time we take to get to k now our customers. We’ve had several that referred to us as “Cheers” for wine lovers. We take that as a huge compliment.
FJ: What is unique about your business?
T&B: Our business is unique for a few reasons:
- The business came together based on wine students from COC wanting a location to put to practice what they had learned through the wine certification program, their classes, relationship with their instructor who has been working in wine for more than 25 years. Not often do you find a business concept being driven by students with a vision, most of which were looking at their second career.
- Our business model offers a custom crush option, meaning that small lot winemakers, also known as garagistes, have the opporunity to take their winemaking to the next level, utilizing a full-scale winery and all that comes with it. We started as home winemakers, having to find a place to call home and a better environment to make our wine, taking things to a commercial level was not an easy feat. We know firsthand the in’s, out’s and obstacles involved. Hence the option for those ready to take the leap, whether commercial or not.
- We offer a full winery, which we convert during the non-harvest time into a location for food and wine pairing dinners, private and special events; as an example, we just hosted a surprise 40th birthday party with a 1920’s prohibition murder mystery theme, three course dinner and plenty of fun. As mentioned, we also offer paint and sips, networking meetings, team building for companies, client appreciation events and more.
- We offer the opportunity to make your own private wine recipe, as well as how to utilize wine as part of your marketing.
FJ: Who inspires you?
T&B: Many people have inspired me in my life. I’ve been blessed to be around many creative, out of the box thinkers, who have been successful in my eyes. That may be in their personal lives and relationships or professionally. I could name a few, but most are personal friends, teachers or mentors along the way who most of you will not know. Don’t worry, I’ve thanked each one of them personally. They know who they are and how very much I love and appreciate them. As for a few that you may know, Maya Angelou, Alicia Keys and my most recent find would have to be Brené Brown. I love listening to her speak and thoroughly enjoy her books. Her scientific work is fascinating, but her personal story is something I can relate to up close and personal.
FJ: If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
T&B: Believe. Believe in yourself, your goals and your dreams. Be willing to work harder than you have ever worked before. Don’t be afraid to change your mind or your direction. Always follow your gut, your instincts, your inner voice.
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