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Power User Spotlight: Complementary Skill Sets, Regulatory Know-How Spell Success for Partnership

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Power User Spotlight: Complementary Skill Sets, Regulatory Know-How Spell Success for Partnership

By NicoleD
Published: July 19, 2010

Mark Aselstine left his career in real estate development to start a wine club and export business with his brother-in-law. Turning an appreciation for fine wine into a successful business allows him all the typical benefits of being your own boss, including being able to spend more time with his family. In addition to his role as a business owner, Mark, also know as MarkAse, spends a great deal of time sharing his experiences and expertise with the Business.gov Community. His commitment to the Community makes him worthy of the title;power use- and we recently asked him to share his story- which we found is actually one of the keys to his success.

How did you start your small business? What was the deciding factor that made you ready to take the leap?

Before starting Uncorked Ventures, I was working at a real estate development company in San Diego. The terrible state of the market made it easy for me to look elsewhere and consider my other options. While reevaluating the criteria for my next career move, I considered the personal concerns that were affected by my work. I no longer wanted the lengthy commute and I had hopes of doing something that enabled me to spend more time with my family. During a family vacation to Peru, myself and my future partner, Matt, were surprised by the lack of and expense of American wines that were available in South America. We were both since inspired and after discussing several concepts, decided to start Uncorked Ventures' a business dedicated to'delivering high quality, hard-to-find wines at a fair price to customers who can't readily access such wines'

Through direct to consumer wine clubs and several restaurants in California, Uncorked Ventures currently ships to about 36 states. Because of the financial, equipment, and size requirements, I estimate that w're about two years away from exporting overseas but with successful growth, I see us doing so in the future.

You have a business partner' what would you say are the benefits and struggles of starting a business with a partner, as opposed to individually?

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to start this business with my brother-in-law as my partner. With the support of our wives, and the savings that we were both able to acquire through our previous careers, we decided together that we may have found the perfect niche for us to be successful business owners.

When you start a business by yourself, you only have one skill set to work with. The successes and failures of the business lay solely on your shoulders. Because we started a business as a partnership, you add to the overall skill set of the business. In our case, I tend to be more technically savvy while my brother-in-law, Matt, is generally better with the face-to-face sales aspects of the business. Our complimentary skill sets mean that we can focus on excelling at what w're good at rather than worry about compensating for our weaknesses.

On a more basic level, i's also nice to have someone to go through the experience with - i's more enjoyable and more feasible. Since we're starting from the ground up, it's just us. Although as we grow I can't say where we'll be in the future, we do not currently have employees. When it's just two of you, you have to make sure that your personalities work well together and you're able to work through any troubles. From my prospective, one of the reasons I enjoy my business so much is from the benefit of a successful partnership.

What do you wish you knew before you started your business?

I wish that I had more information on the agencies that are responsible for regulating my business and its operations beforehand. One of the toughest challenges I faced during the beginning phases of my new business was dealing with each agency to meet all required regulations. Because these regulations vary so greatly from state to state, it's important to know the laws in your state as well as who enforces them and how this is done. This would have come in handy for us specifically in applying for the proper permits from the alcohol beverage control board that enforces laws in our area. Between the lag time it took to obtain the correct permits and the actions it took the get there, this proved to be an unexpected obstacle.

My best advice is to take your time - the more the better - understanding the different regulatory agencies that you'll encounter. Any additional information that you can gather in the beginning will help you get it right from the start.

Although you don't have a physical presence in California, you have a very user friendly website. How did you start your website and what do you feel makes it unique?

In the state of California, you cannot be both a distributor and a retailer. For Uncorked Ventures, we chose to be distributor. Because of this, we have a warehouse to support our product but we do not have a physical presence for customers to purchase our wines. To facilitate our distributions, we knew we needed a comprehensive website that combined all aspects of our business but was also easy to navigate for the average user. In order to get a website up and running as quickly as possible, we used a simple template through GoDaddy.com to get started. This gave us a jumping off point but we knew we needed something more significant. We interviewed several companies that provided wine club related software which lead us to site we know operate.

We operate our website and our business under the pretense that the more information the customer has, the better. In addition to our traditional online store front, we provide additional services, such as personal shopping and gift arrangements, as well as an education for the interested in learning more about wine. We decided to incorporate a blog on the website and myself and my partner both contribute postings. These blog postings serve as an outlet for us to express our experiences but also give us a platform to share our story with our customers. As a small business owner, you never know where your next sale is going to come from or where you're going to make the next business connection. The more you get your name out there, the more people can identify with what you're going through, and the more they feel connected to your business the more likely those people are to support us.

What makes your business successful?

From a logistics standpoint, our business model is good; we're not focused on the price of individual bottles of wine but rather their quality and background...I've found that many people are more likely to support your business and take a chance on a particular wine if they know its story - where it came from, how it came to be, and why it's special. I've learned the importance of not underestimating this fact. Although it's a business, and economic prosperity is really the bottom line, we've found success by highlighting this intangible - the commitment or bond a person can form with a product or business if they can identify with the story behind it. We market our wines in the same way we market our overall business. Talk to as many people as possible, tell your story every where you can, and never underestimate where it'll lead you.

What is the most common mistake small business owners make?

It's extremely important to know your marketplace and your competition. Underestimating its importance or your competitors is a potentially dangerous mistake. It's easy to think that you have an original idea or that you're filling a void in the economy but chances are somebody, somewhere has thought of it first. Understanding how the size and influence of your competitors gives you the intelligence to make yourself special. The more information you have, the better equipped you are to find out where they are lacking and what you can do to set your business apart.

How did you find the Business.gov community and what keeps you coming back?

I found the Business.gov community through a basic Google search. While looking for information on licenses and permits, I found there were not a lot of reliable resources out there. I reached out to several government agencies for guidance but still had difficulty finding good information on the regulatory hurdles that I would face. It seemed that Business.gov and its community was one of the only, and one of the best, resources. I appreciate the valuable information that I received from Business.gov and am happy that I'm able to give back by continuing to share my experience and knowledge with my fellow members.

Quick Facts

Username: MarkAse

Date Registered: 11/18/2009

Total Messages Posted: 86

Total Kudos Received: 17

As of July 19, 2010


Except when specifically noted, any views or opinions expressed on the Business.gov Community forums, blogs or member-contributed resources are those of the individual contributors. The views and posted comments do not necessarily reflect those of the Business Gateway Program Office, the U.S. Small Business Administration, partner agencies, or the Federal government. Information on the Business.gov Community site is provided as a service to the Internet community, and does not constitute legal advice. Business.gov aims to provide quality and accurate information, but we make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to by Business.gov. Since laws and regulations change frequently, nothing provided herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of an attorney.

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