Wine Industry Trend? Innovative Small Biz Financing

2 Nov

I recently became involved with Toast Wine Lounge, a start-up wine bar in my new neighborhood (did everyone catch that disclaimer…). The founders, Heather and Kristen, have so much going for them and their business plan that’s its hard to single out what really caught my eye. That said, there was one thing that really stuck out: In addition to selling t-shirts and pre-purchase punch cards, Toast is raising start-up capital by selling memberships:

We need YOUR help! In the past, when someone needed help building something useful, such as a barn, the local community got together and built it. Once built, everyone would celebrate by sharing a meal under the new roof. We seek to build TOAST in the same manner. Help us Raise Our Barn! Your participation by purchasing wine glass punch cards, toast-tees or better yet a membership is all it takes to open the doors to TOAST. We are certain we will reach our goal and that one day soon we will all sit back and celebrate our collective accomplishment by enjoying a glass of wine in an inspired setting.

There are a range of member benefits, depending on the investment level, but they include things like complimentary tickets to winemaker dinners, a TOAST email address and calling cards with a “Founder” title, vouchers for glasses of wine, priority seating at the Melchior table (reserved for members only) and ‘serious celebrity status when you visit Toast.’

And then there’s Naked Wines in the UK. Yesterday named Innovator of the Year by the International Wine Challenge Merchant of the Year Awards, Naked Wines tout themselves as an “online wine market investing in independent winemakers, in return for delicious wines at preferential prices – which we pass on to our customers.”

The concept works by having customers (the website says they have 20,000) ‘bank’ £20 a month (or any amount in £10 increments) into a Naked Wine Angel account. They let these funds build up and then they invest the cash in ‘finding new and exciting winemakers and wines.’ The rationale:

Often because we know our Angels are ready and waiting with cash to spend, we tell a winemaker we’ll buy their entire production of a wine, which drives the price down. A saving we pass on to you. We also use it to help fund better grapes, barrels, or bottling. Whatever it is, you can be sure it’s helping you drink better wines, for less money.

What do Naked Wine Angels get other than boutique wines at good prices? They get access to a vibrant online community of winemakers and oenophiles. Scanning the message board, there seems to be nothing but happy customers. Too bad the US doesn’t have a Naked Wines!

These are just two examples of innovative small business financing in the wine world. I’m sure there are more out there. If you know of any please let us know. If you have an opinion on why the wine industry is so innovative, also, please let us know. Cheers!

Photo: Toast Wine Lounge

Crossposted at


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