Have you ever wanted to say yes to an opportunity so bad you could taste it? Did you say yes? What did it feel like?
Jim Riley has spent his entire life saying yes to career changes and unique personal opportunities. Just ask him where he is headed next and you might be surprised at the answer. When we last caught up, Riley was flying to Montana to race a high-altitude Spartan race that was 13-plus miles long and included over 30 obstacles. Now, Riley is ranked fourth in the world in Spartan racing in the 50 and over male age group category.
It’s people like Riley who are not afraid to start a company from scratch and who are able to make it move mountains in under a year. That’s precisely what Riley did when a business colleague approached him to import wine from Mexico. Eric Morley from Blue C Advertising in Costa Mesa has been traveling to Baja Mexico with Riley for the last 10 years to race off-road trucks and support the orphanages of the region on an annual basis.
Riley never noticed the emerging wine industry growing right under his nose until Morley brought it to his attention. Riley’s background is in spirits as the former vice president of public relations at Nolet’s Ketel One Vodka and owner at his own startup, Azunia Tequila, from which he recently retired. Morley felt the U.S. could use more wine, and the wines from Baja were some of the best he had tasted in years. It did not hurt that the media was pushing the area of Valle de Guadalupe as the “Next Napa,” according to the Los Angeles Times. So, Morley did what any good businessman would do — found a guy that knew how to get stuff done.
Morley approached Riley to take a trip down to taste wine and have some adventure. He had a motive. He was going to get these wines imported to the U.S. Soon Riley turned the idea into an opportunity. They were going to create a sustainable business that could help the community’s orphanages on a regular basis.
The business plan was also a way for Riley to test the waters in the crowdfunding category to challenge the marketing support so many people talk about. To date, it has all worked very well. The crowdfunding campaign they launched through StartEngine.com has raised over $228,000, and the fourth-largest distributor in the United States, Young’s Market Company (YMCO), picked the brands up for distribution in California.
Riley and Morley are on the outset of launching their second capital raise and launching another crowdfunding campaign for a craft beer. They are proud to say that over 125 bars, restaurants and retail stores now sell Baja wines due to their efforts. They have even secured some of the top wine outlets such as Whole Foods Market, Sprouts Farmers Market, Costco, Northgate Gonzalez Markets and Vons/Pavilions.
The final step in the wine process will be to increase sales on the direct to consumer website that showcases wines for sale, blogs and tourism. It’s a complex system weaved together but easily explained on Riley’s new podcast, The Answer is Yes. Riley suggests that voice is the future of marketing and he is putting all his efforts into this podcast and the promotion of saying yes to opportunities such as his Baja wine project. He is also learning to give back more sing some of the techniques I teach.
Riley has been great at tapping into local talent and resources to build a well-rounded business with strong leadership. As this article was being written, Riley and Morley were finalizing their plans to launch a podcast network at the Blue C headquarters. Together they will tell the story of Baja United Wines and help others tell their story. As I left the interview, Riley handed me a bottle of Monte Xanic’s sauvignon blanc. He said to enjoy one of the hottest selling Mexican wines for the last 30 years — one that has even graced the menu of legendary restaurant French Laundry in Napa and the luxurious Javier’s Cantina in Newport Coast.
Original article published by Entrepreneur.
By: Dave Meltzer
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