Small business owners have seen their companies change overnight due to the coronavirus. In our #openforbusiness series, we're highlighting Northwestern Mutual clients who have been forced to get creative in order to adapt to these unprecedented times and keep their businesses running. We hope you'll get inspiration from their stories and help support them whenever possible.
Business: Lorenzi Estate Vineyards
Owners: Don, Brenda and Michelle Lorenzi
Location: Temecula, California
Lorenzi Estate Vineyards has been open for seven years, but my family has been making wine as a hobby for many years. My Italian great grandmother passed the tradition down to my father and I crushed my first grapes in a little red bucket when I was eight years old. By the time I left for college, our production had taken over our three-car garage. My parents bought property in Temecula, California, about 90 minutes outside of Los Angeles, when I was still studying at University of Southern California. They opened the winery the same September that I started working as an intern for Northwestern Mutual in Los Angeles, where I now work full-time as the director of career development.
I also oversee the sales, marketing and social media for the winery. Once California began to shut down regular business practices in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to make some quick adjustments. Here are the steps we are taking to keep our business going in response to the coronavirus.
We revamped our business model. Before social distancing, 90 percent of our business and revenue came from in-person tasting fees and in-store bottle purchases, as well as new wine club memberships. We quickly created a multi-pronged, digital marketing strategy and decided to transform our business model overnight. As we are temporarily unable to host our popular in-person wine tastings, we now host “virtual tasting” events on our social platforms.
We consulted with our financial advisor. Our family’s financial advisor, Chantel Bonneau Stewart, reached out proactively to educate us on the new loan programs and helped us understand our options from a business planning perspective. On the personal front, she reviewed our current financial plan with us to make sure we were protected and well-positioned to weather this storm. With her commitment to our family and the strength of Northwestern Mutual, we felt prepared and thankful we’d taken steps to ensure we had a financial plan in place.
We repurposed our tasting room into a shipping warehouse. Overnight, our tasting room closed to the public but remains open daily for wine club pickups and bottle purchases. We’ve worked diligently to increase our social media and online presence to drive sales digitally. This strategy has enabled our staff to remain employed and they work daily to process online orders and ship out wines across the country. In addition to our tasting room associates, we have a vineyard manager and an assistant winemaker.
We have made our wines more accessible. We’ve lowered all shipping nationwide to $10 to reach a broader audience and we’ve implemented weekly specials for both members and non-members to take advantage of during this time. Our special promotions keep our team busy processing and packaging orders for shipment. It’s allowed us to retain and empower our key employees.
We have been heavily promoting our new initiatives. We’ve been leveraging email marketing campaigns to promote flash sales and members-only exclusive wine selections. We also have virtual “Happy Hours with the Winemaker” and a weekly series with wine club members on Saturdays called “Let’s Talk Wine” to continue to engage our current members. For people who do come into the tasting room to pick-up orders, we have given away wine-themed masks to do our part in the community.
We keep customers updated daily via social media. We have our largest audiences on Facebook and Instagram where we host virtual wine tastings, blending seminars, Q&As with the winemaker and advertise our specials. Customers can reach me directly at email@example.com. We are also using our social media platforms to engage the community with #supportlocal: We promote local businesses that are still open and encourage our audience to support local with our family.
We couldn’t be more grateful for our loyal customers, adaptable team and the expertise of our advisor — everyone has adopted an all-hands-on-deck mentality to continue growing our family-owned business.
The testimonials presented may not be representative of the experience of other clients and are not a guarantee of future performance or success. Don, Brenda and Michelle Lorenzi are clients of Northwestern Mutual. They work with Wealth Management Advisor Chantel Bonneau Stewart.