Fenton Winery and Brewery
Passion Keeps a Small Business Growing
Entrepreneurship is a rewarding experience, but it is often an uphill battle. Starting and growing your small business requires patience and persistence. For entrepreneurs, Ginny and Matt Sherrow, owners of Fenton Winery and Brewery, financing, finding employees and the time to grow their small business has tested their will to succeed. But passion for their small business has helped them overcome the obstacles.
The Sherrows’ passion for wine began long before the business. They started visiting vineyards and wineries all across the country when they married 12 years ago, helping them develop a unique knowledge of wines and customer preferences. While Matt was in graduate school they started putting ideas to plan, and using personal financing they finally opened The Fenton Winery in 2007 in their current location just north of Fenton.
The business grew slowly at first, but despite the recent slowdown in the economy, they eventually experience exponential growth in wine sales, both in-house and wholesale. Seeing an opportunity with the growing craft beer market in Michigan, Matt and Ginny became The Fenton Winery and Brewery by adding beer to their selection, a natural fit for Matt who has a degree in mechanical engineering. “People in Michigan are really excited about buying Michigan beer and we have seen a lot of growth in that area, too. We also see a much more diverse customer base as a result,” noted Matt.
Poised for another leap in growth, the Sherrow’s contacted the Genesee/Lapeer Region of the SBTDC for assistance. Regional Director, Marsha Lyttle and Senior Business Consultant, Harry Blecker, worked with the Ginny and Matt on analyzing their financial statements, comparing against industry metrics and developing a growth strategy. According to Regional Director Lyttle, “Matt and Ginny are terrific clients who are fun and easy to work with. They have a vision, will, curiosity, as well as knowledge and experience, which give them a strong foundation for success.”
Matt, who has an MBA from DePaul and Ginny, who is certified in financial planning, both found great benefit in the financial services the SBTDC was able to offer. “The cash-flow analysis and industry information that they were able to provide for us was really helpful for us in analyzing the business. It is information we would not have been able to get otherwise,” recalled Matt. “The service has been fantastic. They have provided a lot of insight and advice. They helped us focus on working ‘on’ the business and not just ‘in’ the business” according to Ginny.
Like most startup businesses, the Sherrow’s have faced a major challenge in access to capital and over time, have been turned down for loans by several financial institutions. Being conservative and creative in building the business, they have been able to self-finance their growth. But they have not given up. The Sherrow’s have put together another plan to self-finance, are about to sign a new lease for their expansion, and are exploring some new financing leads provided by MI-SBTDC.
“Our immediate goal is to keep expanding and growing our sales. We have had a lot of momentum; our sales have doubled compared to the same months last year, and we want to keep that going forward. We would like to eventually be able to distribute our beer across Michigan and have our own standalone location,” explained Matt.
Matt also gives some great advice for someone starting a small business. “If you are going into business, do something you are passionate about because you will be living it every day.” He continued, “I also recommend contacting the SBTDC and using the resources that are available to you. These resources will open your eyes to opportunities in your business. I wish I had them when we opened our store.”
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