Being in the wine and bar space can have a lot of stiff competition. John Carter tries to up his game by selling quality wine, bar, and cheese accessories with free personalization through his website WineAndBarAccessories.com. You can easily place your orders and ask them to engrave your company logo, name, or anything you want engraved on the items, and it’s all for free. John shares the best part about his business is having that little niche market and making customers happy. Like most businesses, their biggest challenge is getting more customers, but John says enjoying the business is what brings success.
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Making Wine And Bar Accessories Accessible with John Carter
I’ve got a very special guest with me, John Carter. John, thanks so much for joining us.
Thanks for having me on the podcast.
You are very welcome. You’ve got an interesting business. Tell everyone a little bit about what you do.
I have a website, WineAndBarAccessories.com, where we sell quality wine bar and cheese accessories. The personalization is free, which usually people have to pay quite a bit but if they order it, we will do their personalization, put their name, their mottos, whatever they want on the items.
If I go to Things Remembered or any place and say, “I want you to engrave my name or whatever on it,” it’s always a premium upsell. Things Remembered charges by the letter. For someone who’s ignorant to the wine bar and cheese accessories space, what would it be a wine and bar accessory that I would put my name on? Just a few examples.
A few examples, corkscrews. You can put your company name on it, whatever. Cheese boards. We have over 200 items; cocktail shakers, wine stoppers, just various things. We also do a quantity discounts for parties and weddings. They’re great favors. We have lots and lots of favors.
Something people actually keep and use and always be reminded of as opposed to the t-shirt from the wedding that I wore out and I never wear or the one I just threw away or the stuff that you have for a day or two and then you never use it again.
We even do our cork coasters with bride and groom’s names on it or people’s names on it. There are all those things that we do and it sets us apart because most people have to pay a premium for engraving.
How did you get into the wine bar and cheese accessories business?
It started in 1998. I had a commercial window covering company, which I sold and I was looking for something to do. I saw at a Medieval Fair two wine bottles with the bride’s dress and groom’s thing on it. I thought that’s very nice but what they need is something over the neck, and when I went like that I want monks. Being in the window covering business, I know all the sewers in LA. I went down and I had a lady design a monk robe for me with a hood and wide sleeves and little belt and monks wore white and brown, which is perfect for white wines and brown wines. I had a lot of these things made up. I called them wine monks and I would travel up and down the Coast to all these wineries and I would go into the shops and I’d wait until a crowd form and I would ask the lady, “Could I see one of your wine bottles?” When she put it down, I’d throw a monk robe on it and people say, “That’s cute. Where do you get them?” I said, “The lady behind the bar sells them for $23 a pair. You get a white and the brown one.” She said, “I do?” I said, “Yes, you do.” She would sell those that go out to the car and I’d bring them in and fulfill it. I started building up clientele.
I met a man who is the largest distributor of wine and bar accessories in the world. I showed it to him and he said, “That’s more of a retail item, I’m not interested, but send it to me, send me about five or six, maybe I can find people who would be interested.” I sent him some and he called me about three weeks later and said, “I wanted to put this in my catalog.” I said, “I thought you didn’t sell these things.” He said, “I put one on my desk and every person that walked in here said, “Damn, that’s cute. Where do I get one?” I gave him all my customers, which was sad because I used to bring home a couple of bottles of wine given to me and I started just selling his products. I did that under company called Bar Parts for fourteen years and then I sold the company and they went bankrupt. He called me. He said, “You want to Bar Parts up again?” I said, “No.” What I’d like to do is only products that can be imprinted. He’s got the best imprinting, hundreds of thousand dollars, lasers and pad prints. I said, “If you will do my engraving, I will sell those products.” That’s how I got back into WineAndBarAccessories.com
Do you get most of your sales direct to consumer or are you selling to the wineries and places like that?
To both, strangely enough. Mostly it’s to consumer but I have a lot of wineries that contact me because what they want is things like corkscrews with their logo on it. I sell those to wineries, to hotels, to a lot of different places.
What are you finding? I get the evolution of how you got here. I know you met the man who had the personalization were people asking for personalization before you offered it? How did you get the idea for that?
When I had Bar Parts, we did tremendous amount of personalization and those days we used to charge for it. I used to do probably 40 or 50 weddings a year where they had corkscrews, cork stops, and whatnot. I would sell party plates that had logos and things. There’s a company in the Virgin Islands that I used to sell probably about 5,000 plates a year to and ship them to the Virgin Islands. I knew that there is a big market and the thing is that most people won’t do the engraving. You can get a corkscrew anywhere, but you can’t get an imprinted corkscrew anywhere and it took corkscrews out of the commodities market and put it into the specialty market.
That completely differentiates you and allows you to charge more if you wanted to. If a large percentage of your business is direct to consumer, how are they finding you?
I advertise on Facebook. I advertise in line ads on YouTube. That’s basically how they find me in and word of mouth.
I would imagine that obviously that someone sees your product at a wedding and then says, “Where did you get that?”
Yes, a lot of that. Then they contact us and say, “I’m getting married. Can you help me out?”
How does the operation of your business run? Do you outsource it all? Do you have a large staff? How does all that get done?
I buy the products and the manufacturing from my supplier and he keeps an inventory for me. Then when I get an order, he pulls from the inventory, engraves it, and he ships it.
You’re drop shipping in essence? Then you don’t need much of a team then?
You’re looking at the team.
You are the team. You’ve built up this business, a customized drop shipping business that takes no one but you to run. That’s awesome.
I built my own website so that wasn’t a problem.
Another useful skill. You talked about advertising on Facebook and YouTube, I would imagine Pinterest could also work well for you.
What do you like most about your business?
The people that I meet and talk to, especially the ones that will call and say, “I have a problem.” I enjoy that and I enjoy dealing with the public and making people happy just like you do.
We do our best.
We do very well with it. The best part is I have a little niche market, and I try and fill that and just make happy customers.
[Tweet “I enjoy that and I enjoy dealing with the public and making people happy just like you do.”]
Happy customers are the kinds we like. With all the success you’ve achieved, what’s your biggest challenge?
My biggest challenge is getting more customers. I think that’s the biggest challenge with most businesses. I would like more customers.
Where do you want the business to go in the next five years? How big do you want to get?
I’d like to get back up to where it was with Bar Parts, which is close to a million in sales a year and a I’d like to get back up to that.
I would imagine the next five years could probably pull that off.
I’m not anywhere close to a million a year yet, but I’ve only been doing this. I’ve just started Wine and Bar Accessories.
You’ve had some incredible growth to do to get where you are in such a short time period. With the rate you are going, you probably will get exactly where you want to go, if not further.
I enjoy the business and I enjoy business just in general.
That is an absolutely incredible story. We appreciate you sharing it. One more time for the folks who are inspired by you and want to learn more about you and perhaps get their hands on some customized personalized wine accessories, the website to send them to is?
That is an absolutely beautiful merchandise. I can’t help myself. I’m going to go check out your social media following. You’ve got some great content there, a beautiful looking website. I can’t believe you built that yourself. That shows obviously some serious talent. We greatly appreciate you being on the show and we look forward to having you back to report on your future successes.
I appreciate you, Seth. Thank you very much for having me on your show.
You’re welcome. We always love inspiring entrepreneurs. Thank you, John. Thank you everybody.