Wine Cork Decor is a unique and exciting business that uses wine corks from vineyards around the world to make creative products that are recycled and natural. We began marketing in Harrisonburg and have expanded to Etsy.com and selling via Facebook.
The business team is comprised of 3 partners: Brian Nickel, Sam Kozura and Rachel O'Connor.
The Venture Team:
Brian Nickel is a Senior Management Major with a TIE concentration. Brian's experience in sales is vital to the business, as well as his excellent communication skills. His drive for achievement is a noteworthy attribution and undoubtedly has added greatly to the team's progress.
Sam Kozura is a Senior Management Major. Sam is the lead spokesman and promoter of our endeavors, and his ability to connect with potential customers greatly influences our chance of success. He is outgoing, actively seeks out new opportunities to further the business and quickly begins working.
Rachel O'Connor is a Senior Management Major with a TIE concentration. Rachel's background in management helped in the process of beginning our ventures and keeping them on task. She is very creative in coming up with ideas and used her attention to detail in the ventures pursued.
Wine Cork DecorEdit
Wine Cork Decor is an entrepreneurial business that uses wine corks to create new products, including coasters and key chains. Each coaster set is individually hand-made and guaranteed to be unique. They make an excellent gift idea, especially with Mother's Day approaching; we are able to wrap a set with any desirable ribbon color. There are also numerous benefits of using natural cork coasters. According to a cork specialty business, WE Cork, "One cubic inch of cork consists about 200 million completely enclosed air cells. These cells give cork the attributes of resilience, durability, moisture resistance and thermal insulation.*" Since we use natural cork in all of our coasters, they will not accumulate condensation and become slippery like an average one. Our business is sustainable, as recycled wine corks are available in many locations from bars to wineries and we are able to easily design and package for any need.
The interest in our product was mostly generated by college girls who love wine in the Harrisonburg area in the beginning. We started by focusing on this market as it seemed to be the best and most convenient choice as they are local and willing to buy. Later on, we discovered that we could sell to older women, men looking to purchase presents for girlfriends/wives, and sons for their mothers and grandmothers.
Little Bet BeginningsEdit
Through countless attempts and failures- from making glasses out of wine bottles to the sale of chocolate covered strawberries- we discovered the potential of using recycled wine corks to create exciting new products. This became our best, most profitable and sustainable venture. We would not have succeeded without our initial attempts, however, so they are certainly worth discussing.
In the first few weeks, we came up with an idea to obtain recycled glass bottles from local bars, restaurants, etc. and create custom drinking glasses. We used a method of dipping string in lighter fluid, tying it around the bottle, setting it on fire and running it under cold water until it split. This first method left undesired, jagged edges that took time and effort to sand down to an appropriate level. We tested many other methods and finally determined the best way combined 2 styles, etching the bottle then using the lighter fluid way. We spent time, effort and money on this attempt and ended up selling only one vase. We believe it could have been more successful, however the time it takes for each product made it impractical. We continued trials on this product throughout the next several weeks while tackling new opportunities as well.
While the glass endeavor was still underway, we began looking for any new ideas using cheap, free or recycles materials. We began playing with the idea of hiding valuables in inconspicuous and unexpected places. First, we used aluminum soda cans and repurposed them into can-safes. The first prototype was rough, but gradually with multiple iterations the safes started looking and feeling like a real soda can. We sold 5 of the latest models and 1 of the earlier prototypes at a revenue of $55. With this venture, we found that the time to make the product was not worth the small margin of profit we were gaining on each sale.
Spawned from the idea of concealing items, we used free books from a downtown bookstore to create book-safes. We used a razor to cut out the center of pages throughout the books and glued the pages to create a space large enough to hide money, jewelry or any other small valuables. These were complicated to make and it seemed that customers were unwilling to buy them.
Since the wine bottles seemed to have no use for us, we came up with the idea to use the corks. We searched websites such as Pinterest, Etsy and Instructables to find unique products made from wine corks. Our first attempt with them was making key chains to market to women in the Harrisonburg area. We have sold 14 at various prices ranging from $6 to $8 and we are continuing to make them and hope to get some sales on Etsy. While making these and coming up with new cork ideas, we decided to venture out into another side project to see whether it was more profittable than current and past decisions.
With the current plans not exactly panning out as hoped, we thought that we should use what we knew how to do already. Rachel frequently made chocolate-covered strawberries for people, so we decided to begin making and selling candy and baked goods. With Valentine's Day approaching, we began making them and handing out samples to promote our new project. We received an overwhelming response for our customizable strawberries and sold hundreds of dollars worth of product within the span of the holiday weekend. We attempted to continue making them, but it seemed that it was only successful during holidays.
Sixth Venture: MVPEdit
Our most successful business decision has been the creation of coasters, steming off of the wine cork idea. Our coasters solve the problem of rings appearing on table surfaces due to moisture and condensation from beverages. Whether hot or cold, drinking glasses will produce this moisture and average coasters will allow overflow of condensation build-up, creating a slick surface or even allowing watermarks as it spills over the edges. As mentioned earlier, cork has properties that make it the ideal coaster material to avoid these results, such as "resilience, durability, moisture resistance and thermal insulation." Our first attempts at creating them proved to be a challenge, as cutting the corks was time-consuming and difficult. We decided to purchase recycled cork halves at a low cost until we figured out how to easily cut the corks. Various methods, from steaming the corks to using a sharp blade have proved to be less than ideal; we are still searching for the best way. Our cork coasters are made from all natural cork. The wine corks are mounted on a 4 ¼ inch diameter cork base for added support. For each cork coaster, we hand-select wine corks from vineyards all around the world. Each coaster will have an assortment of wine corks, which have different brand names, logos and unique styles. To enhance customization, we lay out the wine corks in different patterns for each coaster. We double-check all of our coasters to ensure they will hold a glass properly.
We have sold them for various occasions, such as weddings (shown on the left), and are able to design the packaging to make an impressive presentation for a gift recipient. As of today, we have sold 20 sets of coasters, 2 single coasters and have made one Etsy.com sale. As Mother's Day approaches, we are receiving more and more orders, and we expect this to increase as it gets closer.
Monetizable Pain Statement
The cost of water damage to tables can be hefty, especially when renting a furnished apartment around a college campus, with fees charged for any kind of damage. Average coasters just don’t cut it; they tend to allow overflow of condensation build-up, creating a slick surface or even water marks if it spills over the surface.
Using all-natural cork we were able to solve the moisture problem created by the slick surfaces of the average coaster. Cork is moisture absorbent to ensure that your table stays free of condensation marks.
Key Innovations for our MVP
At first we were using synthetic corks mixed with natural and cutting them horizontally (as seen in a few pictures). Obviously, when the corks were horizontal, you were not able to see the unique design of each cork. Also, the synthetic cork definitely was not as moisture absorbent as the natural cork. Afterwards, we decided to attempt to cut whole corks into halves vertically. This proved to be very time consuming and not worth the effort. We were then able to purchase pre-cut cork halves offline, which saved us an exorbitant amount of production time. Finally, we had the idea to glue the cork halves onto a cork base for greater stability and durability.
Lessons Learned and Advice for EntrepreneursEdit
Our most important lesson is to not let failures hold you back. Many entrepreneurs see failures as the end of something, however many times it is simply a step in the process that eventually leads to success. Even when you fight through these failures, the struggle doesn't stop. A huge part of your success will depend on your ability to market your product. Although it might sound relatively simple, it is not as easy as it seems. Through using an Etsy.com account, we were able to get our brand out. The problem with Etsy wasn’t the cost to post our product, but the ability to get traffic on our page. Our group had the majority of our success dealing with customers face-to-face and advertising on Facebook. If you interact personally and directly with potential customers, people are more likely to buy your product and even pay more money. To increase your sale rate per interaction, we suggest you create a MVP marketed towards an older crowd with discretionary income. College students usually don’t have a lot of extra money to spend on expensive items. Also, a key aspect you should consider innovating into your MVP is a customizable aspect. Although our coasters were successful we had the understanding that we could’ve taken our product to the next level by adding a customizable feature. We suggest that you never settle with your product and continuously look to improve on your product to increase your venture’s success.
Mural.ly: Final Business ModelEdit
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