Helping put small wineries on the map
Artisan wineries don’t produce enough wine for broad distribution so they rely on tasting room sales.
There are more than 9,000 artisan wineries in the United States, including 700 in Oregon, entrepreneur Justin Bloom said.
These wineries are looking for effective ways to market themselves, to publicize their events and to encourage people to visit, he said.
Meanwhile, wine enthusiasts wish for a quick and easy way to learn about artisan wineries and figure out which ones to see, Bloom said.
He and Casey Cessnun, co-founders of Eugene-based Veraison Solutions LLC, say they’re developing software to meet both of those needs.
The two men had worked together at Feeney Wireless, a west Eugene tech company now called Inseego Corp. Now they are designing software to help wineries manage their information on websites and mobile apps. They’re also developing a consumer app that they plan to test later this year with wineries in the South Willamette Wineries Association, including Capitello Wines and Walnut Ridge Winery. They aim to release the app for smart phones and other mobile devices by the spring.
“Memorial Day is the kick-off of winery tourism, so we need to be ready to hit the ground running,” Bloom said.
Bloom said he came up with the idea for Veraison last fall when he visited Napa Valley for the first time and was frustrated when he tried to find basic information about the wineries, such as their hours, what wines they carried, whether they served food, and whether they were kid friendly.
With his tech background, Bloom thought there must be a better way for wineries to share their information and for wine enthusiasts to learn about nearby wineries.
Bloom, who was Feeney’s former chief technology officer, and Cessnun, a software architect and engineer, felt they had Veraison’s technology well in hand. But they weren’t experts at sales, marketing, customer support and other skills their company required.
Bloom said candid comments from about 40 different mentors were the most valuable part of their recent experience in the Regional Accelerator and Innovation Network (RAIN) business accelerator training program in Eugene.
“Everybody brings different expertise and background,” he said. “Having the opportunity to have a conversation and get the benefit of their experience early on ... is incredibly valuable.”
Many of the mentors, for example, said the partners had a great idea, but it would be difficult to market to each individual artisan winery, Bloom said. Instead, Veraison markets to winery associations, which typically represent 20 or more wineries, he said.