By Sue Baldani
Travis Vernon, founder of Well Crafted Wine & Beverage Co., comes from a family of entrepreneurs. “My grandfather had a couple of businesses and my parents had a business, so the idea of working for myself wasn’t something that was particularly new for me,” he said.
Spending time in Spain while in college ignited the Bristow resident’s entrepreneurial spirit and led him to where he is today. “I was there studying Spanish and taking a Spanish business course through UVA [University of Virginia],” said Travis. Through the college, he was connected with a woman with whom he could learn and speak the language.
“Serendipitously, her father was a broker in the wine industry and he represented small family producers in Spain,” he said. “He helped them find commercial outlets for their product in Europe and Asia.”
After returning to the United States and graduating, Travis began working for a business management company. “It was fascinating work and I loved it, but I was seeing people spending a lot of time away from family. So, I was really drawn to going out on my own.”
He then flashed back to his time in Spain, and had the feeling that those small producers he had learned about were totally underrepresented in the U.S. marketplace. “I knew of all these great families and wineries in Spain that were so special. What we were seeing in stores were these big production brands that were fabricated for the market. But, they weren’t the farmers and the heart and soul of the wine industry. I thought, ‘What if we partnered with these people to bring them to the U.S. market?’”
By this time, he was married to Carolyn, his high school sweetheart, and they had one child and another on the way. He couldn’t just quit his job to follow his dream.
“Very early on we knew we wanted a family and him being gone during the week was really hard,” said Carolyn. “So, when he proposed this idea to me, I said, ‘Let’s do it.’ We wanted to be entrepreneurs, we wanted to have more flexibility over our schedules, and we really believed in this.”
Well Crafted Wine & Beverage Co. was founded in 2010 in Manassas. “We started with seven products, whereas the average distributor has 500,” said Travis.
About a year in, the business grew, and Travis was able to dedicate himself full time to it. “We now import wines from all over the world – New Zealand, Chile, Argentina, a lot from South Africa, Italy, France, and from all over Spain. We also do quite a bit of domestic products from California, Oregon, Washington, and Virginia. The idea was right – small producers really needed an advocate because they are great farmers, they know how to make wine, but that doesn’t mean they know how to sell. They needed a sales channel.”
Today, the business has 12 employees, and while Travis is involved in the day-to-day operations and Carolyn handles many of the administrative duties, they both have plenty of time to devote to their family. The couple, who live in Bristow, now have four children (ages 5 to 15 years) and have been able to find a happy work/home/life balance, and still be successful at what they do.
“Our goal is to become the number one wholesaler and importer for artisan wineries,” said Travis. “We want this to continue to be a growth company and an impactful company for these farmers. We look at ourselves as serving consumers, but just as importantly, we serve the wineries that we represent.”
Well Crafted’s mission is to Source Well, Serve Well, Staff Well. “There are a lot of people in this business, but we want to stand out,” said Carolyn. “I think if you asked our customers why they choose to work with us, they would say it’s because we do things just a little bit better.”
Adds Travis, “We’re really proud of the fact that we help other businesses grow. It’s great to put a beautiful wine on someone’s table that wasn’t there before, but for us the rewarding and fulfilling part is helping people and helping their businesses.”
The couple also believes in giving back to those less fortunate. Through The Water Project in Africa, some of the proceeds from Well Crafted helped fund a well. They’re also involved in an organization in South Africa that provides care, shelter and education to HIV positive children.
To find out more, go tohttp://wellcraftedbeverage.com/ or follow Well Crafted Wine & Beverage Co. on Instagram @WellCraftedBeverage.