Wine tasting is a popular PNW past-time, but the actual event can be complicated and expensive to organize. “Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a wine country transit system, where you could choose where you want to go and taste at your own pace?”
This exact thought inspired Kim Myers and her husband to create NW Wine Shuttle, which allows wine enthusiasts to easily book an unforgettable day of wine tasting and transportation around some of the best wineries in Oregon.
Read on to learn how Kim is putting her new business on the map.
The spark that inspired the birth of your concept: The idea for a hop-on, hop-off wine tasting experience was dreamed up while my husband and I were vegging on the couch one night. We love wine and often fantasize about wine tasting in the Willamette Valley, but find the challenges and expense often outweigh our desire to explore. Randomly, my husband said, “Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a wine country transit system, where you could choose where you want to go and taste at your own pace?” We hit up google immediately expecting to find an existing business, and when it didn’t come up, we jumped at the opportunity.
The problem it solves: The current process to plan an enjoyable wine tasting experience is complicated, time-consuming and often expensive. NW Wine Shuttle modernizes this process to make it super simple. You just go to the website and book a day pass. No need for back and forth coordination. Our price point is lower than most private tours, making wine exploration accessible to all.
The other problem with the current process is you’re locked into a set schedule on private tours. NW Wine Shuttle takes you on a curated route of 15 wineries, and our shuttles arrive at each winery every 30 minutes. See one that looks interesting? Hop off and explore! Ready to move on to the next tasting room? Close out your tab, and head outside to hop on the next shuttle. Taste at your own pace! Most passengers visit 3-4 wineries in a day, so our route gives you plenty of options to create your own experience. Our goal is to remove the barriers of the existing wine tour process by making it easy to book, reducing the cost to the rider, and giving them the freedom to make this day all about them.
How you came up with the name: We came up with some creative startup-y names, but in the end we wanted the name to tell consumers exactly what it is: NW Wine Shuttle.
How you are different than your competition: All wine tour services offer a safe and curated experience. We’ve layered technology and logistics on top of that to make wine tours flexible, accessible, and affordable. While you could define our competition as any charter and/or private wine tour companies, a Uber/Lyft service, or consumers who choose to drive themselves, there is no company that delivers all of this value in a single service.
Customers choose their desired pickup location (Downtown Portland, Newberg, Dundee, or McMinnville), and NW Wine Shuttle brings them to the Dundee Hills, ensures 6 hours of hop-on, hop-off wine tasting transportation, and then returns customers back to their original pickup location. There is no other service, that offers an easy, affordable and nearly spontaneous way to get from Portland and/or McMinnville to the Dundee Hills.
Not only are we doing something new, but we are doing it at a lower price point, which allows our customer to spend more money on wine. Also, we are the most economical option for couples or groups less than six. Altogether, in our first 7 months of operation, we transported more than 1,000 guests which resulted in 4,000+ tasting room visits, and hundreds of cars removed from area roads. We feel we’re the only tour service equipped to operate at this scale.
How you make money: We make money on day pass sales. We’re exploring additional revenue streams by offering pre-order capabilities for food and experiences at the wineries, and season pass options.
The best thing about being an entrepreneur: I love the ability to dabble in everything from logistics and operations to the challenges of financial planning, investments, and sales strategies. It’s fun to know every ounce of my time is spent making something. We’ve built this from the ground up, with the help of friends and family. I hope my two little girls are witnessing the grit and determination it takes to reach this goal and will carry that passion into their own lives.
The biggest surprise in your entrepreneurial experience to date? Finding my business partner, Andres de Lucca. We met through a mutual friend and over the course of four months we went from strangers to very collaborative business partners. I thought I needed a developer but learned to be the biggest fan of a product designer. He can truly bridge the gap between the technical world and the complete customer experience. This really shows in the technology he has created, specifically the web site. The tech is so important to enabling our model, and future scalability. It’s truly what sets us apart.
Your biggest success: This season, we proved that Portland-area residents would explore wine country if it was an easy, affordable and accessible experience. Our Portland pickup was the number one selling pickup location. Truth be told, we were unsure how well the Portland pickup would sell. Always validate your assumptions before ruling them in or out.
A failure story and what you learned: We got our first negative review in the second half of our season. It was partly due to a logistical screw-up, and inaccurate customer expectations. We learned that you have to go at these negative reviews head-on with empathy and honesty. Own it. Learn from it. Value their opinions and insights, and truly make that part of how you get better. Don’t dwell on it. Close it out with an insightful response that other potential customers can see. Then, move on and make tomorrow the best shuttle day yet.
What keeps you up at night? Funding for the growth of the company. With big aspirations comes the need for more time and more money. I have learned just how patient I can be through this process. I try not to let the numbers consume me, but use them as a base-line to start strategic thinking.
The best entrepreneurial advice you have received: As an entrepreneur, you have to simplify. Focus on what is really important, and disregard the rest. A friend and fellow entrepreneur said you have five things that make you tick on a daily basis: friends, family, health, work, experiences. As an entrepreneur, you don’t get to have all five. You only have enough time for three. Pick them wisely, and one of them better be work.
Your #1 piece of advice for a budding entrepreneur: Try not to assume you know everything about your market and do not wait to launch the perfect product. Launch a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). Make it a lean version of your product and see what lessons can be gleaned. Then go build the right product. We’ve also found it very valuable to live in the experience we’re creating for our customers. Secret shop your own product. Always put yourself in their shoes. Constant Q&A.
The #1 book you would recommend for a budding entrepreneur: A few podcasts have helped me understand more clearly that this process is hard, and to not let that be discouraging: “How I Built This” and the first season of “RISE Podcast” by Rachel Hollis. These podcasts didn’t teach me the “how to” start a business, that’s what the OEN Startup Series is for. They are more motivational, reminding us how to persevere through the tough times in pursuit of the dream.
What wild success looks like: Our vision is to inspire and facilitate the exploration and sustainable growth of local wine regions. I believe our team has more to bring to this type of experience than just a hop-on, hop-off wine tasting experience. I’m excited to see what opportunities unveil themselves and how we pivot as a team.
What did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted to be in technology. I loved computers and built my very first computer. I ended up spending 10+ years in technology Public Relations, both on the agency and corporate side for a Fortune 100 hard drive manufacturer. I also started my first business in 2008, which is a software development company in Hillsboro. We support some of the most innovative tech that lives within everyday devices.
Do you think Oregon is a good place to start a business? I was born and raised here, so I love being able to create local employment opportunities and create local experiences to show off where we live. I couldn’t imagine starting this business anywhere else. The Willamette Valley wine industry has not only been supportive of our business, but they’ve also been genuinely curious and collaborative. We have a lot of innovative minds in this State’s wine industry, and we should expect big things to come.
NW Wine Shuttle: www.nwwineshuttle.com