David Fraschetti | Crain's Los Angeles

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

David Fraschetti

Background:  

Launched in 2013, VinDiego is an annual wine festival in San Diego featuring gourmet food, musical entertainment and more than 300 handcrafted wines from more than 70 wineries.

The Mistake:

Not knowing who our customers were.

My wife and I had been going to wine festivals for years when we started noticing a trend: The overall quality of these events was degrading, with people stumbling around, getting sick and urinating in the bushes. They tried to mix wine with beer and spirits, and gave attendees a three- or four-hour period to drink their money’s worth. They had become drunk fests, and they weren’t fun anymore.

The experience inspired us to create a festival that cut out all the other distractions and focused solely on wine, and we thought wineries would immediately be on board with the idea. When we did our market research, they told us that they were tired of dealing with drunks who didn’t care if they were drinking a red or a white wine. They wanted people who could appreciate their product.

To fill up our roster, we went after any and every winery we could find — from Washington state to California — thinking they would all be on board with a festival that made wine its focal point. They weren’t.

Our goal was to have 75 wineries at our first event, but we ended up with 34. It felt like a colossal failure. In the end, however, the event was reviewed very positively, and wineries started contacting us about being part of the next one. We’ve since had 75 wineries at our festivals.

You can’t convince everyone to be your customer; you have to find your niche and cater to that.

The Lesson:

Figure out who your customers are, and focus on them.

Looking back on our first festival, we later realized we had approached things all wrong. Before wasting tons of precious time and resources targeting every winery we could find, we should have thought more critically about what kind of winery would benefit most from our festival. For example, it would have been smarter for us to ask ourselves, “Do these wineries have distribution here?" Because the ones that don’t will probably want to team up with us.

We also spent too much time trying to educate non-festival-going wineries about the benefits of festivals, when we would have been better off focusing on festival-going wineries that already wanted what we had to offer: an event that cut out the beer and spirits and focused on them.

Thinking that a great idea alone would be enough to entice every winery out there was my mistake. You can’t convince everyone to be your customer; you have to find your niche and cater to that.

VinDiego is on Twitter at @VinDiegoWine

Photo courtesy of VinDiego

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