Monday, December 31, 2018

The 2018 Update

posted by Beck

When we last left our intrepid entrepreneurs...

I came on to do a little recap of the year and realized we left things majorly hanging when we last posted in May of 2017! I also found a finished post from last New Year's Eve that I never published. That post cleared up some of those items we last discussed. I just hit "publish" on the 2017 recap...a year later... so go read that one and you'll be caught up to this point.

....

Are you all caught up?

Here's a picture of the goat while you wait:


In case you didn't feel like more reading, the gist of the back half of 2017 was that Justin went back to work full time in order to allow Fete the opportunity to support itself (not our family). This ended up being fortuitous because Amazon stopped selling all wine (not just Fete) at the end of December 2017 due to some old prohibition laws that were violated when they purchased Whole Foods.

Which brings us to 2018...

Justin spent the first quarter of the year trying to juggle his new full-time banking job (which had very little flexibility for taking calls/appointments about Fete during the day) and finding new avenues to sell Fete outside of Amazon.

In January, he ran into a friend of a friend at Buffalo Wild Wings who mentioned that there was an opening in his office for a job that Justin had wanted for more than a decade. Justin decided to apply and spent the next couple of months testing and interviewing for the job. Once he got the job he immediately began studying for the various tests required for the position. Studying took up a good portion of our spring/summer.

Now that he's through those hurdles, he is working on building his business as a financial advisor. He LOVES his job and is very excited to work with clients, especially those making big life transitions like selling their homes. It's amazing how 15 years of varied work experiences (real estate, mortgage, banking, business development) have come together for him in this role. Even more amazing when we think about how much less prepared he would have been if he'd gotten his "dream" job a decade ago.

As for me, I continue to work 30 hours a week, which is pretty perfect since the rest of my time is spent in the car driving the kids (1st & 3rd grades) to and from their two different schools and daily swim practice. I love my job, and I am so grateful that I can be #momtaxi on most days. (Being at work would be easier though ha ha...)



Now for Fete...Fete is still there. We have inventory. We still make some sales. We have some future goals. For now though, we've been pretty content to keep it on the back burner. We've tried to trim down some of the monthly expenses that come with running a business and keep it from bleeding itself (and us) dry. We're not sad about where things are at the moment.

A couple of weeks ago I received a text from a co-worker who had seen Fete on the Instagram stories of a former classmate. The person had posted a picture of the back of the petite sirah bottle and said that it "was made for her." It made me so happy that people may still find joy in our wine and the message behind it. That's the whole point of why we did it. The fact that the brand is still achieving our mission even though we aren't actively promoting it is pretty cool.



And because this is our blog and I do what I want, I'm going to do a shameless name drop right now and mention that Zach Ertz (Philadelphia Eagles) and Richard Sherman (SF 49ers) both tried Fete this summer and really liked it. :)

Justin and his friend Matt (left) with Eagles TE Zach Ertz. #nbd

Onward to 2019! Wishing you all the best this next year!


The Miracles of 2017

There are have been so many "miracles" since we started our business. Here are a few from 2017.

#1 - The Amazon Miracle

Back in the spring we updated you on a little debacle we had with Amazon. They had reached out to us and requested several pallets of wine to sell through Amazon Prime. We were beyond excited. We sent them the product and when the day came for it to go live they told us they had made a mistake and didn't have the right permits to sell the wine. The trouble was that they had already broken up the shipment of wine and had sent it all around the country. We started getting bottles shipped back to us here and there. The returned bottles were not in the original packaging. They were broken, mildewed, unwrapped, caps dented...basically with the quality completely compromised and not re-sellable. We weren't sure what the outcome of the whole thing would be and if it would mean the end of our company.

Two months later Amazon paid us out for the wine. All of it. Every single bottle was paid for in full. And let's be honest. That was a much faster payout than if we had waited for Amazon to sell all of it. Sometimes the road of life is bumpy and marked with uncertainty, doubt and a lot of stress. It doesn't necessarily mean you're traveling on the wrong path. It just means that life is messy and uncertain. But sometimes the bumpy road gets you where you need to go faster than the safe and maintained one. Keep the faith.

#2 - The Diamond Miracle

In early June I lost the main diamond out of my wedding ring. I looked down at my hand it was just gone - one of the prongs had worn out. I had been a lot of places that morning, so I had no idea where or when it fell out. I searched the places I was able to search and then let it go. I figured that after 15 years of marriage maybe I was due for an upgrade at some point. (The diamond, not the husband.) I bought myself a bigger cubic zirconia ring for $20 on Amazon as a place holder (hello 1 carat solitaire world - now I see what the fuss is about).

Six weeks later after a trip to Donner Lake where Justin thought he found gold (that's another story) and bought a gold panning kit (the entrepreneurial spirit never rests), our 8-year-old Luke was in the kitchen looking at some of the "treasure" they had found. All of a sudden we hear, "Daddy, look I found a crystal." Justin looked at it and it was my lost diamond. He had found it the middle of the kitchen floor in a high traffic area that had been swept and vacuumed several times since the day I lost it. We have no idea how it just showed up that day. We joked that Justin's gold was all fake, but Luke found the real treasure.

#3 - The Retail Miracle

I won't go into the challenges we have faced breaking into "wine world." There are a lot of rules, a lot of barriers, a lot of palms to grease if you want things to move quickly. We don't have that kind of clout...yet. Justin worked his booty off this year to get us into the retail market. A lot of time and strategy put into building our direct-to-consumer sales. Hours and hours spent in the garage packing hundreds upon hundreds of shipments. It was a huge win for us to get picked up by Total Wine and More earlier this fall - two years after we launched our first varietal. We are currently in the California and Nevada stores and hope to continue expanding into more markets. We are also working to align with more Millennial friendly platforms like Mini Bar and Thirsty and other on-demand alcohol delivery services.

Looking to 2018...

We will have to bottle more wine at some point this year and need to save some money to make that happen.

We hope to be in more retail locations in more states. (The alcohol laws in different states make this more difficult than most people realize.)

We are both back to working full-time day jobs outside of the business. Ironically in the same industries we came out of when we left our jobs in early 2015. Sometimes life does come full circle.

Amazon will no longer be selling our wine - or any wine. Due to their purchase of Whole Foods and various alcohol sales laws, they will be ending their Amazon Wine department after the first of the year. We are all the more thankful the opportunity to sell through Total Wine and More came when it did.

We hope to focus more on the message of celebration behind our brand.

In 2018 we hope that Fete will help people "choose joy," "give joy," and "receive joy."

Thank you for going on this journey with us and for carrying us. You don't know how many times YOU were the source of our miracles.

We hope 2018 brings wonderful and good things to you and your families.

Happy New Year!

J & B

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Finding Joy in Disappointment


Life can be hard sometimes. There are highs and there are lows and from personal experience this seems to be emphasized in an entrepreneurship lifestyle. There is joy and there is sorrow. There is victory and there is defeat. There are times when you are encouraged and times when you are discouraged. These are seasons in life and certainly in business. I continue to find that one of the easiest things to do is be joyful when things are going your way and one of the hardest things to do is be joyful when things are not. “Fete’ing” every day is easier said than done sometimes.

The past few months we have gone through a series of highs and lows. Our business after the holiday season really took off and we were on a roll. Both our Fete Petite Sirah wine and Fete Symphony wines were number #1 selling wines on Amazon in January, February and March. Everything was clicking and it seemed like we were gaining some real momentum. We were super excited to be such a small player and compete with some of the big players and winning in all categories.

Then at the beginning of February we received a call from Amazon to be a part of their Amazon FBA (Fulfilled By Amazon) program. That means they would start to fulfill for us (meaning we wouldn’t have to pack boxes in our garage anymore), and our customers would gain the ability to buy our wine with prime shipping. This seemed like the break we were waiting for and this was going to be the launching pad to where we wanted to go with the business. We began to plan and it seemed like nothing was going to stop us.

Then it did.

We sent several pallets of wine to Amazon (per their request), we set our marketing plan, everything was in place. Then in the first hours of our marketing launch our plans began to crumble under this new Amazon FBA idea that they invited us to be a part of. Simply put, they invited us to be part of a program they did not have licenses for, but this didn’t become apparent to anyone until launch day. 

To make matters worse they also shipped our wine to places they were not supposed to and now much of our inventory is missing and what is being returned is damaged. Our high of thinking this was going to be our big break quickly turned out to be a very substantial loss for our company instead. We are hopeful everything will work out with Amazon, but are bracing for the worse. The hard part has been trying to gain back the momentum we lost while dealing with this whole process.

I struggled with sharing this because I don’t want you to think this is just a “Justin and Becky woe is me” moment I often find daily on other people’s social media. I know this loss does not compare to some of the personal, emotional or business-related losses some of my friends and family have gone through or are currently going through. I also don’t think this will be hardest thing I will ever have to go through. But I hope this can encourage you because I hope to share how I am trying to find my joy in my disappointment.



We often like to dream and live in the “mountain top experiences.” Everybody loves to celebrate and drink wine on the mountain top, but the mountain top experience usually does not last very long and then we find ourselves in the valley again chasing the next mountain top. However, if we only find joy on the mountain tops then we completely lose out on the long journey that comes in the valley and in the climb. If we only live in joy on the mountain tops then we will find ourselves living most of our lives without joy. I don’t believe we are supposed to find joy only on the mountain tops, but we are supposed to find joy in the valleys below too.

I find this all the time selling our wine. People often buy our wine and then wait to drink it because they  are still waiting for a special occasion to enjoy it. What if I told you that today is your special occasion? Today we are alive. Today we are free and we have the freedom to love and pursue our dreams. We should celebrate today because we have air to breath and life to live.

Maybe this sounds kind of like la la land. It’s hard to have a world view like this when you have a dragon in front of you that you are battling. No, I am not talking about putting your head in the clouds and just thinking about daffodils and dandelions while the breath of fire is against your skin. I am just saying one way you can find joy in disappointment is to not let the dragon steal your joy, but enjoy the pursuit of the battle and allow it to grow you as a person. Look that dragon square in the eyes and enjoy the process because you know that in battling this dragon you are going to become a warrior who is better prepared for the next dragon that comes your way. The dragon you face today may or may not be the biggest dragon you face, but to get to the mountain top you must defeat the one in front of you. The beauty in this is that now you can enjoy the battle and enjoy the mountain top too.

I feel like this blog is going to be the first in a series of blogs about this subject. I am not sure how many of these there will be, but I hope this encourages you today.

Remember that we have a really great Groupon deal @ https://www.groupon.com/deals/gs-6-bottles-of-fete-petite-sirah

Our sale is also still going on at Fete Today http://www.fetetoday.com and Amazon.

FYI: we are still selling on Amazon, we are just not participating in the Amazon FBA program.

Thanks again for drinking our wine. We hope you will choose to celebrate today as we continue to make great tasting wines.

Sincerely,

Justin Perry

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Five Years

By Becky

I never told you the whole story of how we found ourselves living on a vineyard. Here goes.

Five years ago in April 2011 I was bummed out.

I was always bummed out on some level that year, but on one particular day I was super bummed out because Justin and I had had an argument about throw pillows.

I wanted to buy new ones.

He said no.*

As a working mom who painfully and begrudgingly left her sweet little boy every day to go to a full-time job, it was beyond frustrating that I couldn't even afford to buy new throw pillows.

Shortly after the Great Throw Pillow War of April 2011 (which Justin tells me he has no recollection of), I ended up having to work a four-hour shift at a major community event for my job. I knew that students from a ministry school led by friends of ours were also going to be at the event praying for people. This particular group of students practice hearing God's voice and sharing what they hear with people as a way to bring encouragement and show God's love. I schemed a little bit on how to get my co-worker over to their booth for prayer because she had been struggling to get pregnant for more than a year. (I succeeded, we all prayed, and her daughter turned four earlier this year. Yay!)  

After praying for my friend, one of the students turned her sights on me. She told me that she felt like God was saying that He was going to bless me in regards to my home. (Ahem, throw pillows!) She also felt like God was saying that because Justin and I had been such faithful givers, we were going to move into a season where other people would want to give to us. She said that it would feel uncomfortable to be on the receiving end, but that God wanted us to not ask questions and just rest in that place for awhile.

After that I went home and told Justin what went down and his response floored me. He said, yeah, the market has been going down so I've been thinking about us looking for a new house and renting out this one. What??? We can't buy new throw pillows, but we can buy a new house? I was very confused, but I started looking at bigger houses in our general neighborhood in Stockton.

Everything happened so fast.

Three weeks later Justin and I found ourselves with an unexpectedly child-free evening. We also found ourselves unexpectedly without a house key. Oops. We drove to a neighboring town to pick up a spare key from a friend and Justin suggested that we drive into the country to check out some properties he had found online.

We drove up the long driveway to a foreclosed, basically abandoned, property and made our way through the tall thick grass (while I freaked out about creepy crawlies) and sat on the deck staring out at the beautiful overgrown vines and the trees swaying softly in the evening breeze. The waning light painted a pretty romantic picture of an idyllic country life. Could we? Should we? Can you imagine? How is this even possible? This is crazy.


Long story short, we did. You know that.

What you don't know is that during a painful three-month escrow the deal almost fell through several times and that our realtor asked us repeatedly if we were really sure about this..

We were.

And on August 4, 2011, we closed. Five years later, here we are.

People always ask us if this was a dream of ours. To live on a vineyard and make wine? I feel a little sheepish when I tell them no. Not even a little bit.

We have always known that God had a plan for us as a couple in business. We felt it even more strongly when we set foot on this property. Pretty funny that God would lead two non-drinkers to buy a vineyard. Even funnier that He would lead us to make and market our own wine. Quite honestly, most days I'm still bewildered by this life I'm leading.

These last five years have been the hardest, most confusing, and painful years of my life. They have tested us as a couple, and me as an individual, more than I ever could have imagined. And if I could have imagined, we probably would still be living in a modest house in Stockton.

We have sown in tears, disappointment, sweat, money, and ego. But we have also reaped to an uncomfortable degree (as my praying friend said we would) in major home improvements, furniture, car repairs, in wants and needs met for us and our children, meals out, unexpected checks in the mail, and most recently - investments in our business. We have been so uncomfortably blessed.

Today, I feel the tides shifting, and those same praying friends have been sharing new things with us. God is leading us into a new season. And I am moving into the next five years with confidence, faith, and hopefully a lot more gratitude and wisdom.

Thank you for sharing this journey with us.



*(For those of you wondering. Yes, I did finally get new throw pillows. My next request is grass. Please buy some Fete today) :)


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Inspiration on Scratch Paper

By Becky Perry

Inspiration finally struck at around 75 miles an hour on Interstate 205 in Tracy, California.
Justin had been after me for several days about putting some words on paper that would ultimately grace the back of our wine bottle and help carry our company’s message. I had scratched out a few drafts, but nothing was flowing. Finally on our way over to Richmond to meet with the bottle design company I took a deep breath, said a silent prayer, and let God write the words.

I was nervous to put it out into the world. I know it’s just a couple of sentences on the back of a wine bottle, but it felt really raw and intimate and I didn’t really want to share it with anyone, let alone take credit for writing it. What if people thought it was dumb? What if they rolled their eyes and found it a bit over the top?

Today our first wine bottle has been out in the world for 9 months and we are getting ready to start the design phase for our second bottle. Most of the time I feel grossly inadequate about this whole undertaking. We don’t fit the traditional mold of winemakers. Our wine is geared toward a very specific audience, and unfortunately that audience doesn’t have any “muscle” in the industry. We never had a deeply rooted desire to make wine, nor found the idea of living on a vineyard romantic and alluring.

Yet, here we are.

Today Justin went by one of the wine centers that sells our wine. One of the workers told him that she took a bottle home to her mom for her birthday because the whole concept of Fete seemed to speak to where her mom was at in life. She presented the bottle to her mom at her birthday dinner. Her mom read the back of the bottle and cried. Then her dad cried. Then her mom passed the bottle around the table so all her friends could read it. They looked up James 1:2-4*, the address of the Bible verse we had screen printed onto the bottle. They were all moved. By this silly little thing we put into the world hoping it would resonate and bring some light to those who need it.

What a gift.


This is why we have a wine brand. This is why we have thrown our humble product out there against hundreds of other wineries with family history and clout. This is why we have chosen to target a demographic that the wine industry believes is only good enough for cheap products. This is why I force myself to swim against the undercurrent of desperation that is so prominent in most wine marketing to women – especially on social media.

It is not just about the wine. It is about this message:

Life is a gift. YOUR life is a gift. Life, with its messes and letdowns and disappointments, IS a gift. Celebrate it. Fete today.

*James 1:2-4:  Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Fete the Wine - Coming in September

posted by Beck

I'm not quite sure where we last left off in this space.

2015 has been quite a year. 

Back in March we started the process of creating our own wine brand. 

It is now August and we are finally in the home stretch of the production process. The bottles are scheduled to be printed next week, we pick up the custom-designed screw tops next Friday, and the wine will be bottled the week after that. Just in the nick of time for our unveiling party on September 6, where 100 wonderful friends, family, and friends of friends will get to see just what we've been doing all these months. (And hopefully buy some wine. Insert #smileyface #wineglass #partyhorn #redheart and #dollarsign emojis here)

Label design, capsule topper artwork, securing the wine, choosing the glass, beta testing our augmented reality app, finding a storage facility, waiting on government approvals, and selling wine gifts weekly at the Farmer's Market has filled our summer. And we are on track to harvest our grapes in the next 2-3 weeks. They are looking gooooood this year.

On August 11 we celebrated our 4th anniversary of living "this vine life." I always kind of knew this adventure would lead to something cool, but I don't think I expected this. JP and I look at each other every day and say, "Who ARE we???" 

Here are a couple of snapshots of cool stuff that's happened over the last few months.

-Sitting in a conference room at G3 Enterprises - Gallo's marketing arm - waiting for the director of innovation to come in and speak with us. I look at Justin and say, "Why are we even here? This is Gallo. Our project is small potatoes. Why would they even work with us?" (I'm such ray of sunshine, right?) He shrugs, "I don't know, I just feel like we're supposed to talk to them." We tell them what we are looking to do and that we want to be the first wine bottle to use augmented reality. The director of innovation looks at the sales guy next to him and then looks back at us and says, "I don't know what that is, but I feel like I should write it down." They ultimately decide to take us on and design the screw top capsule cover for us using their cutting edge heat-sensitive, coloring changing ink technology - even though it is a ridiculously small job for them.

-Sitting in a McDonald's parking lot Skyping with our augmented reality app builders "across the pond" in London. 

-Talking with a brand producer in Hollywood who found us on LinkedIn and wants us to bring Fete to a pre-Emmy celebrity gift lounge event in September.

It has been quite a ride and we don't even have the wine yet. We love our product, but most of all we love the message we are releasing. It seems that a lot of times it takes a tragedy for people to appreciate their life. What we want people to take from our brand is the notion that every day is worthy of a celebration.

More to come!



Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Wine, The Mob, & The Church

By Justin



One of the interesting facts about downtown Lodi, CA is that there is an underground tunnel system that connects many of the bars, stores and restaurants together. In studying the history of Lodi, I've learned that these tunnels were in place to move alcohol underground during Prohibition between 1920 - 1933. Today, secret sidewalk access points are still used to give easy access to delivery of goods to these bars, restaurants and stores. Pretty interesting stuff!

During Prohibition, Lodi was the supplier of grapes for wine that would be produced in Chicago. Lodi’s downtown area has a train system that transported grapes from Lodi to Chicago under cover. Chicago is where Al Capone managed a successful business called "the Mob" that imported and sold beer and wine during the 1920s. Capone's mob made $60 million a year. His mob was a source of great wealth and attracted violence from competing mobs who wanted in on the action.

History Lesson:
In 1893, Reverend Hyde Russell founded the Anti-Saloon League (ASL), a group whose motto was "the Church in action against the saloon." By the late nineteenth century most Protestant denominations, and the American wing of the Catholic Church, supported the movement to legally restrict the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages. These groups believed that alcohol consumption led to moral corruption, prostitution, spousal abuse and other criminal activities. By 1920, the 18th Amendment, deemed "the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcoholic beverages in the United States and its possessions" illegal. (Thank you Wikipedia.) Instead of drawing people into a closer relationshp with Jesus, this "religious" movement ultimately caused even more violence and corruption as "the Mob" gained power and influence.


Even though Prohibition has been over for nearly a century, in many conservative Christian circles, this negative view of alcohol consumption has remained. It is fascinating to me that this Prohibition-influenced perspective really only stems from one scripture in the Bible (Proverbs 23:19-21) that says: 


"Listen, my son, and be wise, and set your heart on the right path: Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags."


Now, don't get me wrong. This passage is full of wisdom, because drunkenness can sometimes lead people to do stupid things that hurt themselves or others, not to mention, alcoholism is a real disease that can harm individuals and entire families, but when was the last time you heard an evangelical pastor talk about eating too much meat? Not me!

Why this matters to us?

The reason I'm writing about this is because Beck and I find ourselves in a weird paradox that I would like to explain. Beck and I are two people who went to college, are Christians, love Jesus, live in wine world, drink a little wine, have never been drunk in our lives (truly), and find ourselves living on a vineyard, growing grapes for one of the biggest wineries in the world, and trying to launch a gift and wine company. Given our conservative church background we have struggled with thoughts of "are we doing the right thing here?"

We decided to go to the Bible and see what it says, and not listen to a mediator, pastor, author or denominational views on the subject of drinking. Over the last few years our ears have become much more attuned to mentions of wine or vineyard-related parables in the Bible. We find them throughout the New Testament. As I really started seeking out wine-related scriptures, I discovered that many of Jesus’ biggest moments in life involved wine. Jesus’ first miracle was creating water into wine at a wedding reception. Jesus’ last supper with his closest friends involved eating bread and drinking wine. Jesus’ last moments with his disciples were in a vineyard where he said, “I am the vine, you are the branches.” He referred to his father as the farmer or “grape tender.” When Jesus was carrying his cross he was given wine. When Jesus was on the cross he was given wine vinegar. It says in Revelation that God is the "great wine maker" and someday we will have wine and celebrate with Him in heaven.


When I began to see how important wine was in Jesus' days, I suddenly became free of the thought that alcohol is "bad" and realized that this notion that I received growing up in the church is really the result of Prohibition’s influence, not anything actually rooted in Biblical authority. Despite this new revelation, I still had the question of, why wine? Why God am I in the wine business? Why is wine special to you? I believe God still speaks if we stop long enough to listen, so I asked Him this, and He answered me with another question, “What is wine?” I thought about this. “Wine is the derivative of rotten grapes made into a drink.” Then I got my answer. Jesus takes the rotten things in our lives and creates something delicious with it. Something worth celebrating. This happens when we come into a relationship with Him. God likes wine because it’s a reflection of who He is.

The Prohibition movement wasn't wrong, necessarily, but they were wrong in their approach. You cannot get people to become more "Christian" through righteous rules and Bible thumping. It's only when they get to understand who the righteous one is that transformation takes place. For us, we believe that happens when we get to know Jesus.

Have you ever thought about what God does for a living? I believe He is in the business of taking our rotten grapes and making us into delicious wine. Not because we deserve it, but because God is love and He loves us. Jesus is also the inspiration for Fête because He is our source of joy when we feel like we can’t choose it anymore. When the bad days or bad news comes, we still find comfort and a reason to celebrate, because we put our trust in Jesus. All we have to do is decide each day to choose Him. 

That's our heart, friends. We know that many of you have different philosophies on life and God, and we may not agree on everything, but I hope we can all agree on one thing - life is precious. Let's celebrate it!

PS: PLEASE BUY SOMETHING @ Fête Today


-Justin & Becky