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CLE Urban Winery
Destiny Burns has spent most of her life in service, first with a 20-year career as a linguist in the U.S. Navy and then as a firefighter/EMT. About to turn 50 and ready for the next chapter in her life, Destiny decided it was time to start a business where she could have fun while building for her eventual retirement. Based on her years of travel and personal experience, she knew right away that craft winemaking was the market for her.
Having studied business and market analysis earlier in her career, she took a very analytical approach to the business plan, researching existing businesses, franchise opportunities, and other independent wine bars and vineyards. The planning process took more than a year and involved visiting similar businesses in other parts of the country, finding a local winemaker with the same passion, and choosing the perfect location.
Destiny was drawn back to her hometown and found an ideal storefront in a trendy entertainment area to begin construction on CLE Urban Winery, which will focus on making wine fun and accessible while giving back to the community through philanthropic programs and events.
Launching a business is a lengthy and complex process, from initial concept through construction and into operation. All of the pieces need to fall into place at the right time, and a strong support network, which Destiny had carefully put into place, makes it all easier.
She loved the experience of visiting vineyards, but wanted to bring that same kind of experience to the city to make it more convenient and to introduce the joys of winemaking and tasting to a new audience. Rather than the typical three- to five-year start-up time of a new vineyard, she is taking CLE Urban Winery from the beginning of construction to the availability of her first wines in less than a year. By sourcing the juice from established partners and using the right equipment, she is able to produce her own wines in just a few months, which helps keep them affordable and gives her the opportunity to respond quickly to changing trends and seasons.
As with any business, the initial funding process was significant, requiring a knowledgeable and trustworthy banking partner to help guide Destiny through the process.
Working closely with the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at the local university, Destiny developed a strong business plan and connected with all the necessary local resources to start the process of applying for funding. She also used many of the financial worksheets and tools available from SCORE, a nonprofit association dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground. Armed with these materials, she visited a local bank and presented her idea.
A rejection from the underwriting department there made it clear that they were not understanding her vision for the business, so she decided to go back to her contacts at the local university, review her materials, and try another bank.
Her sister, who had worked at KeyBank previously, connected Destiny with the right person on Key’s dedicated SBA team. In hindsight, Destiny believes that the initial rejection was the best thing that happened to her, because she realized right away that her team at KeyBank understood her vision and goals, and would be able to not only connect her with the right funding, but provide a number of other services to help her run and grow her business in the coming years.
Using the SBA’s Veteran’s Advantage loan program, Destiny’s KeyBank SBA specialist structured a loan solution for her business needs. She got the necessary funding and began renovating the existing space almost immediately. She admits that there was a lot of documentation required, but says that because KeyBank is an experienced SBA Preferred Lender, her team was able to walk her through every step and explain everything clearly.
Seeing the space come together and knowing that she is on track for her soon-to-be opening has her so excited that she knows this was the right decision—from choosing the winemaking business to choosing to work with KeyBank. Local newspapers and magazines are already writing about her business, and the community is excited to have CLE Urban Winery add to the social scene. Visitors will be able to buy a variety of wines, all named after local landmarks, traditions, and neighborhoods. In addition, they will be able to learn to make their own wines at the store in small batches, as Destiny plans to offer classes, private parties, fundraisers, and more. She will also offer a selection of cold foods and has space to bring in catering for events.
The business plan was built intentionally around three core values: good wine made fun, celebrating the city we love, and a “drink wine and do good” philanthropic approach. Destiny is fully committed to these values and looks forward to growing the business when it makes sense, possibly exploring opportunities for additional locations or services, or even offering franchises.
As the business gets off the ground, KeyBank is helping with the point-of-sale (POS) solutions, e-commerce, and website—all tied into her business banking accounts. Destiny notes that having all these services from a bank that truly values her business will help ensure her success and afford her the chance to continue the mantra of service that has defined her life to this point.
“At every step in the process, my KeyBank team was right there with me and answered all my questions. The communication was awesome, and their genuine enthusiasm for my success gave me the confidence to pursue this lifelong dream.” —Destiny Burns, Owner, CLE Urban Winery
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