Small wineries making 10,000 or fewer cases per year represent roughly 90 percent of the wine industry. Many of these wineries are true small businesses, designed to feed a family or are a passion, or both, but do not aspire to be an enterprise.
The majority of these wineries are direct to consumer (DTC). Each has different needs and objectives, but there is one thing that they all have in common. As a small business, there is likely no vice president of anything. The owner, or small team, wear many hats, taking on the roll of business manager, accountant, customer service rep, sales rep, website manager, and winemaker.
Small businesses work with multiple systems. There may be one program for bookkeeping and another for payroll. There may be one program for email marketing and another for wine club management. And in most cases, the various programs and systems do not work together, making more work for the small-business owner. With limited resources, what small businesses need are turn-key solutions. These are vital to staying competitive.
This is something that Ridgely Evers, a longtime biodynamic farmer, vintner, and owner of Davero Farms & Winery in the Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma County, knows all too well.
Evers started producing olive oil in 1994 and selling it online. His wife Colleen ran the business. They planted grapes in 2000, started making wine in 2004-2005, bought the winery property in 2008, and opened the tasting room in 2010. In 2011, to help is wife manage the business, Ridge developed a management program for her to use.
As a software expert who led Intuit in the development of QuickBooks, Evers built a program for the core user, his wife, the small winery owner. Over the years, through invitations, a handful of other wineries used the system. But it was not until recently that the system was designed for general release.
In late 2019, Evers looked at the landscape and “realized we could do a much better job,” he said. A longtime advocate of small businesses, he is a board member of SCORE, the national group advising small businesses and a former member of the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board.
Evers said the question was, “how do I help small businesses be successful?"
"When QuickBooks started it was for bookkeeping," he added. "It helped consumers and small businesses under 500 people. Now the focus was serving the need of owner-operated small wineries.”
As someone who knows both technology and the challenges of small DTC wineries, Evers designed CompleteDTC winery management system for small businesses, specifically wineries and specialty food companies.
While there are many software services that currently exist for the wine industry, how does CompleteDTC differ? Instead of a patchwork quilt of multiple programs, CompleteDTC is a single system that lays across the entire business, managing every aspect of DTC.
Evers said he found the existing DTC “tools” that were available were cumbersome and unwieldy for his own operation. There were too many separate programs for all winery needs: compliance, taxation, shipping, payment processing, age verification, CRM, wine club management, direct email communications. And many of these existing platforms simply do not communicate seamlessly, resulting in expensive errors and wasted time. “If data is in two places, one is wrong,” he said.
CompleteDTC integrates all systems in one place; it is a big system for little wineries. Taking a holistic approach, CompleteDTC does everything except accounting and production. “Any place you collect revenue, deal with customers, and beyond, we provide the tools and support to be successful,” Ridge explained. “We are supplying the central nervous system of the business.”
Complete DTC was designed around the consumer. Instead of starting as an e-commerce webstore that added additional services piecemeal, CompleteDTC started as a direct-to-consumer suite of services. It includes a web store, point-of-sale, club manager, customer segmentation and email marketing, reservations and events, outbound sales, club member portal, and comprehensive, useful reporting, and more. And all data is kept in one cohesive database and is readily available.
CompleteDTC helps small wineries through every state of the customer lifecycle, with an emphasis on customer retention. The Member Portal and Cellar Status enables wineries to reach members and former members with relevant messages. There is a state-of-the-art email composer embedded into the CRM system and a Marketing Wizard that provides powerful, easy-to-use segmentation capabilities.
In addition, CompleteDTC has assembled a broad set of optional service providers who have been carefully vetted. One important service is with regards to compliance, a huge issue for all wineries, no matter the size.
Last year, the CompleteDTC team looked at the compliance system and found that small wineries were paying the biggest prices. As a result, they put together information, a network of providers, and a software program that is free to all wineries, not just CompleteDTC customers. The free compliance tool helps gauge compliance costs in advance of determining target markets and shipping. This is an important tool as it helps wineries save thousands of dollars each year.
CompleteDTC customers also save money other ways. Through a partnership with Preferred Payment, customers receive low rates and fees with minimal potential for fraud. The system also includes native support for UPS, FedEx, GSO, and most third-party fulfillment companies, along with built-in nationwide weather monitoring, so clients know when it is safe to ship.
And, of course, CompleteDTC also provides an intelligent integration with QuickBooks, at no additional charge.
Much was invested into making CompleteDTC a comprehensive system. And each step of the way, they tested it out on themselves at Davero Winery. The system is constantly evolving but it is not modular. The entire system comes with a “no surprises” guarantee. The cost is $400/month with no surprises, no hidden fees, and no long-term contracts. Unlimited support and training are included at no additional cost, as is onboarding and data migration. “Our basic model is to tell the truth," Evers said. "We don’t sell, we explain.”
Lastly, at the bottom of each page of the CompleteDTC website, there are direct links to their support team. You can ask a question, request an immediate callback, report a bug, or suggest a feature. “Customers only need one throat to choke. There is nothing worse than the buck being passed,” Evers said. “We put our money where our mouth is.”
What do current users have to say?
Kerry Eddy, co-owner of Tom Eddy Winery, has used CompleteDTC since 2016. A small, winemaker-owned Napa Valley winery with only two other employees, Kerry Eddy produces 3,000 cases per year.
“Finding a winery software platform that addressed all our needs, and one we could afford, was a big challenge," Eddy said. "We found CDTC by word of mouth, similar to how people find us. Starting in 2016, I feel like they have grown with us, intuiting our needs, and creating new options, some of which we use now and some we'll use in the future. One of their amazing benefits is their Customer Support, which is quick and responsive. Sometimes it's even Ridge himself on the other end of the line. I feel like they have our back.”
Mitch Cuadros, director of hospitality and DTC for Christopher Creek Winery in Healdsburg, said he has “nothing but great things to say about Complete DTC. We have been using this system for about 5-6 years now and we use it for about 70% of the business."
He said that Complete DTC has "streamlined most of our operation (payroll, POS, ABC compliance with all states, email marketing, and my favorite inventory management.) The features and tools on Complete DTC are wonderful and very user-friendly. Customer service seems to be the highest goal other than provide a wonderful tool for business. Ridgely’s support staff are amazing.”
Cuadros added, “they go the extra mile when dealing with our questions and concerns. The team provides us, a customer, with a great sense of wellbeing and we know we can count on Complete DTC.”
Angela Berlogar of Magna Cura Consulting consults with wineries and her client Yao Family Winery started working with CompleteDTC in early 2021. Yao Family Wines produces between 8,000 to 10,000 cases a year and has about five employees.
“The team at Complete DTC is very hands-on and adaptable and are willing to modify things to help our business, which isn't always possible with larger POS/CRM systems," she said. "Ridge and I have had many phone calls at odd hours of the morning to troubleshoot issues and talk DTC. Tracey [Welch, president of Captina and a former Price Waterhouse auditor] is always willing to hop on a call to help either myself or my team learn something new. Their willingness to help us grow as a business has been extremely helpful. There is no wait for assistance or a response from their team. Not waiting on hold forever is key to any customer service.”
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Allison Levine is owner of Please The Palate, a marketing and event-planning agency. A freelance writer, she contributes to numerous publications while eating and drinking her way around the world. Allison is also the host of the wine podcast Wine Soundtrack USA and a co-host of Crush On This videos on YouTube. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.