It’s one thing to open a business at a young age. It’s another to start a winery when you’re barely legal to drink.
Clearly, Zach Isaacs and Willows Christopher are not your average entrepreneurs. At 18, they founded Shrugging Doctor Beverage Company – Winnipeg’s only winery and one of the first in the province to offer home liquor delivery.
At the time, neither of them had much professional experience, but they had a shared interest in creating an innovative product.
“We’ve always been passionate about disrupting the status quo and creating something from nothing,” says Willows. “Combining Zach’s passion for winemaking and my dreams of taking over the world helped shape the business plan.”
However, despite having the passion and the entrepreneurial drive, their age was a big barrier when it came to raising capital for their business.
“When you’re 18 years old and you walk into a bank and you say ‘Hey, I’ve never had a job, never run a business, have no credit history, no assets, and want to start a business about getting drunk (is what the bank hears)’ – it’s a little hard to get funding,” says Zach. “We’ve really had to use our ingenuity and spirit to bring the business from nothing to what we are today.”
Futurpreneur Canada also helped give their fledgling business a boost by providing them with financing, resources and mentoring when very few others would.
“The entire experience has been fantastic,” says Zach about working with Futurpreneur. “Everything from helping us write our business plan, to setting us up with lawyers and accountants, plugging us into events and answering our tough questions and working through our tough problems.”
Zach and Willows were also set up with a business mentor through the Futurpreneur Start-Up Program, who they meet with at least once a month.
“His input is great because we often get tunnel vision with our business and having an outside opinion usually helps us get over hurdles,” says Willows.
Today, their products are available in 40 stores across the province, including 25 locations in Winnipeg. They also celebrated their first business anniversary in January and have partnered with SkipTheDishes (another Futurpreneur success story!) to help expand their reach. They are also the first Canadian winery to accept bitcoin as payment for their products.
“We’ve created something and continue to grow in an extremely restrictive industry,” says Willows. “We are very proud of our progress.”
For all other aspiring entrepreneurs out there who might think they are too young to start a business, Zach and Willows have this piece of advice:
“Stop thinking and get to work. 95% of success is showing up.”