Bill Smoot savors the heady taste of an excellent wine and enjoys the company of those who also delight in the ambiance of soft lighting, quality food, good music and, of course, great wine.
Among the enterprises Smoot has undertaken in the past has been a neighborhood bar and, in Kansas City, an Air Medical Transport company. But his passion is superior wine and several years ago he began to make plans to open a winery, somewhere.
“I was actively looking for a business that I could get into and enjoy,” Smoot said. “So while on a tour we visited a winery in the Tucson area and I spoke to the owner. That conversation really piqued my interest and I then began to educate myself on wines and operating a winery.
“As I was trying to figure out where I would want to open my winery,” Smoot continued, “I began to research different locations. At the time we were living in Scottsdale. As I started looking around, Prescott really caught my attention because there was no winery and it had an active tourist trade.”
Smoot explained that Prescott seemed to have all the right elements so they relocated here in 2011 to begin this venture. The tasting room has been open just over a year, but they started selling wine two years ago. Their first commercial sales coincided with the Super Bowl in Phoenix.
“I was trying to get an SBA loan and came across SCORE,” Smoot explained. “I spoke to someone in Phoenix who was with the SBA and he gave me the name of a SCORE counselor in Prescott. Additionally, I also worked with the SBDC at Prescott College. They provided some good guidance, but then I started the mentoring process with Dan Beyer and he began helping me to obtain the SBA loan. Dan then brought Dick Milon, another SCORE Counselor, into the project as a co-mentor because of Dick’s expertise in hospitality and his experience in obtaining SBA loans. Their guidance made the loan process very easy. They showed me how to compile the financials and when I brought everything to the bank, the loan went through without having to redo anything. Although, it did take about a year to obtain the necessary licenses and LLC.”
At first Smoot was very skeptical about putting his faith in the SCORE mentors, however, as he began working with them he realized that between them they were very knowledgeable and had a variety of experience and expertise.
Once the loan process was underway, SCORE mentors, Dan and Dick began to look at the overall operation. The first thing they spoke to Bill about was his pricing. They diplomatically suggested that his wines needed to be priced to be more palatable to the local community. Smoot said this was one of the best discussions they had and it helped him come up with a realistic pricing structure. He also found their advice on how to run the business very helpful.