Former business banker finding success with Certified Florida Farm Winery

Aspirations Winery of Pinellas County

Former business banker finding success with Certified Florida Farm WineryAfter working with hundreds of small business clients as a business banker, Bill Linville knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur when the time came to make a change.

“We were looking at a lot of different types of businesses,” he said of he and his wife Robin’s research,” because what I learned as a young kid from Junior Achievement is that you don’t have to know how to build the widget in order to own a widget factory or company.”

Linville and his wife eventually settled on Aspirations Winery, a certified Florida Farm Winery, known for its small-batch, hand-crafted wine made on location using local juices and its own blends and recipes. “We make all low-sulfite wines,” he said. “We don’t put a lot of additives and preservatives into it, so that’s our unique little niche.”

The company also specializes in private, custom labeling.

Having had a background working with business owners, Linville knew there was assistance for entrepreneurs in the form of local resources, so when the company fell on hard times with the onset of hurricanes and red tide, Linville reached out to the Florida SBDC at Pinellas County Economic Development for help.

“What really has helped me a ton is in times of trouble and when the weather has gotten a little rough for us, they’ve really been a nice voice in the background saying, ‘hey, everything can be okay. We can help. These are some resources for you. Contact these people. These are some things that have worked for other people. Give this a try.’ Those things for us have just been critical for our success because being a small business owner and this being the first business we’ve ever had, when things kind of fall apart and you don’t know who to go to, they’ve been there for us. They’ve been the guiding light,” Linville said.

Kurt Forster, business consultant with the Florida SBDC at PCED, has helped guide Linville through the process of securing a State of Florida Emergency Bridge Loan in December 2017, as well as a U.S. Small Business Administration economic injury disaster loan in April 2018. In addition, Forster has guided Linville through marketing, cash flow, and employee issues.

Since engaging the Florida SBDC at PCED for no-cost services, Aspirations Winery has grown its tasting room sales levels, added four employees, been recognized by House Beautiful magazine as the number one winery in the state of Florida, and earned Small Business of the Year honors from the City of Clearwater.

“When we first started working with them a couple years ago, we weren’t really as focused as we could have been on utilizing this great wine front that we have here,” Linville said. “This year has really been a great year for us in terms of exposure.”

With a goal for Aspirations Winery to become a recognized brand in retail stores across the state of Florida, Linville says he intends to continue to engage with the Florida SBDC at PCED for business assistance.

“I will always lean on them to help understand what type of programs may exist out there to assist with small businesses,” he said. “It’s not one-stop shopping for anything. If you don’t utilize all the resources that are out there, you’ve just got to think that there’s a team member that you’re leaving on the bench that you need to put in the game. That’s how I look at it.”