If you’re a fan of ABC’s hit Television show The Bachelor, you almost certainly know Ben Flajnik as “Bachelor Ben,” the moppy-haired charmer who find the wrong girl in Courtney Robertson (whom he subsequently dumped).
But 30-year-old Flajnik can be something of a rising star in your wine industry. Since 2008, he co-founded two startup labels, Envolve and Epilogue wines. Somewhere among, he found enough time to appear on both Bachelorette and The Bachelor.
Contributing writer Matt Villano recently swept up with Flajnik in his native Sonoma, Calif., to go over the rigors of owning a business during two reality tv shows, and how that visibility helped him build the brands.
Q: From what extent did brand-building factor into your decision to accomplish the shows? A: I didn’t do the programs designed for business. It had been more about story and adventure. The Bachelorette had an instantaneous effect on sales, but that tapered off quickly. It wasn’t before Bachelor that there is a large upsurge in distribution and production.
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Q: How did the shows impact company finances? A: Maybe 50 percent. Probably more. We started at 2,400 cases with Envolve. Now we produce a lot more than 20,000. In all honesty, though, I’m sure other factors were involved, too. My co-founder is part of the most famous wine families in California: the Benzingers. There have been times where we walked into distributors who had tasted our wines and all they wished to discuss was Mike’s grandfather. I assume I’m saying that everything helped. If The Bachelor wasn’t getting us in the entranceway, Mike’s family name was.
Q: At what point do you realize you could parlay the programs into serious marketing? A: It wasn’t until following the season premiere of The Bachelor. That night, Mike, our third co-founder (Danny Fay) and I we were going out together, just watching online orders fly in. We viewed one another and thought, ‘Holy crap, we’ve something big here.’ We’d Epilogue, our second brand in the works for some time, and decided to progress the release in the hopes of capturing a few of that interest. With that label, we went from zero cases to 15,000 cases in 2012 on the trunk of the tv screen show. Now we’re discussing taking this brand into 50,000 and 100,000 cases this season.
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Q: You want visitors to buy your wine because of its merits, but I’m sure many people just buy it due to you. How will you reconcile that as a businessman? A: It’s tough. It’s a hardcore balance. I consider myself a winemaker, but within our tasting room, folks are to arrive and being rude about things in my own personal life. It’s hard never to get defensive. I make an effort to divert all the attention back again to your wine. The worst is a few of the Yelp reviews. People say I take myself too seriously because I was “The Bachelor.” That couldn’t be farther from the reality.
Q: Where may be the line when it comes to leveraging fame for the success of the brand? A: The line is always changing. I’m always separating “Ben the Bachelor” and “Ben the winemaker.” The reason why I got here’s because I’m a personable and hardworking guy. That’s what I make an effort to relay during intimate winemaker dinners and private tastings.
Q: How much cash have you devote to the labels? A: With Envolve, aside from two outstanding $50,000 loans from our families, all the money we’ve devote has belonged if you ask me and Mike. I’ve probably put about $750,000 of my very own money into these brands through the years.
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Q: What lessons is it possible to tell other young entrepreneurs? A: This isn’t my first startup. It’s my fifth. And it’s a whole lot of work. Mike and I are on the road at all times. We’re all working 70- or 80-hour weeks still. The harder you work, though, the stronger your passion and the more you should succeed. And if you’re thinking about doing some kind of reality show to greatly help the business, just make certain the business enterprise can stand alone first.