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Launch: Startup Tips, Where They Are Now and Books

 Terroir at Home

ViengOudomSommi


Company: Sommi Wine Cellars
Product: Custom Wine Cellars

Founder: Vieng Oudom
Launched: February 2015

 

The wine-cellar market is not exactly known for variety. Today’s oenophiles are limited either to bulky premade wine cellars from overseas or custom-made cellars that can easily run more than $150,000.

“When you get into built-in wine cellars, they’re not only expensive, but you really need a large collection,” says Vieng Oudom, founder of Portland-based Sommi Wine Cellars.

The idea for Sommi — short for sommelier — came to Oudom when his sister, Sommie (yes, her name also served as inspiration), wanted a free-standing wine cellar for her living room. But nothing fit the space or decor, so she settled for a Vinotemp cellar made in China — and stashed it in her garage.

After encountering similar problems in his own home, Oudom decided to leverage his mechanical engineering background to design handcrafted cellars featuring high-end structural details and salvaged wood sourced from local purveyors. Clients can select the materials, including handles and racking configuration, and Oudom subcontracts the building to local craft shops Makers Woodworks and Orion Forge.

Prices range from $7,950 for a model that holds 72 bottles, to $13,950 for the Model VV1, which holds 448. “This philosophy of using seasoned craftsmen and high-quality material is expensive, but we believe in providing our clients with the best wine cellars that are as discerning as they are,” says Oudom, whose own collection consists of about 50 bottles, mostly Oregon pinot.  

Sommi grossed $70,000 in 2015, and Oudom projects $250,000 in revenue for 2016. Low overhead is key to his business model. “We don’t carry any inventory,” Oudom says.

Setting his sights on urban denizens, Oudom this year launched the Credenza model, geared toward modern lofts and penthouses. As he grows the product line, Sommi will stick to its core mission providing elegant, functional wine storage options, Oudom says. “The ultimate goal is to provide that wow factor.”

Startup tip

“One thing new entrepreneurs struggle with is how much money to raise and how fast to spend. There are no hard and fast rules.
You’re better off putting your time into growing your business than in raising money. So raise enough, allowing for setbacks. Raise enough to get to a certain milestone. Think about keeping at least six months’ worth of cash at your lowest point.
Once you’ve raised money, your next big decision is how fast you want to grow. In theory, the faster you spend, the quicker you will grow. However, once a raise is done, it’s easy to spend quickly, before you’ve proven what works. The danger is that you spend money going in the wrong direction and run out of funds before you figure out your model. Recognize that there will be some setbacks, and have a bank account to reflect that.”

Stewart Yaguda is an investor with the Oregon Angel Fund

Where they are now

Poached Jobs Kirk

 

Kirk Thornby, CEO of Poached Jobs

Poached Jobs

When we profiled Poached Jobs in our March 2015 issue, the hospitality-focused online hiring board operated in 11 cities and employed nine people. A year later, the company is active in 12 markets, with openings scheduled for San Antonio, Philadelphia and San Diego this spring. Poached has 15 staffers, and revenues doubled for the fourth year in a row, says founder Kirk Thornby. “It’s akin to those races where you run through the mud and swing on ropes over giant pits of fire,” says Thornby of his entrepreneurial journey. “It’s all about determination and keeping the momentum.”

Books

shoe dog

Shoe Dog
By Phil Knight
Simon & Schuster, April 2016
The humble beginnings of Nike founder and CEO Phil Knight are revealed in this long-awaited memoir about the early startup days of the Beaverton-based global leader in sportswear. In this tell-all book, Knight recalls selling shoes from the trunk of his car, forging bonds with his former track coach and his first batch of employees, backpacking the world, and all the other transformations that led to the Nike empire.

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