Stacia Williams used to be a software engineer and a hobby winemaker on the side.
Today, she and her husband, Edwin Williams, run their own commercial winery, Cairdean, in Napa, that expects to turn out 5000 cases of wine this year.
Now, you might why I’m writing about them here, since this is the tech section of 7x7, not the wine section.
What Cairdean represents from a technology perspective is how growing numbers of small businesses are leveraging the very inexpensive yet powerful set of tools provided by Google to build their companies.
Stacia Williams explained to me the other day how her small family business uses the suite of Google business apps.
“My assistant winemaker is at one location, maybe a wine crush in St. Helena, my husband is at vineyard, and I’m in meetings all over the place. We need a good platform for sharing docs and scheduling.
“First, the price with Google is right. (A very basic package is free, with more robust services, storage, and support priced at $5 or $10 per user per month.)
"With my computer science background, I feel comfortable administering the business this way. The default settings are great – I don’t have to change them too much.
“We all can work in the same spreadsheet at the same time and see each other’s changes. And we can handle all of our maps here, for example we have a planting, in the Anderson Valley for pinot noir – with the map we can see which rows are ours when we go there.”
In many ways, the Williams family typifies how small businesses are launching these days, at least around the Bay Area. They use free or cheap services such as those developed by Google to build and operate on the fly.
Meanwhile, Cairdean recently acquired a commercial property adjacent to their winery on Highway 29, and they will be able to operate a restaurant, retail shop, picnic area, and offer public wine tastings, which are key to building out their customer base.
“In the wine business, the way to be profitable is direct to consumer sales,” said Williams. “The distributors take too big a cut. We need to be able to offer public tastings.”
Their initial list of wines include Sauvignon Blanc, Fume Blanc (oaked Sauvignon Blanc), Rose, Unoaked Chardonnay, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Malbec, Merlot, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvigon, and Zinfandel Dessert Wine (port).