If you’re passionate about what you do the tasks that seem impossible – those mountains you need to climb – all of a sudden, they seem possible.
In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Andrew Paradis made a gutsy move. Having spent his career in the hospitality industry, he decided to back himself and start his own business.
As a trained Sommelier, he knew the wine industry inside-out, turning that knowledge into Paradis Wines and Spirits, a distribution agency based here in beautiful BC. In the year since, amid a rapidly shifting landscape in the hospitality industry, Andrew has emerged with a growing business and plenty of learnings to share.
“In the last year, I’ve had challenges where I’ve learned more in a few months than I would have in two years of going to school by battling them head on, adjusting and learning on the spot.” Andrew said.
Taking the First Steps
In a move that will resonate with all business owners, Andrew found himself with ambitions of one day occupying the managerial chair and began taking the steps necessary to make it happen.
“I’ve been interested in the wine industry for my whole career. Every time I left the industry, I’d get sucked back in eventually. Like many other people, I’d chase jobs for income, or to try new things, but my heart was always in hospitality and it’s where I’ve always felt like I’ve belonged.”
“I suppose the origins of the business can be found when I was in Toronto and I was studying to become a Sommelier. I got a job working as a wine agent and I just realized this is the job I’m meant for; talking about interesting wines, working with restaurants, hosting wine events, helping out customers and discovering world class wines from around the world.”
“At some point, I realized the only job I wanted was my bosses’ job, who owned the agency. I committed everything I possibly could to learning and getting to the stage where I was ready to begin. I guess my only regret is that I wish I had started earlier. It took a pandemic for me to actually sit down and get going seriously.”
Launching During a Pandemic
Starting a business is one thing. Starting a business during a once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic is another. While the hospitality industry reeled from closures and lack of demand, Andrew focused his early efforts on the one area still growing – liquor stores.
“I started the business right as the pandemic began, so I don’t really have pre-pandemic experience to compare it to. That being said, I worked for years as a wine, beer and liquor agent so I know our entire industry has taken a huge hit.”
“The focus of my business in the first year has mostly been selling to liquor stores and minimally to restaurants. Obviously, liquor stores have seen an increase in sales, so things are going great there but I really want to increase my efforts on restaurants as well as they need support now more than ever”.
“I want to do my part to help restaurants in whatever ways I can. I want to see those little mom and pop restaurants get through this and plan for the future because it’s not always going to be like this. People are dreaming of when they can enjoy proper dining experiences again, and I want to help restaurants survive so they can.”
“We’re going to be teaming up with chef’s, bartenders and restauranteurs to host events at their locations to raise funds for industry personnel out of work. Of course now it’s fun to get creative over zoom but when it’s safe we’re really looking forward to hosting in person.”
Leaning on Expertise
While Andrew understood the wine industry inside-out, entrepreneurship was a whole new game. He quickly realized he needed to upskill and master each aspect of his start-up business. For this, he turned to the experts at SBBC.
“At the beginning, I had this three-page business plan with a one-page finance sheet that basically summed everything up. It was all investors ever asked for so I summed up everything I could to get the main points across. My main concern initially was working with the local suppliers I have, supporting local and getting everything together for the launch of imported wines. It’s fair to say my business plan was really quick and I never really dove into great detail and wanted to focus on sales.”
“Once I got fully started and was making a little profit, things began to evolve very quickly. I realized the plan I had hastily put together wasn’t enough, so I contacted Small Business BC where I worked with Laura Aveledo and John Baxter to re-do the entire plan. I’m not the type of person who likes to sit at a computer all day, but I have been and continue to be serious about this business and devoted the time I needed to get things into the shape they needed to be.”
“The end result, was a 40-page, detailed business plan alongside 10 pages of cash flow analysis on a spreadsheet. Writing things down in such detail has allowed me to teach myself new aspects of my business that I’ve overlooked, or re-teach myself things I’ve forgotten. I wanted to learn as much as I could to continue the success of my business and bring it to the next level.”
The Benefits of a Business Plan Review
Entrepreneurs are known for their ‘do it yourself’ mindset. It’s an admirable trait that helps them navigate challenging times. Learning when to turn to help is another valuable skill to possess, and it’s one Andrew is glad he developed.
“This year really showed how you can wake up one day and your whole world has changed drastically. Working with Laura and John helped to show me I had so much more to add to my business plan, and to prepare myself for anything that might happen.”
“The whole point of my business plan was to get approved for financing to get more product and take my business to the next level now that I’ve laid down a strong local foundation. They taught me to look from another point of view that I didn’t see and push myself to get to the next level. It’s important to keep educating yourself and take in opinions of other professionals and doing just that greatly benefited me, and the business.”
“Having a solid business plan benefits you as an entrepreneur and a self-starter. Now I can review my business plan with a better understanding of what I need to look out for and ensure I stay on target.”
Advice for the Next Generation
A year into his entrepreneurial journey, Andrew is well placed to advise those following him. What single piece of knowledge would he offer to new entrepreneurs?
“First and foremost, find what you truly love to do and do it. I’ve tried so many different industries, and have had so many odd jobs, but in the end got nowhere with them because it wasn’t backed with passion. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received was to follow your passion and money will follow you. Unfortunately, I never took that advice until recently.”
“It’s really resonating with me now because if you’re passionate about what you do those tasks that seem impossible, those mountains you need to climb, all of a sudden, they seem possible.”
“In the business I’m in, there were (and will be) a lot of new challenges I wasn’t prepared for, such as educating myself on wine and liquor import laws, Canadian standard of labelling laws, dealing with CBSA, LDB, foreign suppliers, etc. Having that passion to propel me past those challenges made all the difference in the early days, and continues to make a difference as I grow. I wouldn’t be able to do those things if I didn’t love what I’m doing. It all comes back to the fact that if you truly love what you do, then do it and don’t look back!
“It all comes down to how you want to live your daily life. To me, if I can wake up in the morning where I set my own schedule, work outside with great people and love what I do, and of course enjoy some world class wines, then that’s the definition of success to me. My success has been creating this opportunity for myself, and I would do it all again, and go through all the pain again just to be able to say I did it and I’m here now.”
Here to Help
Follow in Andrew’s footsteps and learn how Small Business BC’s Business Plan Services can help your startup business go from an idea on a piece of paper, to a growing small business.
We’ve also got a wide range of business webinars, Talk to an Expert Advisories, and a selection of business articles covering every aspect of running a small business.