Two-time Smith Terp Dave Trebilcock ’89, MBA ’96, knows a thing or two about wine. And he’s putting that knowledge to good use in his business venture, GrapeSeed, a company that uses a crowd-funding model to supply the exclusive wine it provides its customers.
“GrapeSeed came about from 25 years of experience in the business of selling wine,” Trebilcock says. It all started when he was an undergraduate finance student working at a Washington, D.C. hotel. That gig led to various jobs in the hotel industry, during which he developed the passion for wine that inspired him to launch GrapeSeed in March 2015.
The wine business is tough one, according to Trebilcock. “It’s a really crowded category. And while the explosion of wine labels has expanded consumer choice, the most esteemed winemakers are finding it exceedingly challenging to compete in the din,” he says. “I really wanted to connect people who are passionate about wine with the best of the best, the most critically acclaimed winemakers.”
One of the challenges in the industry is limited cash flow due to the lengthy process – as long as seven to 10 years from planting a vineyard to selling a bottle – it takes to make wine. GrapeSeed helps alleviate some of the cash flow issues with its subscription-based model. Customers pay a monthly due into their personal wine fund. Because they pay up front, GrapeSeed can invest the money to work on projects with its partner wineries.
“It's a win-win for our customers who acquire exclusive wines, the wineries who get a better return on capital in a discreet channel of distribution, and for GrapeSeed – we get to create the portfolio that other industry players would spend millions to assemble,” he explains.
Trebilcock, who fondly calls College Park his adopted home, says he often thinks back about his experiences at Smith: “The skills I learned not only helped me launch this company, but throughout my career,” he says. “As I pitch GrapeSeed to Angel investors, it reminds me of my Strategy class case studies and group projects: pitching a concept, showing a business model, explaining a financial model.” /JS/