The University of Tampa - Business Network Symposium
Good morning. I'm Drew Marshall, the chair of the Board of Fellows and welcome to our first Business Network Symposium of the year. I see Fellows and students and UT faculty and staff in the room.
I know we also have a number of first-time guests and for the benefit of the guests, first of all, a special welcome to you all. For the benefit of our guests and our speakers, I'd like to talk just for a few minutes about the Board of Fellows, who we are and what we do. We are a group of around a hundred local business leaders, committed passionately to the mission of the University. We show that passion in a number of ways. First of all, we host events like this one. Over the course of the school year, we hosted an event about every three weeks that ranges from intimate social gatherings to large speaker driven events, where we host over a thousand attendees.
We also serve as goodwill ambassadors to the University. We're passionate about the University and we advocate for the University in the community every day. Finally, we support the University through our fundraising efforts. Our signature program is an endowment. Last year,
our endowment exceeded $1 million, which was a significant achievement for us. I know we're excited for the program today. Erica, I'd like to introduce our BNS committee. Our chairs are Erica Shea and Brad Salzer, there'll be involved in the program.
Thank you guys for putting together a fantastic program. Erica, would you like to come up and introduce our first speaker? Hi, good morning, everyone. It's so nice to see everybody in person for our first BNS of the academic school year. Like Drew said, we have three of these in the academic school year. Today. We'll have another one in January and then another one in April.
So we hope that you join us for all three of them. I'm very excited that we have these three speakers today. We want you all to leave inspired. Our theme for today is "Hungry for Inspiration". We want to keep that theme going throughout the rest of the academic school year. And we'd love to hear these inspirational stories about who you are, how you got to where you are and where your business is going.
So we're very excited to hear that. I'd like to thank the committee, my BNS committee, today. Most of you all are here — thank you. And I'd like to specifically think UT President, Dr. Ronald Vaughn and his wife, Renée Vaughn, for your continued support. A very special thank you also to our supporting sponsor for many years, TD Bank. TD Bank's been our sponsor, gosh, I think it's only five years going five years now.
And I'd like to personally introduce the Tampa Bay regional vice president Scott Diggle. Well, good morning. Thank you for being here. I'm happy to report that I can still tie a tie. So, it's been quite a long period since we've been able to get together here in person. I'm particularly excited to hear the stories today,
that's the best part of this event. At TD, we're particularly passionate about small business. We love entrepreneurs and that's why we sponsor this event. We particularly are excited that we were recognized as the number one SBA lender this year, and we are three of the last four years, JD Power winners, here, in the Southeast United States for small business. So with that, I will turn it over to the program. Thanks for being here. Hello everyone.
I'm Brad Salzer, co-chair along with Erica and I want to thank Scott very much and TD Bank for providing a drawing for a prize today. We'll select a business card at the end of the event, but you must be present to win. So, thank you for that. We'd also like to thank the Tampa Bay Business Journal, our media sponsor; Sedexo, our catering sponsor, and of course, Kahwa Coffee for the coffee. You are all enjoying this morning.
Thank you very much. I was trying to think of a way that we could have gotten Ted to maybe bring wine, but it's 7:30, it's a little early and all that. And now I would like to introduce our first speaker, Maryann Ferenc, who I feel like in many ways doesn't even need an introduction because any of us in Tampa Bay certainly know Maryann.
She's the CEO co-proprietor of Mise en Place, a hospitality company that stemmed from the high end contemporary French restaurant. Mise en Place that she founded in Tampa in 1986. The company has expanded to include Cafe by Mise en Place at T.I.A. and a boutique hotel property, the Berekley Beach Club, and Pass-a-Grille that features the Dewey Beach Bar and Grill. Maryann, thank you so much for being here. My pleasure. Thank you.
I want to first start by talking about inspiration because, Renée Vaughn, this is true proof that you inspire me because I was here at 7:04, this morning. And if anyone knows that knows me well at all knows that I am not a morning person. Then, of course, I turn to my morning person friend, Raphael from Kahwa Coffee, to bring us coffee this morning. But I want to let you know that if we'd done this at seven o'clock in the evening, we could have had Ted's product as well. Okay. Which, is just my time of day.
I have my best ideas around nine and I mean 9 p.m., not 9 a.m. So I am really, really glad to be here this morning, though. And it is a particularly good time to be telling the story, I think, of small business and in our "coming out of COVID phase".
And I say that because I don't think we're completely out of COVID yet. And certainly if you're a business and you're trying to figure out how things work you know, that you're not. But I also just want to thank Ron and Renée and the University for everything that has happened, here, in Tampa at the University of Tampa. We have a bird's-eye view from Mise en Place of what has happened here. And I know that my business is very different because of what has happened at the University. So thank you for that.
And thank you to all of the group of the Fellows for keeping the University of Tampa really fresh and meaningful out in the community and how much that connection, we all knowing how important that connection is. So thank you and Drew for chairing. So, I am. I'm really glad to be here. I'm really glad to tell this story at this point in time for a couple of different reasons. Talked about the COVID reason and I want to delve into that a little bit more later.
But, also, because we're 35 years, we're celebrating 35 years and we really marked in September, we're going to do big celebrations in January. So look out for that because of COVID and the time in September really wasn't the time to do a full celebration. So we're planning on doing that and 35 years in our businesses is a haul. So I'm happy to be here talking about it today. I mean, literally, I'm happy to still be in business at this point, here, and talking about this today. But it's also, in many ways, it's a great time to be in business and certainly challenging and certainly lots to celebrate.
This slide up here is, that's the beginning. When we first opened and we named... I'm going to, a couple quick things. I said, maybe I'll talk about how we got here, because you mentioned how people end up in Tampa Bay, somewhat unexpectedly and such. Marty and I came here. He had finished his culinary apprenticeship, three grueling years. I have a theater degree, so I was waiting tables. That's where we met. We came here on, we had not had a honeymoon.
So we came here on an extended trip and we brought his Harley. He was taking these long rides to enjoy himself after this apprenticeship. And he came back from one of them and he said, we were staying in an apartment. We had rented an apartment for three months and he said, "I got a job." And I said, "You did what?" He said, "I got a job."
Never mentioned that he might want to stay here. Okay. I should have known then communication, maybe not as best skill. And by the way, we have been business 35 years. We've been married about half of them and not married about half of them. So the partnership continues. Okay. I'm a team player up. So I went out and got a job and so, here we are.
I mean, that's really why we're here is because he got up, went out and got a job and then we started to learn about what's happening here. And eventually a few years later in 1986, we opened our business and that was the first business. And he wanted to call it Mise en Place and I said, let's not call it Mise en Place because people will think we're just French and we're not, they won't know how to pronounce it.
And this is back in the days, for you youngsters — okay, Where there was something called the Yellow Pages. Okay. And we actually looked at them to try and find businesses. And I said, they won't know how to look us up because they don't even know how to spell it. And it was really meaningful to him because it's this culinary term that you are taught as a student that is, if you have your mise en place you have your skillset, you have your act together. Basically, it literally means having your station set, but it's really been taken now by businesses outside of the culinary world to say, "How do you mise en place your life? How do you mise en place your business? How do you mise en place your staff?" And so it was really important to him and I knew that it was going to be okay the day that someone called and said, we have a bet in the office going of what your name means and how do you really say it? And I was like, yes, we're going to be okay.
But that's how it started out. And then that's the original restaurant, you can see these two photos here with the old mural behind there. And that was at the 25th anniversary. So, that's how the restaurant looked then. And then you can go out of that. This is how the restaurant looks today, very different. We've done a couple of different renovations
in time, which you, obviously, you have to do. You have to renovate not only your physical business, but you constantly have to be renovating concept and people. Really, it's an evolution. I think people don't like change. They like evolution. And Mise en Place has really been an evolution over time. And it's really about whoever people are.
We all talk about how important people are to business and they really are. In our business, Mise en Place has always been whatever the incarnation is of the current people that are there, right? It's about those people that were brought there at that particular time to do this thing together. And that's what the business is at that point in time. That's what the tenor of the businesses. And it's always all about a passionate about food and wine and people, because if you don't have that in our industry, you won't make it very far. But that is really what Mise en Place. And then if we go to the next slide has
French culinary phrase, meaning putting in place or everything in place and in the kitchen, the phrase is used as a noun, a verb and a state of mind. And we really have used this. We go back to it all the time in terms of how are we going to make it, right? It's because we have this core set of values. People talk about the vision and the mission statement and the values. And they really, I believe are incredibly important in terms of keeping your business going. And they're the thing that kept us going, one of the things that kept us going during COVID for certainly true. And our vision,
our vision is to be extraordinarily regular and mediocre to others. We must overcome the notion that we must be regular because it robs you of the chance to be extraordinary and that leaves you to the mediocre. And there's been lots of times when you wanted to still take a chance during COVID and I'd said, "Yep, remember our vision and that we're not going to be regular." So we got to go ahead and take that chance. And I want to talk a little bit about, briefly about what COVID has taught us in that way. And then there's a picture of the Cafe at Mise en Place, now Montados, which [inaudible].
These are some of the things we've done over time. That photo there is out in front of the museum after an event. We were there for about 10 years when the new museum first opened, the Tampa Museum of Art — we were there for about 10 years. And then before we had the Cafe at Mise en Place, we had First Flight. And I put that photo in there because it was one of my favorite fabulous things that we've done because it was in the center of the airport and it was this meeting spot.
And I think that that's what our business is really all about is it's a place for people to convene and we've always been kind of a community restaurant because people come there to discuss good, bad, fabulous, not fabulous, celebrate good things. and things that aren't so good in their lives. And you gather together to do that.
And I think that it's so important and that's why this growth of bars and restaurants in our community is so important because it makes a community more enlivened. And the more places there are for people to gather, the better that a community is in my mind. So a while back when I was asked something about when will we know that Tampa Bay is really going on and I'd say when we have more bars because in an urban life, you need a bar to go hang out in, right? Your apartment's too small, you got together somewhere, you gather in bars. And so you know you're living in urban lifestyle once you do that. And then this is the new project out at the beach, which really has become my passion.
I fell in love with Pass-a-Grille because my mother made me. My mother made me do a lot of things. She's truly my inspiration. If you knew her, I am a reflection of her in a huge way. So our vision there is to bring the world to our beach, their love, our integrity, and our commitment to simple elegance and all of our hospitality experiences. And our mission is to serve with a passion for service, to strive for excellence, with a deep humility, and to create a new vernacular for beach dining, with a strong sense of place in time. So who's been to Pass-a-Grille Beach? It's just a great beach. It's one of those very, very special places.
And that leads me to the conversation about destination. Okay. Tampa Bay is a very, very special place. That's all there is to it. And a lot of the rest of the world is recognizing that now, but a lot of us have known it for a while, but I also think that the new and the old here is part of what makes it very special. So it really is this combination of things that's made Tampa Bay very special. It's a combination of, we were talking earlier. It's the fact that there's the beaches and the Pinellas county piece and there's Tampa Bay and then there's all of the surrounding areas and there's Tampa and there's the urban side.
And it's that combination that makes this a great location. It's the combination of people who have lived here for a long time, who were born and raised here and grew up here. And then people that come recently and a long time ago from somewhere else and together bring ideas together and find a path, right? And that's one of the reasons why I think Tampa Bay has such great potential; all of those things, but also that this has been a difficult time to find a common ground and path in the last few years and our world at large, right. Our nation, our communities, our state. And so the fact that Tampa Bay, in order to be great, is finding and weaving a path between old and new. Between things that have been here forever and people that have just come between brand new communities, like Water Street and Midtown.
And what we're doing out at the beach and bring new eyes to that, to what has been here for a long time. And Ybor, who is now is also rising up. All of those things I think is one of those very special opportunities that we have to make our community great. And I think that it's something that we really need to just let happen, right? Just go with because it is something that is a little bit different than what might be happening somewhere else. So a moment about, and I'm talking a little bit about COVID. I've been through 9/11 and 2007, 2008 and hurricanes that we thought might take down the business and all of that. And this has been the hardest thing that I've ever done.
And there truly were days — and this is just for entrepreneurs. I so much admire the entrepreneurial spirit of this University and actuarial program that's here. And we always talk about small business and how we honor it. But sometimes
we really don't because we don't make policies and decisions that really support small entrepreneurial businesses because they're very different than almost everything else in life. And it takes such courage and passion and desire to create something that keeps you out there as an entrepreneur. And we do need, I think, more support to that and I think that one of the things that COVID taught me is that that entrepreneurial spirit is what keeps you going every day. So you have to feed it, you have to keep it alive. And mostly, I hope that we'll learn the right lessons from this, because I think if we don't — I'll just use an example.
We're taking the beach restaurant to sustainability. We're just food. If it's not local in terms of fish and that kind of thing, all kinds of things are coming off the menu because if we don't learn those right lessons, then what did we do all this for, right? And so I think that is the critical thing for me, that I hope that we'll learn out of all of this and that there is opportunity out of it. And I think that it certainly one of the things that it has shown. And I think it's one of the reasons why we're having a hard time in our hospitality industry, finding staff is the fact that that entrepreneurial spirit in people that they found when they had time to reflect, et cetera, is making people go out and try other things. And young people are going on trying something new as opposed to maybe following a path that they might've followed before. And I think our industry has to really reinvent ourselves.
We absolutely have to reinvent ourselves or we won't, again, have learned the lessons that we could learn and be our better selves after all of this. And we certainly want to be our better, best self after 35 years in business. And another 35 to go. No, I don't think so. So thank you very much for the time. I look forward to answering questions later on and on to our next presenters.
That was awesome, Maryann. Thank you. Back in 2011, I just have to say, I worked at the Tampa Bay Business Journal and Maryann was recognized or won the big businesswoman of the year awards. And she didn't know it. And she wasn't told until the day of, and she was at Cake Bread in Napa. And this is before anybody was on video, but Skype had just come out and it was the very first time I ever saw Skype. She somehow got some guy at the vineyard to download Skype on his computer and she Skyped in on the big screen to this giant black-tie awards and won businesswoman of the year. And that's why, cause, you know what? You figure it out, Maryanne. You figure it out. -Figure it out. That's right. -Thank you.
Our next speaker is Raphael Perrier. Raphael is the co-owner of Kahwa Coffee Roasting, a wholesale and retail coffee company based in St. Petersburg, Florida, that he founded with his wife in 2006.
The company has grown to 100 plus employees with 14 retail locations and over 800 wholesale accounts all over the US and the Caribbean. Raphael, we're looking forward to hearing from your inspirational story. Good morning, everybody. Thank you for having me. Very tough to follow Maryann. She's fantastic at speaking. I think one day she should maybe run for mayor; I think you should.
We spoke about in Boston. I think you need to think about it. Quick background on Kahwa. I'm Raphael Perrier. I am from France, little town in Alps, next to Italy and Switzerland. I came to America 26 years ago. Philadelphia, I study at Temple University, graduated from there. And my first job, I didn't want to be in a corporate business, a corporate world, if you want, so I became a barista. I went to work for a coffee shop
right downtown in Philadelphia. From the barista to managing the shop, to going to the wholesale business, learning the roasting. All those things made me learn all the coffee business, both sides the bar side, if you want cafe and wholesale. After that, I got tired of it. I opened a bar/nightclub, downtown Philadelphia, the first bar/nightclub in Philly.
I had the bar/nightclub for a few years and I met my wife. We got married. We wanted to have kids. She told me enough with the bar, it's too much. I said, yeah, you're right. Sold it. And moved to St. Pete. Why St. Pete? My wife was raised here, not born here. She's Canadian,
but she was raised here in St. Pete. So we decided to come down, raise some kids and started a coffee company called Kahwa Coffee. Kahwa — the name of it means coffee.
It's European for coffee. Anywhere in the world, you say, "Kahwa," people would say coffee except in America. So we decided to say, "Why don't we call it Kahwa?" And so it's called coffee coffee. It's kind of weird, but you know. The idea of the company where we started was to do wholesale. So for two years,
we roasted coffee. Bring beans from South America, Central America. Mix all the coffee. One of specific of Kahwa is that we do blend. A lot of other companies do single origin. We do blends, meaning that I compare it a lot with the wine. The French for many, many years, scream, scream, scream, single grape, single grape.
And then the Americans came on, which are now, I think, the best ones in the world and theye started mixing wines, mixing grapes and you mix a grape. And bam, bam, you create an amazing wine — same thing with the coffee. You take your Brazillian and you take your Columbian and you take a Mexican, you mix it together. It becomes amazing. So that's what we did really. When we started 15 years ago, it wasn't much around except the Starbucks and the Dunkin', with a company then also [inaudible] that was around for retail. So we started the whole company trying to put retail out there and everybody was like, what are you doing? You can't compete with these people. There's no way you'll make it against Starbucks.
One funny thing is when we open grand opening of the company in 2006, we did a grand opening in St. Pete, which was a warehouse, three hundred square feet, small little thing, invited everybody, nobody showed up except one guy, his name is Jeff Hook and he was the writer for the Tampa Bay Tribune, at the time. So Jeff came in, looked around, there was a couple of bags of coffee, us roasting, things like that. And we sat down at a table and I spoke about what we were doing. And he looked at me, he's like, Raphael, what are you doing? And I said, I'm creating the biggest coffee company in Tampa Bay. And he looked at me kind of, you know, okay, good luck. And now it's funny because
every time I see Jeff it's like, remember that day we sat down and you said you're going to do the biggest coffee company in Tampa Bay? I think we've done a pretty good job. Are we perfect? No. We've learned along the way. One thing that I learned in the business when we did Kahwa, I used to drive around. My wife was roasting the coffee.
She was doing the books, which was not much book to do at the time. I was delivering the coffee, managing the equipment and all that. Remember I used to drop the coffee off at Mise, myself in my little car. And it was the beginning. And I used to drive around a lot. You know, that's what you do.
You try to get business, you knock on doors, you try to get more and more business on the wholesale side. And I used to drive around a lot. I'd get to learn the whole area pretty well. And I drove by the Rays stadium and I was like, "Wouldn't it be cool to have Kawha day in a Rays stadium?" Drove by HSN. I was like, "My gosh, we could be on HSN one day. It'd be amazing." Drove by Publix everywhere and be like, "Oh geez, you can have Kahwa in Publix one day that would be amazing." And that's what I believe
in life and in business, you set up goals. Publix has done. HSN has done. And the Rays have done. So it's something that, you always try to push yourself and set a goal that seems impossible at the time. And now I just, things that are coming for us. One of the biggest challenges, again, was to compete with Starbucks.
How do you compete with Starbucks? Which the "Big Green Monster," as we call it. Oops, sorry. One advantage we had is local. Starbucks is based out there in Seattle. We were in Tampa, Tampa Bay. We pushed that local aspect. How did we do that? We supported a lot in the community. When you create a company and you build something, the community supports you. When you can and as soon as you can,
you support the community back. That's what we believe as a company. We give back as much as we can. When we started the company, it wasn't so much financial support that we could do because you don't have as much money as you wish, or you can. But
you give back in every single fundraiser that you can. You provide an espresso bar. You donate anything that you can, that is just product at a time, but it's what you give back. And that give back to the community was, I think, a big boost for us. Like Maryann said, we try to bring only local products in our shops.
That's the idea behind the company. People support us. A lot of restaurants helped us by bringing local coffee. We believe that now in our shop local, we can do the same thing to them. The future for Kahwa? I mentioned Publix. For us, the last few years have been kind of amazing and difficult because of COVID. We started working with Publix, which is, for us, one of the biggest company in the area.
We've been going at it for three years now. We put a program, a pilot program together with Publix, which is the Publix cafe called the POURS. We now, three years later, have 97 coffee shops with Publix, including the one that just opened in the new GreenWise the POURS cafe. So 97 other shops serve Kawha coffee. Is it a big deal for a company like us? Yes, it's a big pretty, pretty big deal. Do they want to do more? They want to go about 1800 shops, which is pretty fun for us.
It's going to be a lot of work, yes. We talked about having a hundred plus employees. One of our biggest challenge as a business owner, when you create your company is to be able to delegate, to trust people. When you do everything yourself, it's easy. I do believe it's easy. When you have a hundred plus employees that represent
your brand, it's very difficult at first. I was lucky enough to have my wife as my partner, which, she runs the business. I don't really do much in it, but she actually taught me how to trust people and be able to let it go if you want; to the point where you're able to do more by having a good team around. You cannot do anything in life without a good team around you. It's essential to, especially if you want to scale your business, you can run one shop, two shops. You can have a little company, as we say, but if you start going to the level that we're trying to be, you need to have that team around you. The future for us is keep on growing. We are opening one, two, three shops,
hopefully before the end of the year. Publix, like I say, is a big deal for us. The wholesale business, I didn't talk much about that. The idea of Kahwa is really the retail shop that we put out there, but more than half of our business is wholesale: restaurant, hotel, cafe. Mise en Place was one of my goals when I started the company as the how I'm going to get Mise en Place. For me, for a company I've been in the business for a long time, you always want to have those icon restaurants. So I got the French restaurant in Epcot by Paul Bocuse was one of the patriarchs of the restaurant business in the world. I finally got that place,
I think two or three years after we started the company. And Paul Bocuse's restaurant was the same level for me that Mise en Plus was here in Tampa. How do I get to Maryann? How do I? And I tried and I tried and every single person that I knew I'm like, "Do you know her? I can access her. Can I send her an email?" I can't do anything. Finally got the deal and I was like, "Yes, I got someone." And then we built a relationship and now we're friends, which is, I'm thankful for that, but it gave us a lot of opportunities in a lot of restaurants in the whole area to be able to grow. I always say something
my grandmother always told me, "I'll tell you who you are if you tell me who your friends are." And it's really, who you surround yourself with that define who you are as a person. You want to give back, you want to help, you want to do anything you can to grow your business. Yes. But I think it's also a matter of being recognized as a good person, as someone that can do good in general. And it's not always about business.
There's more behind it. One quick thing about that dynamic that we're talking about that happened, it was scary. It was, I think, one of the scariest moments that we all had in the business; when your wholesale business goes to plus millions to zero in one day, it's pretty scary. The lucky thing we had is we had the retail, which we pivoted pretty quick to-go, to pick up, the drive-thrus we had were the big advantage. We had to launch on Amazon in less than four days, which was pretty impressive to do.
We launched the pickup, the ordering, the pre-ordering in less than two days with a company called Adecco. So it was very challenging. I think we got lucky to live it because if we survive that pandemic, you can survive anything. And I think the future is bright for the area. Tampa Bay is fantastic. I love it here. I'm French, but I love the US. And that's where my home is. That's where my kids are.
That's where the whole, company is and thank you for having us. Thank you so much, Raphael. I can assure you Maryann would not have served your coffee unless it was a good quality, so that's a great marriage there. That's great.
Our final speaker is Ted Boscaino. I want to do this every time I say it Ted. Ted is the co-founder and vice president of Wine Stream and a UT alumni. He's innovative. I've spoken with them. He's got a lot of great things going on. They use kegs instead of bottles to reduce waste and maintain quality.
The company was founded by the Boscaino family after years of importing bottled wine from Italy to restaurants they owned. Thank you very much Ted for being with us this morning and we look forward to hearing your story. I can tell you the Boscainos have bought a building 1.7 miles from
UT, so they are doing great things in the area as well. Ted. Good morning, guys. Can you hear me? First of all, thank you to the Board of Fellows for having me here.
It's an honor for me to be able to speak here this morning. Like you said, Brad said, I'm an alumni here, so as I was walking these halls, I dreamed of being an accomplished entrepreneurs that would be able to give back to my school and kind of speak and inspire other people. This morning, I really just want to get across a glimpse of inspiration through my family business and my family's struggles here in Tampa. And so hopefully I'm able to convey that message this morning. I'm going to talk about Wine Stream, but I could talk your ears off about Wine Stream. So I'm going to try to give you a little bit of our history, family history of what we've gone through and then lead to Wine Stream and what we're doing and what's ahead. So before I start the video that I have here for you guys,
my family moved from Italy 16 years ago to Tampa. Why Tampa? I mean sun, beach, small town; it was perfect. We already came from Naples, which is a big city, very much like New York City, a lot of movement, a lot of things going on. And my parents wanted a place that was a little bit more quieter that could raise a family of six. And so Tampa is a very special place for us because they did open up their arms to my family.
With that said, we have plenty of struggles. Our business, kind of, history is definitely one that came with a lot of adversities. Coming from Europe directly to here, we wanted to bring some local boutique experiences to Tampa, but when we were trying to do that, the community was not necessarily ready for that. Florida is, I think, kind of a tough place to really get started with a new concept and so it took a little bit for us to get going. We've opened up a couple of restaurants. We've had some Italian restaurants, boutique restaurants, that didn't really work.
And the reason why I'm telling you this is because a lot of people see the success of entrepreneurs at the top because you really don't get to do these type of things unless you've made it somewhere. But it's very important to stay true to where you've come from. and that's why I'm giving you these examples and I'm telling you these stories is because it's not easy, by any means, to get to where we are today or to where these guys are at. I mean, it's a tough, tough road. And I want people to know that even though it's tough, you just have to put your head down and keep going. One of the things
my father taught me early on was enjoying the journey. It's not necessarily where you're going. A lot of times we get caught up in it's going to be, I want to open up a million-dollar business, or I want to make a hundred million dollars or I want to be nationwide and this and that. And those are great goals to have. So you have a roadmap to get there. However, the biggest thing,
I think is the journey and that's really what's really helped my family to get to where we're at is remember where we started. Remember when we opened up a restaurant and nobody was coming in and we had to close it down and how tough that was. We also opened up a wine distribution company, which did pretty well, but in the wine world, it's very tough to compete with giants, such as Southern Wine and Spirits, National Republic. These companies are billion-dollar companies. They're nationwide, so you could imagine a small Italian family business trying to make it fighting day by day to get a spot in these restaurants and hotels and bars.
So in 2014, the law changed in the United States where you could put wine in a bigger container than three liters. So wine on tap is new to the US, but very much old in Italy. We've been doing wine on tap in Italy for a very long time. And that concept really started because people wanted, people in Italy drink a lot of wine, as many of you can imagine. And so they wanted it an affordable way to drink good quality product. So when you put wine in a small container, in a bottle, wine is live bacteria, likes to move around.
So what you have to do in order to maintain it and not make it go bad, you have to pump in a lot of sulfites. Sulfites is that poison, let's say, that makes a lot of people have bad headaches. So I have people come to me all the time, say I love wine, but I hate the headaches the next day, or I have a massive headache the moment I started drinking it. That's because your body is telling you, you shouldn't be drinking what you're drinking. However, wine is great. And it's a great drink to have. So we've managed to be able to bring quality and healthiness, if we can say, to the public.
So I'm going to show you a video here really quick. That's coming up to kind of get started with Wine Stream and then we'll talk through our progress. Let's talk about your house wine. chances are you paid too much for it. A lot of it gets thrown out and guests, well, they're not exactly thrilled about the quality.
The entire model could be working harder for you and your bottom line. Wine Stream provides better products and bigger profits through wine on tap. Keg wine has been thriving in Italy for years, but we're the first to bring it here. Our revolutionary system reduces costs, reserves quality, improves efficiency and eliminates waste. Here's how wine on tap beats out bottled.
First is on price. The cost of bottled wine is inflated by an inefficient packaging and supply process. Wine on tap gets rid of the cost of corking labels and bottles. All things that don't add value.
We save tons of money by cutting out the waste and we pass those savings to you. Second is on quality. Bottled wine, starts to spoil as soon as it's opened. Our process allows us to preserve large quantities of wine in its natural state and our stainless steel kegs prevent unwanted oxidation, bacteria or sunlight from coming into contact with the wine. And as a result, you get the freshest wine on the market directly from our local facility.
We promise higher quality wine made without herbicides or pesticides and with no added sulfites or preservatives, which makes it healthier to consume. Third, wine on tap increases efficiency and consistency within your operation. Storage is more compact in a keg, so you can increase the volume of product on hand without increasing your space. Wine on tap is quicker to pour than corked wine, the taste doesn't vary bottle to bottle, and it's environmentally sustainable, replacing a constant stream of disposable bottles with reusable kegs. This is the future of the wine industry and it's really a win for everyone.
Wine Stream provides the most cost-effective approach to house wine. Premium quality wine that saves time, money, and the planet all while impressing your guests. So if you're ready for higher profits and happier wine drinkers, tell your distributor you're ready for Wine Stream's, wine on tap. All right. So I'm pretty much done. That's everything.
That was not a cheap video by the way. I mean, it was very expensive, but beautiful, very well done. So again what my dad really figured out was that through the adversities of opening up a restaurant and closing a restaurant and then working in the wine distribution company, he was able to see a 3D or 360 degree view of the hospitality industry in the wine sector specifically. So what happens when you open up a wine bottle, the oxidation begins and this is more true to the restaurant where they have multiple wine by the glass.
So we're talking specifically about house wine. Don't get me wrong, wine in a bottle will always be a reality. We're not trying to take that away from the wine industry at all, but when we're looking at house wine, where one of you guys goes into a restaurant and wants a good house cab or a good house Chardonnay at a good deal, you want a good product. And what's happened is because of the nature of wine and spoiling after you open up the bottle in the restaurant industry, the hospitality industry has really shrunk the margin as much as possible and tried to go with a product that they can afford to go to waste. When we saw that, we realized that there was a perfect place for us to fix that problem. There is a way to give people good quality wine for a good deal that will help not only the restaurant industry maintain their profit margins and their value, but also give people something that's good to drink.
And that's how wine on tap and Wine Stream came about. In 2014, when that law changed, my father set me and my brothers down and said, "Guys, there's a good opportunity to get started with something that's completely new and we can be the pioneers for it." At first, my dad's opened up a lot of businesses, but he's also closed a lot of businesses, so we weren't sure if we should get into an endeavor with my father at first, but he's a brilliant, brilliant man and has all mapped out. And our biggest key to this operation was not only, kind of, putting the dots together, because again, we didn't reinvent the wheel — we just brought the wheel over here — was to connect with the beer distributors. So again,
fighting in a very difficult industry, the wine industry where you have these giants that can really just close you out in no time at all. My father said we are a wine company, but let's go with the beer distributor because beer distributors know keg. They know tap, they know draft system. And those beer distributors have always looked for a key to get into the wine industry. But even then, even Pepin, for example, was one of our clients has always been pushed back from the big wine distributors.
This was a key that only they could use and really catapult them to the next level. And so we've managed to close over 15 distributors in the state of Florida and outside. So we cover Florida all the way up to North Carolina, Tennessee, where I'll be going in a couple of days to close that deal over there in Knoxville.
And we really gained a lot of popularity because our product is good and it just makes sense. But to closeout really this morning, I, again, I want to stress that things always happen for a reason and things happen with time. Brad was mentioning our cigar factory. We have been looking for three years to expand and for a facility and we just could not find the right place. It started to get very frustrating
because as a company grows, you need to get out and you need to move on to the next place. We just couldn't find it. We stumbled upon it randomly on the cigar factory in North Albany that happened to have a manufacturing warehouse attached to the back.
We always wanted to connect the old world as we come from the old world specifically, since we deal with wine and we're very futuristic, we thought it was a great way to plan what we do and that just happened to come. And now it is probably the best thing that's ever happened to my family and to our business. So again, just always keep in mind that even if you're not getting to your targets when you want and you're not moving as fast as you want to just know there's a reason and you're going to get there and just enjoy the journey because that's what will teach you and will keep you humble when you get to be where I am and be able to speak with you guys. So thank you so much again. Thank you UT for having me here. It's an honor to be an alumni.
UT has done an excellent job with me specifically too, as far as education goes. I learned a lot. I was very passionate about my schooling and I was doing it while I was opening up a business and running a full-time business. So it's doable. You just got to put your head down and get to work, but again, thank you so much for your time this morning. Wow, thank you so much, Ted. That was great.
I'm now going to open it up to questions for our speakers. So if you have a question, raise your hand and someone will come over with the hand mic. Right back here. These lovely ladies over here will help you out. He's back there. Raise your hand again sir.
Thank you, everybody and thank you speakers this morning. Quick question for you, Maryann. And that is you said something very interesting about, we need to transform the hospitality business. My question is, what's the idea you have that's going to help get people excited about going back to hospitality and more importantly, how do you retain people like if you go to [inaudible] if you've had those guys in there seem like 50 years, each one of them.
So how do you make that happen in the rest of the industry, so to say? You know, I think that it relates to our industry for one thing, being more forceful about the fact that we are the number one industry in the state of Florida, which is really meaningful. And that at that same time, we also employ people at all aspects. I mean, when you think about these folks are in the hospitality industry, so are they and that, so you're employing entry-level people all the way up through very educated, finance, all of that, and to really be clearer with both ourselves, one another, and then the outer world about how important that industry is.
You hear a lot of people talking, too, about everyone coming to Florida and some of it's for various reasons in COVID, but you keep hearing the no income tax, right? Well that's because the tourism industry pays about 25% to 27% of our income tax of our sales tax every year, right? So it's that visitor paying sales tax that bumps that is one of the reasons we don't have an income tax in the state of Florida. I think it's first incumbent upon our industry to tell our story better. By doing that, we open ourselves up to different kinds of employees understanding the opportunities that are in our industry and tracking those so that we can bring people forward that they think of it as a long-term job and not a short-term job. And so we're really working to get some industry, local industry folks together to start to have some real summits about this and talk to one another and try to move forward together in this fashion. Because if you don't, I don't know how we keep the number one industry in the state going to the degree that it needs to in order to supply that sales tax piece alone. So I think we really have to understand ourselves better, tell our story better so that people can understand what the real opportunities are in our business. I think overall, we're all going to have to look at,
that we're competing with just the entrepreneurship aspect of things. The other things that the way people think about work today is so very different than how we used to think about work. And I think that we have to understand that piece of it as well and tell our story and how it relates to that independent nature that people really have this year that want to go out and do their own thing. And how can you do your own thing within our industry? And there's really lots of ways for that to be the case. The bottom line is we need to pay more. We just,
we need to figure out that way to pay more and we need to understand how the consumer is going to tolerate that necessity. I think that you're going to right now you see a lot of exploding in the community. And I think that that makes sense in some ways. In our world, we're trying to think about how we can do a little less then you charge a little more and pay a little more because I think that's what sustainable. And then we can't think of people as just, Yeah, they'll come through when they move."
We can't accept that any longer. Yeah, they're going to be here for a little while and there they're going to go. We've always been very fortunate to try and cultivate people to give them futures.
And I think that's why we have people that have been with us for 20 plus years. But understanding that combination of thing, of understanding new people and how new people coming into the workforce and how they think, people that are moving around in the workforce and understanding our own industry and putting ourselves forward as more of the force that we really are. Any other questions? We have one more. We have another one here in the back and then we'll wrap up. Silvana. -Good morning, everyone. Silvana Capaldi with Ispirare Group. Thank you for each of you;
my favorite coffee, food, wine. The question to you, Ted, is my parents coming from Italy used to make their own wine, the old grape press — is your process here? Do you bring the grapes in? What is your process in making that wine? And then also are, we have beer kegerators . Do you have wine kegerators that can be delivered to the home? Yeah, absolutely. So the way we structure, of course, here in Florida, you can't grow good grapes. It would have been fantastic, but you can't.
What we've done is we actually rent land in Italy. So what that gives us is the opportunity to pick and choose where we want to grow specific grapes. And, of course, with wine, every region is different and every region will give you the specific grape. So what we do is we'll rent land, let's say in the Tuscany region where we want to grow, I don't know, let's call it our super Tuscan, which is a blend of Cabernet and a blend of Merlot. And so we choose land. My dad,
who was a winemaker in his earlier years and studied that in school was able to give our wineries there a recipe — let's call it. He goes every year to check on the product, make sure that it's all getting done and it can be done fully in Italy. Then it gets shipped in bulk, via flexi tank. So giant bladder in shipping containers. It comes to our facility ready to go. Pretty much our facility,
all we do is we run it through our final filtration. I run analysis and make sure the wine is stable and always good. And then we run it through our kegs. So that's kind of how we do that situation. As far as the other question was the kegerator. Yes. So
wine on top is very similar to draft beer. So you can technically use a draft beer box to put your wine on tap. There is wine on tap kegerators. They're very expensive and no need to make them expensive, but anything with wine, they try to always push up the prices.
But really all it is is it's a regular kegerator, regular Tavern head, or a coupler and you tap the keg and all you have to do is have stainless steel equipment, just because wine is so acidic versus the beer, it'll kind of start eating up at the the brass if you're not using stainless steel, but yes there is. And the at-home use is going to be more popular as we go. Again, now that we have our cigar factory, we're going to be able to be open to the public. We're going to be able to offer the general public a lot more options. An idea that my father had instead of having a big keg, which is more of an industrial type of program, we've designed a mini keg. So again,
it's about three liters and he's also designed a coupler where it has a faucet on it. So it's all, self-contained, it fits in your fridge. You'll be, we'll have a mini keg... -Very dangerous. That goes in. And so we're trying to eliminate this whole kegerator situation again, trying to make things a lot easier, but in the future you'll see a lot more of that. Dangerous. think about it. It's no more. It's like, well do I want to open the bottle tonight?
Am I going to drink something? You don't have to do that anymore. I agree. Well, thank you because of time here, I would want to make sure we get you out of time. Do we have one more question or are we good? First, I wanted to say thank you to the entire class that came here today. We appreciate you joining us from University of Tampa.
That's what it's all about. And we do have one last quick, we drew a card from the bowl when you all walked in and our winner today is Maggie Andretta with Reno Building. So I'll wrap up here and say, I really hope we, the Board of Fellows, really hopes that you all are as inspired as we are to leave here.
We came hungry for inspiration and we left quenched and ready to have wine on tap, delicious food and coffee. And what else do you need? So thank you all for joining us today. We really hope you join us in January. January 26. Love to have you as our special guests as well for our next Business Network Symposium right here in the Vaughan center in 2022. So thank you all.
Have a great day. Thanks for joining us.