Opinion

Young: Family business idea now an entrepreneurial venture

I have discovered what I think is one of the finest examples of entrepreneurial creativity within a family setting that I have ever come across.

Enjoy this story because, for me, it was exhilarating to find out about.

Wyn Lewis, the patriarch of this wonderful family, and his wife immigrated to Canada in the late 1990s, both trained accountants.

After a relatively brief sojourn on Canadian soil, the couple moved to the San Francisco Bay area where there first son, Tony, was born.

Like his parents, Tony graduated from high school and began his initial career journey in the banking and accounting fields, not surprising considering the influence of his parents.

After working for a tine both in Lake Tahoe and in Los Angeles, Tony, at age 19, launched the beginnings of his entrepreneurial creativity streak, opening a recording studio, no small effort I must admit, to seek entrepreneurial gold.

A wonderful example of Tony’s entrepreneurial creativity that he shared with me was when he opened the recording studio in 1999 in Long Beach, it was a struggle to actually amass a tangible profit against operating costs.

So Tony and his associates came up with a brilliant idea—he went to a large arena venue and told the owners he wanted to stage a large concert there. He was told he would need to secure some bands to perform before the arena signed off on the idea

So Tony went to 10 different groups with this proposal: “I will record in my studio one of your songs for a CD and charge you $200 US to do so.” Henceforth, with 10 bands, he made 10 times $200 US and as part of the deal, each band played at Tony’s concert which sold upwards of 1,000 tickets. Nice work Mr. Lewis.

This was a monetary music model Tony would repeat on more than one occasion.

In 2001, Tony met and married his wife in Hollywood area and cemented a loving bond that has marked his journey to this very date in the Okanagan…but I’m getting ahead of myself because here is where this story goes to the moon and back.

Tony had two brothers, each talented in their own rights, one an excellent artist and the other an electronics engineer.

The three of them joined forces to form their own retro rock band, and began performing across the U.S.

Mom and Dad Lewis, you obviously inspired such freedom of creativity as these three sons were brought into the world and raised in your homes across North America—kudos to both of you!

A short time later, the Lewis family moved to Boulder, Col., as Tony’s father Wyn explored yet another milestone in his North American journey.

Again, Tony decided to open a multi-faceted recording studio bringing exposure to many talented American musical groups.

When Tony was in his mid-20s, he and his wife had their first child which dramatically changed Tony’s view of the world.

At this time, he and his brothers were enjoying significant acclaim with their rock trio, but Tony was beginning to experience the pangs of marriage partnership and fatherhood.

He felt compelled to tell his brothers that he needed to pull away from traveling on the road with the band and be home for his family.

At that point,  the talented trio agreed to move into their own fields of creative endeavours, while at the same time  Wyn decided to buy a winery magazine even though his knowledge of the industry was limited.

He asked Tony to join him in this venture, and the two decided, why not?

Wyn had also at that time acquired some acreage in East Kelowna, suggesting to Tony that perhaps the orchard could be replaced with a vineyard.

So in 2007, this father and son duo came to the Okanagan region and began the journey of one of our newest and most exciting winery ventures, a magazine called Vibrant Vines.

After a few short years until the vineyard matured, Tony supplied Calona Wines with his vineyard product, whilst father Wyn was creating the Okanagan Villa Estate Winery.

The apple trees were pulled out and replaced with pinot gris, riesling, gewurtztraminer, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc grapes and before you know it, a new wine industry venture was happening.

This boutique estate winery is the fruition of a Lewis family dream and the challenge of the newly emerging Canadian wine industry.

The winery now includes a beautiful villa that can be utilized for weddings and special memorable occasions and a Vibrant Vines tasting room.

For his part, Tony has created an inventive technique of developing a winery vineyard, a creative mastery of spraying vineyards using golf carts rather than tractors which enhances efficiency and increases productivity on the land.

And, he might have developed this first of its kind, wine on tap keg experience in conjunction with The Delta Grand Okanagan Hotel.

One visit to the Vibrant Vine wine shop and you will be amazed at the art form presentation by Tony’s brother Phil, who still lives in Boulder, with his art decorating the wine bottle labels, winery umbrellas posters and other promotional efforts.

I loved their winery. You’ve got to make a quick trip to Vibrant Vines in East Kelowna on Pooley Road and meet this creative crew.

Joel Young is an entrepreneurial leadership coach, consultant and educator and founder, Okanagan Valley Entrepreneurs Society.

 

eagleyoung@shaw.ca

 

 

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