Kent Nowlin brings his vast knowledge and extensive experience to his position as general manager of Vinespring. The company provides subscription-based services to clients who own or manage wineries and breweries.
As the general manager, Kent Nowlin uses his experience as a “veteran leader in the wine business technology space” to run the business. By hiring him, the company has also shown a commitment and willingness to invest in growing the business even further. Currently, Vinespring already supports more than 500 craft beverage businesses through its technology, and has already started preparing to improve its technology to accommodate more wineries and breweries.
About Kent Nowlin, Vinespring CEO and co-founder Chris Towt says that he “is a natural fit for Vinespring.” Kent should bring a wealth of strategic knowledge and leadership, as well as establish a culture of accountability for the whole Vinespring team.
Prior to Vinespring, Kent Nowlin worked for almost a decade at ShipCompliant, which is another tech company dealing with beverage alcohol compliance. At the company, Kent managed the sales, operations, and finance teams until he eventually became company general manager. While general manager, Kent successfully steered the company towards the vertical growth of the company’s wine channel and its horizontal expansion into beer, spirits, and online retail.
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Jerome Knyszewski: Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Kent Nowlin: I have a long history of working in the wine industry. Before consulting with VineSpring and eventually becoming the Vice President of Management and Operations, I held several leadership positions at Sovos ShipCompliant where I participated in the successful vertical growth of their wine channel, but also its horizontal expansion in the beer, spirits, and general online retail channels.
I also have a military background that relates to business. The importance of teamwork, planning, execution, etc. One that I find myself explaining often though is the concept of interlocking fields of fire. When a platoon sets up in a defensive position it is important that the line of fire for each fox hole has the right amount of overlap with the line of fire of the fox hole next to them. If there is too much overlap you become inefficient, when there is too little overlap you have gaps in your defense. Part of my job as a at VineSpring is to make sure that our team’s responsibilities have just the right amount of overlap so that we are as efficient as possible without letting things slip through the cracks.
Jerome Knyszewski: What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
Kent Nowlin: Chris Towt our co-founder and CEO, started a winery with his wife and realized quickly that selling beverage alcohol was unique. Not satisfied with the ecommerce options that were available for its unique requirements he decided to build his own.
Jerome Knyszewski: So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
Kent Nowlin: Things are going quite well today. We are growing, we are profitable, and most importantly we have built a strong team. I wish I could tell you that the grit used in the early days was all it took but no that resilience is constantly needed, sometimes on a daily basis. As you grow your challenges don’t go away they just change. Instead of worrying about how you will make payroll you’re worrying about what your competition is doing, or how to grow faster.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you share a few examples of tools or software that you think can dramatically empower emerging eCommerce brands to be more effective and more successful?
Kent Nowlin: MailChimp. Communicating with your patrons through email marketing is still important. MC has many automation tools to make sure that your follow up with customers and even potential customers is timely and well managed. The other is obviously social media. If SM is not your thing, hire it out because it is a necessity these days.
Jerome Knyszewski: As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies an eCommerce business should use to increase conversion rates?
Kent Nowlin: Automated follow up. You don’t have time to manage all your potential sales so using something like MailChimp to create a follow up campaign for abandoned carts is key. The other important thing is to make sure you are tracking your sales funnel.
Jerome Knyszewski: Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that an eCommerce business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?
Kent Nowlin: Stand behind your product. Make returns as easy as possible for your customers because some of your most loyal and long term customers will be people who have a good experience when something goes wrong. Beyond that make sure your selling products you believe in and can personally stand behind. If you or your team wouldn’t use it yourself, don’t sell it.
Jerome Knyszewski: Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful e-commerce business? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Know your vision/purpose — this is what will get you through the hard times.
- Find & solve a market problem — if you’re not solving a problem you will never make it.
- Narrow your target market more than you want to — even if you have to start by selling a single product you will thank yourself later. Become the expert and then expand.
- Content, content, content — I’ve seen companies win big from a single article in the right publication, but it takes lots of articles in lots of publications to nail that one.
- Find a mentor — burnout is guaranteed, surviving it is not. The best way to win is to stay in the game, the best way to stay in the game is with encouragement and accountability.
Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?
Kent Nowlin: You can find me on LinkedIn.
Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!
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