Northern Lights Estate Winery Reflects on Early Success
Prince George, B.C. – Wine not?
That seems to be the prevailing attitude in Prince George when it comes to buying into one of Prince George’s newer businesses – Northern Lights Estates Winery (NLEW).
The company, which only opened its doors in June, 2015, cleaned up at last weekend’s Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Awards.
It took home 40% of the evenings hardware including the Entrepreneur of the Year Award (Doug Bell), the Service Excellence Award, the Business of the Year Award and were tops in the Tourism and Hospitality category.
“Wow. We really didn’t expect that but the more we get into this business, the more tremendously honoured we feel to be a part of the community,” says Bell. “Our team is the reason that we have been so successful and the community is the reason that we’re continuing to grow.”
He says the success of the winery – the first and only in Prince George – has exceeded expectations.
“In our first year we thought we would sell around 1,500 cases of wine and we sold almost 4,000,” says Bell. “We’re continuing to grow and we’re starting to see not only are people interested in our products here in Prince George, but there’s also starting to be a lot of interest in our products outside Prince George.”
In fact of the 35 fruit wineries in B.C., NLEW is already in the top five in terms of production.
“And we’re continuing to grow. Last year at this time we were closed because we were sold out of wine. So, we brought in new equipment, and we’ve partnered with more local orchards in Prince George and the north to get more product availability.”
Thus, they’re now selling their products all over the north including places like Vanderhoof, Fort St. James, Mackenzie, Smithers, Quesnel, Williams Lake. Bell says NLEW is also making the move south to markets like Kamloops and Vancouver Island.
And what of father Pat, who served 12 years as MLA representing the Prince George-Mackenzie riding until 2013?
“It’s a great dynamic between Pat and myself because we have a good business partner relationship. It’s something that I think is more difficult to achieve if you don’t have a personal relationship before hand,” says Doug.
“So Pat’s been a great mentor to me, he’s retired and so he doesn’t have direct involvement with the day-to-day operation of the business but certainly he’s a good person to bounce ideas off as well as to bring forward new ideas.”
Along with his duties at NLEW, Doug is also CEO of Family First Foods Group of companies, which runs two Wendy’s restaurants in town.
Interestingly, he notes the secret to success with both businesses is the same.
“At the end of the day we always talked about Wendy’s being a people service serving hamburgers. Well in this business it’s a people business serving wine,” says Doug.
“So, it’s about delivering on expectations, creating a high-quality product, and being able to execute on that day in and day out in a consistent way people find value in.”