Using Kickstarter to Open a Wine Lounge

Interview with Mark Prior, entrepreneur who is using Kickstarter to open a wine lounge focused on small production family vineyards.

Today, raising money to make entrepreneurial dreams come true has become a tad bit easier. Platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo give consumers the power to bring innovative ideas to market quicker and with less risk. Scrolling through Kickstarter you can find just about any creative and sometimes very niche concepts looking to get funded.

Meet Mark Prior, an entrepreneur with the drive to open his wine retail and lounge concept focused on California small production wines by raising money through Kickstarter. Prior is a wine geek who has traveled to wine regions throughout California and abroad. He’s so passionate about wine that he organizes an annual wine-tasting road trip for his circle of friends, and is regularly the “go-to” guy for wine recommendations. Now, he’s looking to take his love of wine and hospitality to the next level. 

What’s your background, how did you get into wine? 

It’s an unlikely chain of events…I was in sales & marketing, then came to LA for the typically Hollywood dream, fell in love with the state and its wine country, and found a new dream.

Why do you feel it’s important to have a tasting room catered only to labels most of us haven’t even heard of? 


I always find great wine when I visit the vineyards of Santa Barbara, Napa and elsewhere, but you never see those labels on the grocery store shelves or the big beverage retailers. It’s important to spread the message that when a you walk down the wine aisle at the grocery store you’re really only seeing the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all of the amazing wine made in California. There is so much more out there that should see light of day. 

What’s the retail strategy? Price points? Wine Club? 

No thoughts on a wine club at the moment. And I can’t specify as to price points other than saying I WILL have offerings from $8-$20 that may be sourced from a wholesaler/broker [versus being directly from wineries], but I stand behind my commitment that 80% of my inventory will be small-batch and family-run vineyards. There are plenty of California wines out there, that you never heard of, which I can offer at $20, $30, $40, and $50 a bottle that give you a new take on winemaking here in California.

Who and how do you choose your wines? What do you look for? 

I lean on my friends, kindred spirits. You can’t fill a wine shop with wines that only you like! But personally speaking, I love Pinot Noirs, Syrahs/Shiraz that have earthy notes and hints of plum or prune…maybe even a hint of smoked meat!

Who is your demographic? Why? 

Give me the beginners. People who just like wine. Challenging & developing your wine palate is noble, but it’s not for everyone. There’s a famous quote, I can’t remember who said it, but it goes something like ” there’s too much tasting of wine and not enough drinking it!” I think a lot of oenophiles forgot that it’s okay for wine to be fun. I don’t want to set expectations with flighty descriptions & tasting cards. I’ll let what’s in the bottle do the talking.

What are the details of your Kickstarter? 

Target Goal: $50,000. Start Date: May 14 2019. End Date: June 14 2019. Link to Kickstarter:

Winery Direct Deal: Yount Ridge

Shipping included on the award-winning 2017 Sauvignon Blanc from Oakville (Napa Valley).

 Winemaker: Celia Welch (yup, that Celia Welch!)

Use code: SHIPINCL