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Bottoms Up! Here's what every online alcohol startup needs to know.

By Amanda C. Kooser

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

When it comes to online retail, wine and spirits sales aren't the easiest areas in which to launch a startup. The licensing and regulation hassles alone can make even the staunchest entrepreneurs think twice. But those challenges didn't stop Jill Bernheimer from launching Domaine547--one of a new breed of sites that combine alcohol sales with online social networking features--in 2007.

"My biggest challenge was navigating the local, state and federal legal issues regarding sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages," says Bernheimer, 36. "My launch date kept getting pushed back." The whole process took about seven months, with much of that time spent waiting for licenses to come through, she says. "Waiting it out was not the worst thing in the world. It allowed me to launch the blog and content portion of the site before the e-commerce portion." What sets Domaine547 apart from the old guard of online liquor and wine retailers is its dedication to social features. The site's friendly design, blog and forum areas make it attractive to consumers who are eager to learn as well as purchase. The first thing a visitor to sees is an ongoing wine blog with an unobtrusive link to the company's online store in the upper right-hand corner of the page.

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