Dave James, MBA '92, grew Pasek Cellars from 1,500 cases to a peak of 15,000.

What problem/market need were you addressing when the business started?

Gene Pasek produced wine as a hobbyist. He received very positive feedback for the fruit (non-grape) wines he produced. He followed that enthusiasm for his wines into commercial production. The wines filled a niche in the market and were felt to be the best in the category.

I discovered the wines in 2001 when I was selling wine for five Washington wineries. Although I was skeptical of them at first, I quickly learned that they were winners in the market. The Paseks needed financial and logistical help to grow, and I stepped in to provide both.

What has been the biggest challenge and the biggest reward throughout your journey?

The biggest challenge was managing cash flow. Revenue for us and most wineries peaks in October, November and December. Major expenditures for us (mostly annual fruit purchases) were centered in the summer.

We grew the business from about 1,500 cases when I first became involved to a peak of 15,000. I was always proud of that. The most rewarding thing though, was to make something that people love.

What, if anything, did you learn at Albers that has helped you in running your business?

We used to joke that I was Pasek Cellars’ CFO: Chief Financial Officer and Chief Forklift Operator. In a small business you need the confidence and ability to wear many hats. My Albers experience gave me both the confidence and ability to tackle financial decisions, logistics issues and production efficiency opportunities.

Dave James, Pasek Cellars

We used to joke that I was Pasek Cellars' CFO: Chief Financial Officer and Chief Forklift Operator. In a small business, you need the confidence and ability to wear many hats.

Dave James MBA '92

What’s next for the business?

I sold the business in January. The new owners are exploring a variety of ways
to grow the business. They are working with new graphics for our packaging, participating in many local festivals and amping up our social media presence.

If you were to recommend one thing from your winery that newcomers should taste, what would it be?

I’d say try the winery’s signature wine, Cranberry Wine. It represents 35 to 50% of our production, depending on the year. It is made from whole cranberries grown in Washington and Oregon. It is modestly sweet with a tart finish. It’s popular all year long but has become a tradition on many Thanksgiving tables, where it finds new fans each year.

Two-sentence advice for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

You don’t have to start a business from scratch to follow your entrepreneurial spirit. You can apply your ideas and energy to an existing business to move it to the next level.