Risk for Return - J Street Consulting

June 2, 2010 – J Street CEO, Jim Wolfe, on MSNBC. Commentary from J Street CEO Jim Wolfe was featured in today's MSNBC story about a Virginia distillery. As Assistant Professor and Entrepreneur in Residence at George Mason University, Jim is one of the region's leading experts on new and early stage companies.  His blog follows below:

Risk. Return. ROI. Rewards commensurate with the risks. Weighted average cost of capital. Discounted cash flow; present value; NPV. These are all phrases familiar to the modern business student or MBA. Entrepreneurs know that what they do is risky. In fact, many people simply define an “entrepreneur” as someone willing to take on the risk of a new or untried venture.

Local entrepreneurs Becky and Scott Harris know full well this interplay between what we would like to have, and what it really takes to get there. I recently commented for MSNBC on Becky and Scott’s new husband-and-wife venture in Loudoun County Virginia, named Catoctin Creek Distilling Company. It’s the first legal distillery licensed in the county since the days of Prohibition.

Full disclosure: I don’t know Becky and Scott, and I have never visited their new facility. But I hope to meet them soon. And I’m certainly hoping to sample their product. They produce several labels of truly organic distilled liquors (an interesting brand positioning for this product, I think), including an aged rye whiskey, white whiskey (not aged), gin, and even a Virginia Brandy.

The Harris’s financed their new venture partly from savings, and partly from an SBA backed loan. That’s where the risk comes in. It’s very tough to start any business; tougher still to enter a highly regulated industry such as distilled spirits. Add to that the intense competition of literally hundreds of competitors and, well, you get the idea. In a word: Risk.

But the returns are there to be had, if Becky and Scott can execute. Not only financial returns and payments with (hopefully) profits to any investors, but a return in the form of the culture, the lifestyle and the passion that comes from such a wonderfully interesting and romantic business. (OK, maybe I do read business plans the way others read Hemmingway or Updike, but to each his own.) Building a successful startup business – certainly valuable. Building a business you could leave to your children and grandchildren – now that is actually priceless.

Jim Wolfe
J Street Consulting CEO
Entrepreneur in Residence, George Mason University

Reposted with permission of Jim Wolfe, J Street Consulting.  Original posting is here.

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