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Article Title

BELLE MEADE PLANTATION: SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP AND SUSTAINABILITY AT THE FIRST NON-PROFIT WINERY IN THE U.S.

Abstract

After examining the latest financials for the nonprofit Belle Meade Plantation in 2004, Alton and Sheree Kelley were frustrated. For the fifth consecutive year, donations from corporations and individuals had declined, resulting in the lowest total annual revenue in memory. Clearly, management needed alternative revenue sources and could no longer rely primarily on donations for sustaining operations. It was time for some entrepreneurial ingenuity. An ambitious plan would eventually emerge for building and operating an on-site winery. Now, almost ten years later, the Plantation operates the only such nonprofit winery in the United States, and the addition provides almost half of the organization’s total revenues. The gradual shift from an exclusively “donor-based” mentality has now changed Belle Meade’s approach to embracing other revenue stream opportunities. For one, should management extend operations to an on-site restaurant that is approaching an expiring lease agreement? Such a move could create an additional source of revenue and leverage the existing winery so that food and wine could be paired at the restaurant. Second, the State laws that previously prohibited off-site expansion of the Plantation’s winery business were now gone. As a result, if it so desired, Belle Meade Plantation could legally open another winery at a new location such as downtown Nashville. An additional winery location could complement the current brand in a variety of ways while serving the Nashville market.

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