Spotlight on Small Business Owners: Shaun Lapacek, Rock N Wool Winery
For Shaun Lapacek, there’s no greater feeling than working for yourself — as long as you’ve got the right tools to handle the bookkeeping.
When you have an innate love of something along with the drive to be your own boss, it seems like owning your own business is a no brainer. Just ask Shaun Lapacek.
After becoming completely enamored with the wine country in Italy during a trip abroad, Shaun returned home and looked for any opportunity that would allow him to combine his passion with his natural abilities. “I’ve always had a nose for wine, and people seem to like what I’ve had to say about it,” he explains.
So it’s no surprise that Shaun now owns 40 acres of vines and pines where he makes his very own varietals. What is surprising, however, is its location: Wisconsin.
Shaun spoke with us about how Rock N Wool Winery came to exist, the challenges and rewards of being a small business owner, and how FINSYNC helps him be the boss he needs to be.
How exactly did you end up making wine in Wisconsin?
My parents bought a property in Poynett, Wisconsin, which is about 25 minutes north of Madison. They raised sheep here and the soil is incredibly rocky, so they called it Rock N Wool Acres. In early 2000 I asked my father if I could grow a couple rows of grapes to see how they worked and possibly open up a small wine shop. Well, neither one of us really knew what we were getting into.
By the time we started planting we had a whole lot of money in the property. So we kept planting and we had about six acres of vines. All of a sudden we realized that we’d put two hundred thousand dollars in this and we were going to need more than just a little shop. We were going to have to get a winery going to start getting the money back.
So that’s kind of how we started. I mean, I love wine. I wanted to make wine. The next thing I know, I’m going to go belly up if I don’t start making a lot of wine and really take this seriously. So I bought the property about two years ago from my parents.
What would you say is the best thing about being a small business owner?
I love waking up and just being me. There is no greater feeling. I don’t go to a job. I wake up and I’m Shaun. I mean, there’s nights I don’t sleep, I have things to do and all that, but at the same time I’ve never had to go into a day of work.
Knowing when my girls come home they run out here and they know it’s their winery. They’ll ask, “Are they drinking Papa’s wine?” It’s ownership of that and creating a dream. It’s something that’s very, very special, especially since I have two little girls.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced as a small business owner?
Bookkeeping, accounting, payroll — those are the things that I absolutely hate. Looking at the whole payroll system, I have absolutely no concept of how to deal with it. I can do all of that stuff for myself, but when it comes to filing for other people, that’s where I was kind of going crazy. The paperwork’s the worst thing.
Has FINSYNC helped you address some of these challenges?
Oh my God, they’ve been fantastic. I had talked to Square originally and they want to nickel and dime you for everything. They wouldn’t be flexible with me for what I needed. That’s why I went to FINSYNC.
FINSYNC was great. They were able to accommodate how people got paid, what taxes got taken out and it’s very easy. They’ll send me reminders about running payroll and things like that. It’s so nice to have that completely off my mind. It’s a hat I don’t have to wear. FINSYNC’s been great with this for me.
What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned as a small business owner?
Wow. One, start keeping great files and bookkeeping right from the very beginning because they’ll come back at some point. You can’t say, “Oh my God, I was so busy. I didn’t keep this, I didn’t keep that.” When you start a business, go into a plan, get somebody who’s going to work with you, who’s going to be able to help you from day one.
That’s as important as knowing what kind of wine I want to make, so all of that is taken care of. That is such a big deal because otherwise once things get going faster and faster, if you don’t have a system in place, you just forget it and you’re behind the eight ball. So you have to have your systems in place for accounting, payroll, all that, and that’s really big.
The other thing is, realize that you can’t do everything yourself. You have to have people who can help you because you’re not going to be able to grow if you try to do everything yourself. You can’t focus on what matters.
I always remember that if I’m not making wine, this place closes down. So I have to hand these things off to other people. We don’t need me mowing the lawn. We don’t need me doing payroll for four hours a week. We need me in the production area making wine.
Would you say that FINSYNC has helped you focus on the more important aspects of your business?
Oh my God, yeah. Payroll is a big deal as we’re getting bigger. Even today I had a new person on payroll and on the clock. Having people being able to punch in and out, it’s something I don’t have to worry about and that’s just everything. FINSYNC really allows me to focus on what I want.
Shaun Lapacek, Founder of Rock N Wool Winery