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I am a manager for a winery, and I am looking to build a business based around wine tourism, including B&Bs and winery tours.

Can I approach board members and investors of my current employer to participate in my new business through investment or providing other support?

Would it be unethical to use contacts I made through the winery to build my business?

Should I resign from my job before I start to develop this business, or is it ethical to do it on the side?

I don't want to burn any bridges, but I also want to strike out on my own.

Thanks

  • If your current employer was onboard with you providing wine bus tours to them (as your own separate entity) in some kind of non-exclusive partnership, then I don't think it would be a problem to at least tell board members about your new venture while still being employed by your current employer. – Stephan Branczyk May 29 '16 at 21:25
  • Didn't we just cover this? Turns out it was similar: Can I contact clients I found through work for my personal business? – Lilienthal May 29 '16 at 21:55
  • Anyway, even if it wasn't ethically questionable (which it is), what makes you think they'd support you? I'd wager that the chances of them A) having sufficient interest and B) not considering the relationship a problem are effectively nil. – Lilienthal May 29 '16 at 21:57
  • They might question if you would have the time / dedication to you job as winery manager. – paparazzo May 30 '16 at 2:44
  • For a Beds & Breakfasts, you could initially partner with AirBnB or Bookings.com to get your initial clients. For wine tours, you could partner with Uber (as an UberXL or UberBlack), or Lyft to get over the initial hump of advertising (or to keep on working when the tourist wine season fluctuates). Uber currently takes a higher commission for UberBlack or UberXL than for UberX. I think it's 30%. Disclaimer: I drive for Uber myself and I do get $1,000 if I refer a driver who does 100 trips (and the new driver also gets an extra $1,000 after 100 trips because of my referral). – Stephan Branczyk May 30 '16 at 3:22
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I see no issue with asking the board members and including this business in your tours or even making it a centrepiece. But I do see a problem with doing it as a side business while still working there.

So I would ask the boss first if I could do a side business like that, in which case the worst that could happen is they say no (and I don't blame them). Because you partially want to use their business to generate money for yourself. And they are not the sole business that will be getting the advertising, which is a complex field on it's own (the first and last on a tour tend to be remembered best). You may need to negotiate fees, placement, and suchlike to sweeten it for them.

All in all this is better done if you quit and try your venture on your own, in which case there are no ethical issues at all that I would worry about.

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It would be a conflict of interest to compete with your current employer. It could be a perceived conflict of interest to work too closely with them -- other wineries may suspect that you will give these folks an unfair advantage. Bringing board members on board, unless you make that offer to all the wineries in the area, may raise this question.

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    "It could be a perceived conflict of interest to work too closely with them -- other wineries may suspect that you will give these folks an unfair advantage. Bringing board members on board, unless you make that offer to all the wineries in the area, may raise this question." This is absolute bunk. When you open a Bed and Breakfast, or do a wine tour, there is no obligation to be fair, or to seem fair at all. – Stephan Branczyk May 29 '16 at 21:20
  • I agree with @StephanBranczyk - plenty of tour operators in our local wine regions have "favourites", which basically runs down to: there is a business relationship between the winery and the operator. – HorusKol May 30 '16 at 0:18

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