Entrepreneurship has no minimum age requirement, as the founder of Wanish Sugar Bush is proving. Initially, the teenager started his business at just 15 thanks to help from his family. And now, he’s ready to make it his full-time job after graduation. Read about his journey and unique offerings in this week’s Small Business Spotlight.
What the Business Does
Offers 100% pure maple syrup and maple sugar in Northwestern Wisconsin.
Founder Will Wanish told Small Business Trends, “Right now, I offer half pints, pints, and quarts to both individuals and stores. In addition, for about a year, I’ve been producing maple sugar–it’s something unique to add to recipes, as a topping, or as a coffee sweetener.”
Being started by a 15-year-old.
“Now, as an 18-year-old high school graduate, I am excited to make this my full-time job. We produce a LOT of maple syrup over the competition and only with family help.”
How the Business Got Started
“I started helping my uncle when I was 13 years old; he produces maple syrup as a hobby. I really enjoyed it and wanted to start my own business. So, in 2019, I told my parents about my dreams–they had me make a list of necessary equipment and what was needed. I secured a $30K loan from a local Regional Business Fund, purchased equipment, and built my syrup shed. Each year, we have doubled production and look forward to our shed addition and new equipment coming in 2023.”
Getting some local recognition.
“During 2022, I was named Entrepreneur of the Year for Momentum West–an organization that covers a large portion of Northwestern Wisconsin. It means that–even as a young entrepreneur–people recognize the hard work that I have put into my business so far and the success that I have had.”
Pivoting during the pandemic.
“When COVID hit, we had to change how we were going to sell our syrup or we would have gone out of business. So, we got licensed, made a wholesale price list, and went door-to-door to local grocery stores to sell syrup by the case. Today, we are in about 150 stores throughout Wisconsin and Minnesota.”
Investing in new equipment.
“I’ve currently taken the biggest risk in my business; I’ve ordered a new evaporator and reverse osmosis machine to grow in 2023 and beyond. This is requiring a huge investment from myself and my parents; the end result is that it will position me for the future.”
Plan for future growth.
“If I could redo anything, it would be to build a bigger facility the first time. Now, we are already adding on to the syrup shed and it’s only been there for three years. It would have made more sense to build it larger than what we needed at the time so that we were ready for growth and not having to invest that money now.”
How They’d Spend an Extra $100,000
Securing necessary supplies.
“With the shortage of glass bottles and caps, I would buy as much as I could with the $100K–that would allow me to have everything that I need for the next one to two years without worrying if it will be in stock.”
A friendly dog.
“My company mascot is Maple, my yellow lab–she just turned one year old and is the most popular thing on our social media sites.”
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Image: Wanish Sugar Bush, Will Wanish