News & Stories
Nancy Belle Hansford
August 2, 2022

Entrepreneur Uses Berry Skills and Connections to Cultivate Small Business

While backpacking in California three years ago, communication major Nancy Belle Hansford ’21 purchased a book on winemaking that later sparked the thought of an exciting business venture. Within months, Watkinsville Wine — located on 24 acres in Oconee County, Georgia — was in its beginning stages. Hansford has since acquired her business license, sold over 750 bottles of select seasonal wines, and added jams and jellies to her product list. She uses locally picked fruits to craft different flavors of her products.

In May of this year, Watkinsville Wine was a vendor at the Athens Wine Weekend — for the very first time. At this two-day wine tasting event, Hansford held a seminar and retold the story of how she started her business. Along with her entrepreneurial enterprise, she works full-time at DynamiX, a website development company run by Berry alumnus Jeff Jahn ’07.

Connecting with Jahn prior to her graduation not only solidified her position as DynamiX project manager but also linked Hansford to mentors who were invaluable as she entered and won the PITCH (an entrepreneurial competition hosted annually at Berry) in the spring of her senior year. Following up on Jahn’s advice, Hansford reached out to Dana Professor of Management & Entrepreneurship Paula Englis to source on-campus funding. Pitching for the Angel Fund and Ninja Fund secured $2,500 to get started.

Englis admires Hansford’s tenacity and dedication, saying, “Nancy Belle really used the great opportunities that Berry provides, like support from me, the Entrepreneurship Program and various types of competitive funding. These resources are critical in the early stages of a business startup. I am so proud of Nancy Belle and all she has accomplished so far!”

The $6,000 in prize money from the PITCH solidified a launchpad for Hansford, but she was already equipped with the skills to grow her business from the ground up. She gained an eclectic mix of skills from her business minor and various on-campus positions, such as writing center consultant, nutrition specialist, recreation manager and staff editor for the student magazine Valkyrie. She says, “I love that Berry gave me the opportunity to get involved doing so many things outside of my area of study, and I believe this diverse set of jobs gave me the skills and confidence needed to juggle the many jobs I do now.”

Hansford’s concentration in public relations proved fruitful when she was tasked with developing the brand for Watkinsville Wine. “Not only am I the one running the operations behind the scenes, I am also the one who interacts with customers and has to be the ‘face of the brand.’ I draft social media posts, take all of the photos, message customers, organize deliveries, organize wholesale pickups with my suppliers, and network with state and local government officials,” she says.

She adds that these “people skills” came in handy when working to enact change in local laws and zoning ordinances. “I can happily say that Watkinsville is no longer a ‘dry city’ and Oconee County just wrote in an ordinance for farm wineries, so more people like myself can pursue their dreams!”

Three years after curiosity led Hansford into the world of vinification, she notes that the path from conception to execution was not linear. She is glad to have gone through the journey of developing her business, saying, “Once you have something you care a lot about, you want to share it with others.”

Story by sophomore Amani Pyron

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