A new direction Featured

8:00pm EDT June 25, 2008

While Shaun Bishop and Michael Stajer had different career paths to success, they both shared a love of wine, so the two founded WineCommune LLC, an online wine network and retailer, in 1999.

They faced many barriers early on. They both worked full time — Stajer as an attorney and Bishop as a stockbroker — to support their business and also used their credit cards and savings accounts. They faced other challenges, including the dot-com bust and the fact that, at the time, wine could only be sold and shipped between 18 states and government regulations discouraged commerce between individuals. To overcome these issues, they developed creative revenue streams in advertising and proprietary technologies in order to grow.

From the beginning, they also believed strongly in giving back to their employees. In addition to the normal health, dental and vision insurance, WineCommune also offers to pay for employees’ education, even if it doesn’t relate to their jobs. The company also provides lunch every day and routinely provides ergonomics and fitness seminars. On top of these perks, Stajer and Bishop look to their current employees to fill the next layer of management as new positions are created as a result of their rapid growth.

TheireffortshavelandedthemtheNo.35spot on the Inc. 500 list and No. 1 as the Bay Area’s Fastest Growing Business. They’ve also earned the distinction as a Top 10 Online Wine Retailer, according to Food & Wine magazine.

HOW TO REACH: WineCommune LLC, (510) 632-5300 or www.winecommune.com