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Uncorking Innovation

How Bottling Failures Lead to Success

By Kali Linette

David Trone, owner of Total Wine, spoke at Kogod.

Photo used courtesy of AU Photo Collective.

David Trone, owner of Total Wine, spoke at the Kogod School of Business's annual Alan Meltzer CEO Leadership Speaker Series about his successful career as an entrepreneur. Trone discussed his experiences with growing a small business into a big business. He highlighted his achievements, but also praised the benefits of failure.

"I'm happy as hell to fail because I went out and did something. Failure needs to be our friend because failure means we’re innovating," said Trone.

On his path to success, Trone faced many roadblocks, mainly in the form of legislation. Over the years, he worked with state policymakers to create more business friendly liquor laws. Not every attempt ended successfully, but Trone used his failures to motivate himself.

"The nice thing about business is as you make money you can invest. If you’re not making continuous improvement you’re history," said Trone.

In his quest to continuously innovate, Trone found more legislative roadblocks stood between him and his latest endeavor, an online storefront for his brick and mortar stores. In order for his latest business idea to work, Trone has worked to find solutions to accommodate each state's liquor laws.

"You can’t ignore what’s going on in government because as you get bigger they put a bulls eye on you," said Trone.

Trone opened his first Total Wine store in Delaware, with his brother, in 1984. At 12,000 square feet, the flagship store sold only beer until 1991, when the brothers broke into the wine business. Since its opening, the original store has expanded to 50,000 square feet housing over 8,000 wines, 3,000 spirits and 2,500 types of beer. Total Wine stores can now be found in 18 states, with about 130 stores.