Jon Roleder – Want to be a Wine Mogul? Start by Cleaning Toilets – Opt Out

Jon Roleder – Want to be a Wine Mogul? Start by Cleaning Toilets

4 months ago · 1:24

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Jon Roleder is our first on-location interview.We sat with him one morning on the lawn of his Napa Valley home with mimosas in hand, as noisy trucks from Beringer’s historic estate carried supplies between wineries.  Today, he is knee deep in the wine business and living his own version of the Opt Out Life. But Jon Roleder “the hustler” has been storming through businesses with his own unique approach since he was a kid.

Jon is a man who has spent his life working with his hands. He first learned woodworking from his father, a Lutheran pastor who made cabinets as a side business while Jon was growing up. Jon was the church janitor at age 12…and then in his 20’s he started a janitorial business that grew to $500,000 per year and 23 employees while he was still in college.

Those days in the woodshop with his father paid off as well. Jon ended up with a furniture business that made millions of dollars in cedar chests. That led to an expertise in manufacturing, which later prepared him for an opportunity to help save a floundering company that made massage tables.

All the while, Jon had his eye on a different prize. He wanted to move to the wine country, grow grapes and make wine. In 2001, he thought he had his chance. But, the market crash got in his way. Deflated, Jon hunkered down for what would be another decade in the massage table business. In the meantime, he experimented using stainless steel barrels to make wine.  He patented the system and launched a side business called Modern Cooperage.  Its barrels have by now been adopted by over 100 wineries, and that list is growing.

Did we mention Jon is making wine as well? Yup, his “Avaia Cellars” is soon releasing its first vintage. As if wine and wine barrels aren’t enough, Jon bought some land in Napa Valley with humble ambitions, but has now blossomed into a large development project.

Listen now to the story of a man who’s shaking up the wine industry with a better way to barrel wine. After all, what’s more opt out than a guy who says that the entire wine business is doing it wrong?

Highlights from Episode 9 with Jon . . .

On people telling him his ideas are crazy, like buying over 200 acres of land in Napa Valley. . . “The reoccurring thing that keeps coming to mind is everybody I would share this idea with, with this property that I picked up and the direction I wanted to go was you don’t need anything that big. Why would you want that much in terms of a challenge? I’ve just always thought that you know, I think most people’s problem, they just don’t dream big enough. I’ve never had a problem with dreaming big.

Telling us how Modern Cooperage has a bright future . . .The younger generation sees all the problems and complexities and they’re more aware of the environment. They’re trying to improve their efficiencies, their carbon footprint, be more sustainable. They see that market. It’s the younger generation, so they see all the attributes of this Modern Cooperage barrel way faster than some of the older guys do in the industry, but that’s not to say some of the older guys haven’t adopted it and are experimenting with it. It’s just that resistance to change is definitely there, and it will continue to be a challenge. I feel like we will be very successful in another 10 years with all the kids of the parents in Napa Valley, Sonoma Valley, who own these big wineries.

Recounting how in 2001 he had already bought property in Napa and had a deal to sell his company, before 9/11 hit . . . “12 years ago. We had an offer … We actually had 18 offers on the company. It was a great company. We were looking at all 18 offers trying to pick a winner, and 9/11 happened. We literally were watching the planes crash into the towers in New York, and within two days all 18 offers were retracted and the whole financial market shut down. We went into a recession. I had my erosion control permit for my 50 acre hillside vineyard. Planting a vineyard is very experience, and I was going to hang in there and sell company and then use the proceeds to move forward with my planning. We had to retrench, dig back into the business, and we were there another over 10 years.”

The value of surrounding yourself with talented people, sharing the pie, and not trying to do everything yourself . . . “Definitely align yourself with the smartest people you possibly can and don’t for one minute think you know all the answers. All the old rules apply. Everything takes twice as long, costs twice as much. My business, which I didn’t know, is probably ten times. I guess don’t lose sight of your dream and try to figure out that balance. I’ve talked to so many people who have only focused on their dream and didn’t have a balance, and they ended up with a broken family and divorced and all kinds of other issues. You really need to figure out how can you be happy with your wife, how can you spend time with your kids and still pursue your dreams. I think that needs to be part of the master plan. .”


Nate Broughton: Quick disclaimer before you listen to this episode. This is Dana and I’s first episode that we recorded on location, and it’s actually pretty cool because we recorded it in the front lawn of our good friend, John. There’s noise from birds, and there’s noise from trucks, but you’re getting the real experience of us sitting up in Napa Valley and having this conversation, so bear with us a little on the audio and enjoy.
Nate Broughton: This episode of the Opt Out Life podcast recorded on location in Napa Valley, California is the Opt Out Life story of Jon Roleder.
Speaker 2: Welcome to the Opt Out Life podcast, the no BS guide to living the modern good life. Hosted by subversive millionaires Dana Robinson and Nate Broughton, the Opt Out Life podcast explains exactly how creative hustlers are turning side gigs into real income and taking back control of their time. From their studio in sunny San Diego, the Opt Out Life welcomes guests who are solopreneurs, entrepreneurs, travelers and creatives who are proof that you can choose a lifestyle over money but still make money, too. If you feel like you’ve been chasing your tail, running the rat race or stuck in a system that’s rigged against you, we’d like to offer you an alternative here on the Opt Out Life podcast.
Dana Robinson: Jon Roleder is our first on location interview. We sat with him one morning on the lawn of his Napa Valley home with mimosas in hand, and noisy trucks from Beringer’s historic estate carrying supplies between winery’s behind us. Today, he’s knee deep in the wine business and living his own version of the Opt Out Life, but Jon Roleder the hustler has been storming through businesses with his own unique approach since he was a kid. Jon is a man who has spent his life working with his hands. He first learned woodworking from his father, a Lutheran pastor who made cabinets as a side business while Jon was growing up.
Dana Robinson: Jon was a church janitor at age 12, and then in his 20s, he started a janitorial business that grew to $500,000 a year and 23 employees while he was still in college.
Nate Broughton: Those days in the wood shop with his father paid off as well. Jon ended up with a furniture business that made millions of dollars in cedar chests. That led to an expertise in manufacturing, which later prepared him for an opportunity to help save a floundering company that made massage tables. All the while, Jon had his eye on a different prize. He wanted to move to the wine country, grow grapes and make wine. In 2001, he thought he had his chance but the market crash got in his way. Deflated, Jon hunkered down for what would be another decade in the massage table business. In the meantime, he experimented using stainless steel barrels to make wine.
Nate Broughton: He patented the system and launched a side business called Modern Cooperage.
Dana Robinson: Did we mention Jon is making wine as well? Yep, his Avaia Cellars wine is soon releasing its first vintage. If wine and wine barrels aren’t enough, Jon bought some land in Napa Valley with humble ambitions. That’s now blossomed into a large development project. Let’s listen to an interview with one of our most audacious guests, who’s shaking up the wine industry with a better way to barrel wine. After all, what’s more Opt Out than a guy who says that the entire wine business is doing it wrong.
Dana Robinson: We’re here with Jon Roleder, long time friend and a business partner of mine in Saint Helena, Napa Valley. Actually, our first remote podcast outside of the studio, so if you don’t mind tell us what’s going on in your business world right now.
Jon Roleder: I tried to retire, but that didn’t work so I got involved in three, four, five different businesses. One of them … Actually all of them because I’m just real passionate about all of these businesses. I never quite had the time to pursue them the way that I wanted to when I was in my long term, full-time business for the past 25 years, but knowing that the end goal with that business was to sell it someday and move on to what I was really passionate about was being in the wine business.
Dana Robinson: Okay, this is what brought you to Napa.
Jon Roleder: Yeah. All the years of hard work paid off and here I am, I’m in the wine business. I never thought I would have been in all facets of the wine business, but it turned out I am and it couldn’t be more fun and exciting. When I say all facets of the business, I’m in the actual wine barrel business, actually building barrels with some real interesting technology that seems to be slowly taking hold. I’m actually making wine in this new wine barrel technology to help prove the technology, which is turning out to be very interesting, as well as planting vineyard and going through the permitting process. The whole political process of permitting a vineyard in Napa is quite a challenge, as well as building a winery that we will eventually pick our grapes on our land, process the grapes, make the wine in our barrel, in our technology, in our facility, and then we’ll have the pleasure of figuring out a marketing plan to sell all this.
Jon Roleder: Very involved in the wine business. We also hope to share this wine business with the folks at a couple of hotels that we are in the process of permitting and building. One is over in Bourdeaux and one is here in Napa Valley right in Saint Helena. Hopefully, we end up having some venues where we can pedal our where’s as well.
Nate Broughton: Okay, let’s break in for the first time real quick. Dana, you know Jon better than me. I was up there sitting with you guys on the lawn. He’s runnig through all these things. He’s in the wine business. He’s not even a wine guy. He’s got this whole background as an entrepreneur. I’m sitting up there. I’m trying to keep up. I think our listeners need a quick rundown of what he just told us that he’s doing in the wine business.
Dana Robinson: Absolutely. I’ll talk you through the main businesses that Jon’s involved with starting with the one that I helped start. Modern Cooperage is a business that builds wine barrels out of stainless steel. They’re built in keg format, like giant beer kegs. That’s not the great part about it. It’s that they’ve got this patented system inside the barrel that lets the winemaker control the amount of oak exposure with inexpensive but high quality oak staves. There’s already people all over the wine business that use these oak staves, so Jon developed this barrelling system that only uses the oak staves without the original oak barrels, saving all of that unused oak.
Dana Robinson: We’ll learn a little bit more about that specific business later in this podcast from Jon, but I think its good groundwork to give people an understanding. We have an innovation in wine that no one else is doing to stainless barrel and control the oaking in wine. That’s Modern Cooperage. The second business he’s talking about is he’s making wine. For those that don’t understand what’s entailed with that, you’ve got to buy a bunch of grapes from somebody that has access to grapes, so farmers that sell grapes that don’t make wine sell you those grapes, and you turn that into juice and put that in your barrels. You’ve got to have a warehouse full of barrels that hold your grapes while they ferment.
Dana Robinson: Then you have to have a winemaker that helps you manage all of those. It’s wildly expensive. I don’t know if we talked much about the price of doing one or two vintages, but this is a several hundred thousand dollar experiment to see if you can make a run into the wine business the way Jon is here. We’ll talk a little bit about how he named his wine Avaia after his two kids. It’s a made up name. Avaia Cellars is the second business. The third business he’s in is land, and some of this is confidential because he’s still developing the land, but essentially he tripped across a piece of property that he thought he could use for himself. It was a reasonable price for someone who might build a single home in Napa Valley.
Dana Robinson: After a little bit of research, he realized that it was sub-dividable, that it’s vintable and probably has space for a winery. He can have a vineyard, a winery in multiple parcels, so he suddenly found himself owning the land that’s going to end up having his own grapes and his own winery where he can put things in his own barrels and put out his own wine under his own label.
Nate Broughton: This guy’s got a big plan.
Dana Robinson: Very audacious.
Nate Broughton: All right. Let’s hear his story.
Dana Robinson: That’s what amazing is you’re coming in to this as kind of an outsider. Do you think that’s an asset or has that been a liability?
Jon Roleder: Well, what they say in the wine biz, a great way to make a small fortune is to start with a large one. I’m not sure. It’s probably better off not knowing the industry. Otherwise, I probably never would have done this. I’ve always been very fortunate and I’ve just worked real hard and been a good steward in my opportunities, so I feel like I think this is going to work out. I think it’s going to be okay.
Jon Roleder: It’s a little scary, but I’ve been very fortunate through the wine barrel business, which has parlayed many people that are prominent in the wine industry. I’ve been able to talk with them and speak with them, and network, and it has really opened up almost the entire wine world here in Napa. I would probably be hard pressed not to be able to do find somebody and network to get to the person I really need to talk to at this point. I’ve only been living here six months and driving up here for a couple years working on the wine barrel and the development projects.
Dana Robinson: Let’s talk about the wine barrel business because that’s actually how you and I met. Geesh, eight years ago probably. It feels like about that.
Jon Roleder: I think it’s 10.
Dana Robinson: 10? 10 years ago, you and I met through a mutual friend. You were assembling a little founding team with an accountant. You needed a lawyer, luckily for me, and did a horse trade. I got some stock in your venture, and instead of being an investor with cash, I came in with some time and put a block of legal work to get the thing up and off the ground. Talk a little bit about the business Modern Cooperage. Talk about that as a conception and what you did to get to the point where you and I first met and we started this company.
Jon Roleder: In that longer business I had for over 25 years, I always had this dream of being in the wine business, so when we had a couple very fortunate years and had some nice distributions from that business, I immediately took all those nickels and parlayed them into a 100 acre ranch up in Alexander Valley on Pine Mountain over in the Sonoma side with the goal of planting a hillside vineyard. I was able to do that. I was way up on the top of Pine Martin. Beautiful vineyard, amazing soil. Went through the permitting process … a 50 acre hillside vineyard … and in that process, the goal was to have this great mountain fruit to make some beautiful cabernet.
Jon Roleder: Then, when I sold the company, the long term company Earthlite, I would eventually try to find some struggling little winery down below that was selling, or somebody that was older and wanted to move on and pass on the baton. I would take this little winery and use my great mountain fruit and build this wine business.
Dana Robinson: That’s a big plan well in advance of even having your exit from your main company.
Jon Roleder: It was 12 years ago, and the exit was just a year ago. I was working on this business plan, and I was pretty familiar with growing grapes but I just didn’t know anything about this actual winery business, how that all functioned and most importantly, I was shocked when I was working on a spreadsheet and I was told that wine barrels don’t last forever. Being a manufacturing guy and always trying to figure out how to build a mousetrap better and faster, I was just shocked that these wine barrels would cost $1200, $1800 for a good French oak barrel.
Jon Roleder: Lo and behold, top wines would be one and done, meaning one vintage in the barrel and that’s it. They sell them off to lesser quality wines. Many folks use the barrel for blending. They’ll start with one vintage, two, three, four vintages and they have these complicated blending schemes. Regardless, barrels in five years are oak neutral, which means they can not impart any flavor on the liquid inside at all whatsoever.
Dana Robinson: What do they do with the barrel at that point? You sell it to the landscape companies to use for-
Jon Roleder: Most of them end up as flower pots. They get cut in half and off they go to nursery’s and Home Depot and Lowe’s, and everybody else all around the world.
Dana Robinson: How much do they get when they sell that barrel?
Jon Roleder: They’re anywhere from $10.00 to $25.00 depending on how they cut them and finish them. Some are pretty rough-
Dana Robinson: [crosstalk 00:11:55] $1500 barrel is $25.00 for the garden?
Jon Roleder: Right. That was a big component on my business spreadsheet. I had the grapes, the fruit. I owned the land. I had that thing taken care of. There’s three main things in the wine business and it’s the fruit, it’s the wine barrel and then it’s your employees and your labor and your overhead of your facility. I felt like I had one big void there. I had the fruit figured out. I felt like I could always get a deal on a winery somewhere, but the barrel really bothered me because that was an expense you would have the rest of your life. When I looked into it, I learned that, and you can see it when you cut open an oak barrel, that the wine only penetrates about an 1/8 of inch of the oak even after five years from the inside.
Jon Roleder: The integrity of the barrel is really the function in why you have all this oak. People could stack them up and they can transport them around and so forth. I just thought I just didn’t know why people wouldn’t make a wine barrel out of stainless steel and then put the oak on the inside. At that time, people were experimenting with oak chips and shoving all kinds of things into a neutral barrel that was five years old through the bun and trying to recreate the oak flavor and still reuse that barrel. I decided I would try this experiment, build a stainless steel barrel and put oak staves inside. The more I learned when people try to stir the leaves and batonnage that there are all these production-related issues that with my background I was very comfortable addressing and working out solutions for.
Jon Roleder: I spent about a year and a half with a pen and pencil working on some designs, and I decided it was time to build a prototype. Being in that longer term business, I was doing business in China, and luckily our factory was up in Chengdu. The largest stainless steel beer keg manufacturer … Actually, the second largest beer keg manufacturer in the world … was only 80 miles from there north in Yantai, China, which is the wine country of China. I traveled up to Yantai and sat down with these folks. Wonderful people, great access to stainless steel. I showed them my drawings. They thought I was crazy, but I was persistent.
Dana Robinson: You were crazy.
Jon Roleder: After three days of trying to translate using hand signals and everything … I had a translator there. I had PowerPoint presentation. I was trying to convince them that this would be a great product for them. As you know, beer kegs are much smaller than big 78 gallon, 55 gallon, 280 liter wine kegs. That was a challenge to get them to be willing to build these things and try to cram these through their production line, which was very efficient. They actually had to build a whole separate area in their factory just to make these barrels because they were so much bigger than their equipment.
Dana Robinson: Styled after a beer keg?
Jon Roleder: Well, some of the rolling processes for rolling stainless steel, some of the forming and stamping equipment was all the same, but it just took a lot of babysitting to get it to work and to actually have this thing come together. We had over $100,000 in tooling-
Dana Robinson: Did they carry that for you? Did you just use the relationship to get them to do that or did you fork over $100,000?
Jon Roleder: No, I borrowed the money from Tom.
Dana Robinson: That’s right.
Jon Roleder: Tom was the first investor.
Nate Broughton: All right, Dana. This is really interesting to me on the re-listen because we’ve got Jon here. He’s a successful business man. He’s had success. We’ve established that, and we’re going to hear more about that but as he’s jumping into the wine industry, he’s having to really start from scratch. He’s doing thing that any hustler has to do. He’s leveraging contacts he’s had from a previous career or business. He has to borrow $100,000 from Tom. Who’s Tom? Who is this guy, right? It’s not all easy no matter who you are, and he’s busting into a difficult industry. I love just hearing it from a person who, from the outside, is pretty accomplished and he’s having to hustle and make it work.
Dana Robinson: Yes, absolutely.
Nate Broughton: They’re calling him crazy. No matter who you, you’re going to get called crazy when you’re trying to do something unique and break down walls.
Dana Robinson: Right. Think of all the ventures that he was called crazy for and five or six ventures later, and millions of dollars later, he’s still being called crazy. Tom is a friend. In fact, I think they might have been neighbors at one point. Long time friends. Yeah, Jon had to treat this just like a startup even though he had a successful business. He was majority owner of Earthlite, successful massage table business. It was making a lot of money, but it hadn’t cashed him out. If he was going to eye to the future, what am I going to do later, he needed the lead time to start that business before he had the cash. He had to raise the money just like any hustler who’s looking to start a business that needs more capital than they have.
Dana Robinson: He not only had Tom. We had Howard. We had a CPA who joined as a co-founder. They needed a lawyer to join as co-founder, so I was lucky enough to be asked to be a co-founder and join the business. We ended up with about eight of us that helped get the business off the ground. Tom was the first guy that just had the faith to say, “I like it. You need cash to get these barrels done. Here’s your first $100,000.”
Nate Broughton: Nice. Jon’s doing this, he’s mortgaging time while he’s still having to run a large successful operation. He’s got a family. It’s cool that he’s making the time and thinking ahead to do this. He’s hustling to get the things in place so down the line it can have some momentum for when the time comes that he can make the leap, and he’s foreshadowing to another one of his talents, which is to surround himself with other good people. He’s the dreamer and he’s going to build a team of people to pull this off.
Jon Roleder: I knew we were going to have a big tooling bill, so a good friend of mine, Tom, wanted to be a part of it. We struck a deal. I gave him some of the action, and he lent me the money and off we went. We went over to China and made the tooling and got our first prototype. It was definitely an adventure. We barely got the barrels here in time for harvest. In fact, the plan was to put the barrels on a boat, but we didn’t have enough time because that would have taken 45 days to get them here to Napa coming through Oakland. We actually had to put the barrels on an airplane.
Dana Robinson: Those are big.
Jon Roleder: We ended up spending $23,000 in air freight to get the barrels here. What we didn’t realize was the barrels, when we shipped them, they were an airtight chamber. They were shipped with the barrels sealed up, so when they went up to altitude-
Dana Robinson: Oh no. Pressurization.
Jon Roleder: They got pressurized and the barrels caved in.
Dana Robinson: I forgot about that.
Jon Roleder: Fortunately, when they landed most of them popped back out again … the heads of the barrel. What happened is this rotational core, the technology we had inside the barrel, got tweaked a little bit. It was very sensitive with tolerances so the barrel wouldn’t rotate. We were very challenged in the beginning. All the features of the barrel we were so proud of we were very challenged with.
Dana Robinson: Everything went wrong, basically. The timing-
Jon Roleder: Basically everything went wrong.
Dana Robinson: You had somehow as an outsider managed to get some winerys to say they would take these and try mixing their juice in it.
Jon Roleder: Right. That’s where meeting Susan Pate came involved. She’s a very prominent wine label maker here in Napa and Sonoma, and actually around the world. I ended up giving her a little piece of the company to introduce me to the bell cows so to speak of the wine industry. She introduced me to Kendall-Jackson, which was our first large beta test. They took 24 of our barrels. That’s where I met Patrick Pickett. He was the head winemaker there at Skylane Facility. I figured that was a good place to start since they had 100,000 oak barrels in their chardonnay program on Skylane in Sonoma.
Jon Roleder: Off we went. He was willing to work with all the features that weren’t functioning the way they should. He did a wonderful chardonnay test and he saw that there were a lot of things we could do to this barrel to perfect it. I ended up making him part of the team, and he helped me resolve some of the technical issues with the barrel actually over the last 10 years. As we speak, he’s still helping work on this barrel. He’s the biggest believer in the industry.
Dana Robinson: Modern Cooperage, I think it’s a cool story because a lot of what worked for you had to do with sharing the business with people that had things you didn’t have. Our mutual friend, Felipe, CFO … knew how to do finance and that was something you probably didn’t want to have to fuss with.
Jon Roleder: Right, as well as write up an offering memorandum and so forth. That was right up his alley, and he was very good at that.
Dana Robinson: Then, you need a lawyer. Luckily, I was all too eager to do something in the wine business and hang out with someone who likes cigars and scotch. We spent a lot of fun times at my old Spanish seaside villa hanging out by the outdoor fire place talking about the future. What I liked when we were first setting up the business was your goal was to do something you really wanted to do, and to do it with people you liked hanging out with. I think it’s been fun. The people have been fun. I love Tom. Susan’s a blast. We were talking a little bit about Susan. Susan was good friends with … Was it Robert Mondavi?
Jon Roleder: Very good friends.
Dana Robinson: I don’t feel like she’s that old either, but maybe she just ages well. She’s a fantastically intelligent woman with this I guess you’d call it an agency that does design and graphics in the wine industry, and is famous for most of the successful labels in the business.
Jon Roleder: Labels and brands, yeah. I think most notably the Opus One. She brought together Bordeaux, France and Napa Valley. Lafitte Rothschild and Robert Mondavi. She has just a long list of great winery’s here and is super well connected. She has wonderful stories. You get her talking stories, you better have four or five hours because she will just keep going, and they’re all interesting … about the Mondavi kids growing up. She knows who did what and where, and who dated what, and watched people fall in love and get married and divorced, and move on and marry somebody else famous in Napa Valley. It’s a big soap opera here really, and she seems to know the majority of it. It’s great.
Dana Robinson: Yeah, it’s a big small town.
Jon Roleder: She’s fun to talk to.
Dana Robinson: Yeah, and then you came across Patrick. Patrick became I guess our business’s greatest find maybe?
Jon Roleder: I think so. I don’t know where we would be right now without Patrick. We’ve had a series of people who have falling into the business who I can’t imagine not having be a part of it. Patrick, he’s a scientist and he is determined to see this Modern Cooperage barrel take over the world. He is doing a good job. It’s really tough. It’s not your average Joe who would just say, “Here’s some new technology” and jump on board. It takes a lot of patience. He’s been in the wine business, winemaker, for 35 years starting with Rombauer and Franciscan and all kinds of notable winery’s around Napa Valley.
Jon Roleder: He was at Kendall-Jackson for 16 years making five million cases of wine a year.
Dana Robinson: He’s done big and small.
Jon Roleder: He has, and that’s what was so appealing but what I didn’t know when I was getting into this is that when you try something new in our business, first of all you have to wait for the grapes to get ripe.
Dana Robinson: That takes patience.
Jon Roleder: Then, you harvest them. Then you put them in a barrel and then you take potshots at what you think might work, but you’re not going to know for about a year whether it worked. Then, it gets into the bottle. Then it goes through bottle shock. You might be looking at a two year window to see if it works, so if you want to tweak something it’s going to be another couple years.
Nate Broughton: All right, a lot of talk about wine right there. In our last podcast, we also talked about wine. Maybe if you’re not into wine, you’re like I don’t know if I want to keep listening to these Opt Out Life guys. I’m going to wait for the next episode, but no. Let us tell you a little entrepreneurial story from Jon Roleder that we hinted at in the intro to keep you with us here as we get through some wine stories, and then move on to other cool parts of Jon’s story. We were hanging out with Jon in house after we had this recording out on the lawn, and as it happens with most guests, they tell us their best story when we’re no longer recording. We try to bring it forward, bring it to you here in a voice over.
Nate Broughton: Jon was a hustler from the time he was young, right? He was cleaning the church pews of his dad’s church, and later he told us he went to college in Santa Barbara. He knew how to clean a place basically, and he went to a restaurant owner and pitched him on an idea to let Jon and his buddy clean the restaurant for two weeks for free, and if the restaurant owner was happy, he’d come back and give Jon a contract. Right?
Dana Robinson: Right.
Nate Broughton: Maybe not that explicit, but that was the pitch.
Dana Robinson: Yeah, the pitch was Jon wanted this contract and knew that he’d save this guy money. The guy was apparently paying four people to do this job every night full-time. Jon said just give me a contract and I’ll do this for a fixed fee, but I’ll prove it to you. Let your people take a vacation and I’ll work for free for two weeks. I’ll get this thing clean, and if you like the work, then hire me. If you don’t, that’s okay. We’ll be friends. The gamut paid off.
Nate Broughton: Two weeks. He convinced his buddy to help him from what? 2:00 am to 8:00 am every night for two weeks. The owner comes back and he gets a $60,000 contract. He spun that into a business that eventually was cleaning six restaurants or more at 23 employees, and he was pulling in half a million dollars a year top line. All the while, while he’s in college having this business. He’s got a business that is now staffed by employees with contracts that he set up, but he’s pretty much just overseeing it and cashing checks, if you want to call it that, at a very young age, which would have been pretty cool to be 22 in Santa Barbara and have a business like that.
Dana Robinson: A lot of people think maybe they don’t have any skill in your near 20s. Jon, at 12 years old actually, negotiated to be the janitor. A fixed fee with the church. This wasn’t just the pastor’s kid who was getting some free money. He wanted a fixed fee because he knew he could clean it faster, and therefore get a better value out of his time. That skill that he got as a 12 year old all through high school cleaning the church turned out to be the first thing he leveraged into a business. I did the same. My first business was a landscaping business. I was 19. I was in college. I didn’t like working for other people, and I bought a lawnmower and started passing out flyers.
Dana Robinson: It wasn’t even a year before I had the city of Orange as a contract. A couple of college campuses, a church, employees, trucks, but my only skill at the time was that I had spent my teen years pushing a lawnmower around the neighborhood. Just leveraging a skill that a lot of people might not realize they have as well.
Nate Broughton: You know what I really like about this? This led to some contract cleaning yachts. He’s in Santa Barbara. We actually found out that Jon lived on a boat for seven years during this span down in and around Santa Barbara. He ends up cleaning yachts naturally because he’s out at the harbor, and it leads to a relationship with a wealthy furniture company owner that leads to a new business for Jon where he’s manufacturing cedar chests based off some woodworking skills he had when he was a kid, but what I really like about this is if I said, “If you were 23 years old and you were living on a boat in Santa Barbara making six figures a year, and you got to rub elbows with a guy that owns a business that’s worth tens of millions of dollars and that leads to you guys starting another venture that you take from there and is very successful, would you take that?”
Nate Broughton: You’d say yes. If I said, “If you had to start a cleaning company and work for two weeks for free cleaning a restaurant, and then build it up to 23 employees, scrubbing toilets, negotiating deals with restaurant owners, would you do that?” You’d be like I don’t know, right? You’d want the end but you wouldn’t want the means. You’d almost be surprised that those means led to that end.
Dana Robinson: Right, but it always is that way. It’s always the humble beginnings and the audacity of reaching out, doing something that’s bigger than you think it is and harder work than you maybe want to do.
Dana Robinson: The barrel business means it’s a labor of love and patience, right? Anyone that tries this wants to try it for a long time. They have to before they know whether they like the product and know what they’re going to do with it.
Jon Roleder: The barriers to entry are high from a time standpoint. Not so much the cost, but time is money so that was the most difficult thing to convince investors. It’s like this is a long term thing. Most people say okay, if we’re not making money in three or four years then this thing’s a failure. We’ve been at this for about eight or nine years now, and we are just now figuring it out. We’ll probably still make some changes to this barrel, but at least we’re actually going to be drinking a number of great wines coming out of the barrel tonight at dinner. We’ve come a long way. Now, we’re pursuing perfection and trying to get this barrel to compete with some of the most elite processes and some of the better wines in the industry.
Nate Broughton: What about the resistance to change in the industry itself? My perception is that people in the wine industry are well, snooty for one but that might not be the right descriptor to apply to this. I think that they are traditionalist to their core, at least in my experience. How have you had to deal with that and how have you overcome it?
Jon Roleder: Well, resistance to change has been our biggest obstacle, and still is and will continue to be. I wouldn’t call the people in the industry snooty. I would call them all right, which is another form of snooty. Every winemaker is correct for a variety of reasons. They think that the way they make wine is the right way to do it, which is why we have all these wonderful wines. If everybody agreed on one simple wine making technique, the shelf at the store would be pretty boring. You’d get tired of the wine.
Nate Broughton: Sure. The subjective nature of it both good and bad in a sense.
Dana Robinson: It seems to me that wine making is like rock music. You have to believe, if you’re a song writer, a singer, that what you’re performing is absolutely your best. Your fans believe it. The people in your band believe it. There’s a lot of different bands. They all have to believe that about themselves in order to succeed, and as a product, we get a lot of great music. I feel like the winemakers are rock stars that have a fan base and a cult following, and people who believe everything they’re doing is right. As a result, Napa’s got 500 amazing winery’s doing great wines that are all pretty different.
Jon Roleder: Yeah, every winemaker has their skillset. Some winemakers are doing little boutique wines and making 100 cases of wine. Some are doing very expensive wines that are several thousand dollars a bottle, and they have no budget at all and some of the most amazing fruit in the world. Then, some guys are struggling with terrible fruit and making really decent wine, and they’re brilliant in their own way to be able to pull that off. You just got everything you could imagine in the wine industry in terms of winemakers in terms of skillsets and talents and what they start with and what they end with. It’s really fascinating.
Dana Robinson: To Nate’s point, then your market are all people that completely 100% believe in what they’re doing and how they’re doing it and you’re coming in and trying to basically change the entire game.
Jon Roleder: What’s interesting is when we go to trade shows, namely the Sacramento Symposium, which is the largest trade show in North America in the wine business, we get the students, the younger generation, the kids of the parents that started and founded some of these major winery’s here in Napa. They walk by and they just look at our barrel, and they do the “Ah-ha, that’s brilliant”. The old guys come by and say “Ah-ha, that’s brilliant and we’re never going to use that technology.” Their first thought is we have this wine barrel that’s been used for so long, thousands of years. Why would we change?
Jon Roleder: The younger generation sees all the problems and complexities and they’re more aware of the environment. They’re trying to improve their efficiencies, their carbon footprint, be more sustainable. They see that market. It’s the younger generation, so they see all the attributes of this Modern Cooperage barrel way faster than some of the older guys do in the industry, but that’s not to say some of the older guys haven’t adopted it and are experimenting with it. It’s just that resistance to change is definitely there, and it will continue to be a challenge. I feel like we will be very successful in another 10 years with all the kids of the parents in Napa Valley, Sonoma Valley, who own these big winery’s. The kids that are coming along, the younger generation, we’ll be locked in with them but trying to get the current owners right now to change is a little challenging.
Nate Broughton: Is there any opportunity to have success in a place like Australia … I don’t know if my story will totally align, but I tasted wine down in the Barossa Valley, and it was hot and it’s remote. It’s hard for them to get access to barrels because of just the demand for barrels in general, and also just where they’re at in the world as I understood it. Is there an opportunity for them just out of necessity to be more willing to change and try something different, and use something like Modern Cooperage-
Jon Roleder: Yeah, the new world is great. They get it. They’re definitely more open to it. At this last show, we hooked up with I think it’s called the Australian Wine Institute … I’m not sure if that’s the correct name, but they were very interested in bringing some barrels down there and doing some experimenting and help promote it in the industry. I guess down there it works a little bit different. If your barrels are approved by this industry standard, then it gives the winery’s confidence to move forward and experiment more freely with your product. That’s actually something we’re going to do. We’re going to ship a dozen barrels down there and they’re going to start experimenting with our barrels and give it their stamp of approval, which will hopefully open up the door down there.
Jon Roleder: Another thing I want to say just when you’re talking about change and taking a long time to get to market with this, I realized that it’s great once we’re in. My first thought was well, the barrier to entry has been high so it’s going to be high for our competition, but the reality is once we figure it out everybody gets to copy it. The downside to that is we’ve had to spend a lot of money on IP. We have international patents. We have seven patents now, and that is the largest ongoing expense of our company, maintaining these patents, the maintenance fees and so forth. I think we’re well over $200,000 in patents, and we’re probably putting another $30,000 or $40,000 a year just into maintenance fees. That is another piece of this that’s very challenging, but we feel confident that we have great protection and a great patent attorney.
Dana Robinson: For the record, it’s not me although I will brag. I got the trademark through over several challenges. Far less expensive, and I think a really cool brand with Modern Cooperage.
Nate Broughton: All right, Dana. When I heard Jon talk about the cost of IP and his patents, I immediately thought of you and turned to you, and you comment on it here in our conversation. I get this question a lot, and you get it probably 100,000 times more than I do. Entrepreneurs, or people who even want to start a new side business, are curious do I need to patent or trademark my idea? Jon talks about how much he’s invested in it because he does have a business where there’s value investing in that. Some people do need to do it, some people don’t. We’ve got Dana, the experienced trademark attorney, right here. He’s going to give you the answer you need to hear.
Dana Robinson: You don’t need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on intellectual property upfront, but intellectual property is one of the most critical things to consider when you do launch a business. For most businesses, it starts with the simplest piece of IP and that’s the name, the thing you’re going to call your business. Luckily, Jon didn’t have to spend a lot on that for Modern Cooperage. I was the general counsel of the company so we cleared the name-
Nate Broughton: Because it’s a unique name, right?
Dana Robinson: Well, I’ll tell you what. Our name was a challenge. Modern Cooperage are descriptive words. Cooperage is somebody who makes barrels and modern is something that’s new, and this was a barreling system that was new. That’s my high expertise is trademark prosecution. It’s filing trademark and getting it through. Typically, Jon could have filed this trademark himself for a few hundred dollars, but where it’s worth paying lawyers is that’s going to get refused, and that’s where I step in. I have the training and knowledge to help get that trademark through in many cases. We did manage to get the trademark. If someone’s name is highly unique, no one else is using it, it’s a made up word … Avaia Cellars was easier because he did make that word up for his wine brand.
Dana Robinson: Modern Cooperage was a challenge, and we did get it through, and then we filed that in a couple foreign jurisdictions as well. There’s some investment in trademarks, but it’s the most moderate and it’s in someways one of the most important. Most businesses need to start by thinking about their brand and filing a trademark to protect it. I’ve got some great courses on LinkedIn learning, if people want to check those out, and I’ve got one on Udemy. We’re going to be offering some cool courses like that on the Opt Out Life as well to actually give people the mechanics of what do you do when you decide you’re going to launch that business, or the side gig. We’ll address the specifics of how you can clear this yourself instead of paying a lawyer thousands of dollars.
Dana Robinson: Now, the patent issue is more complicated. When you have an idea that involves an innovation, software that does something that’s never been done before or a wine barrel that does something that’s never been done before, then patent can be very important. In this business, if you actually succeed, as Jon hopes to, in shaking up the entire industry, you don’t want everyone to just copy you. You want to have at least some competitive advantage that comes from your intellectual property. Those patents have been pivotal. A lot of times, entrepreneurs will file patents because they think the investors will be dazzled by them, and sometimes that’s true.
Dana Robinson: Investors sometimes are dazzled by them, but the reality is you shouldn’t spend $50,000 on patents to dazzle investors. You’re much better off to avoid patents and spend $50,000 making your business awesome. In Jon’s case, he had a little bit of resources before he started the business, so before he even launched and had Tom as a first investor, he had spent maybe $10,000 or $12,000 getting that first patent done. Then, by the time we meet him, he has spent $200,000 because now he has six patents, foreign patents as well, which get wildly expensive because of translation costs. At that point, he has a business with a plan where that’s justified, where you can go okay, this is a multimillion dollar business at this point. A $200,000 total investment, and $40,000 a year in IP might seem reasonable at that point. Certainly not something a startup or a side gig’er should be doing.
Dana Robinson: What happened to the vineyard that you didn’t end up pursuing?
Jon Roleder: Well, we were teed up to sell the company-
Dana Robinson: 12 years ago?
Jon Roleder: 12 years ago. We had an offer … We actually had 18 offers on the company. It was a great company. We were looking at all 18 offers trying to pick a winner, and 9/11 happened. We literally were watching the planes crash into the towers in New York, and within two days all 18 offers were retracted and the whole financial market shut down. We went into a recession.
Dana Robinson: Yeah, okay, so 2001 was when this happened. You had the land. You were ready for the next pivot-
Jon Roleder: We had the land. I was ready.
Dana Robinson: … in the wine business.
Jon Roleder: I had my erosion control permit for my 50 acre hillside vineyard. Planting a vineyard is very experience, and I was going to hang in there and sell company and then use the proceeds to move forward with my planning. We had to retrench, dig back into the business, and we were there another over 10 years before we-
Dana Robinson: Yeah, [crosstalk 00:39:37] you end up selling the land that you had on this hillside.
Jon Roleder: Fortunately, I bought right and I just decided I would sell it and start over again when I got closer to the point of selling the company and having the money I need to actually finish the game plan.
Dana Robinson: That’s a labor of patience, I guess. You were in this other business we’ll talk about in a minute, and you had to take a pretty big intermission from what you really wanted to be doing.
Jon Roleder: It was painful because it was a beautiful mountain property. Turns out now there’s a very famous wine coming off the mountain that I sold it to, and it’s a $100 bottle of wine. The intuition was right that we would get good fruit from that ranch some day.
Dana Robinson: A lot of people say starting a business takes twice as long and costs twice as much. I guess it’s the same rule as building a house.
Nate Broughton: In the wine business, it’s probably like 10 times as much. 10 times as long.
Jon Roleder: Yeah, I wish it was twice as long and twice as much. In this business, you’re right, it probably is 10 times.
Dana Robinson: For the barrels and the wine.
Jon Roleder: Right, absolutely.
Nate Broughton: I think it begs the question why then. Why do this? I move from San Diego, I go through all this pain and all the hurdles that are there to hopefully get to a success, because you’re an entrepreneur at your core really. You could do any business. You’ve got a successful business in a more traditional industry for lack of a better descriptor. Why do this?
Jon Roleder: Well, I love wine. I love the environment up here, and I wanted to retire here so I felt like I’m a busy guy, I can’t sit around. I have to stay busy, and this has been my dream to be busy working on something I’m passionate about up here in this area. It’s my nature to get involved in big projects, so I did.
Nate Broughton: Yeah, I’d struggle to call it retirement. I mean, the setting is retirement-like but everything you’ve described is far from that, right?
Jon Roleder: Yeah, and it’s heating up, too. It’s getting busier and busier. It’s not work when it’s something you look forward to do. I go to bed at night looking forward to the next day, and I’m eager to get up in the morning. When you’re that excited about your work, it’s really hard to call it work. If it was my day off, I’d be doing the same thing so at what point do you call it work versus retirement? I feel very fortunate to be where I’m at so I still call this retirement. It’s a busy retirement.
Dana Robinson: All right, I’m going to interrupt Jon here for just a minute because I love that he loves what he’s doing, but I have this thing, this hangup, that a lot of people … The social meme that you should do what you love should be everybody’s mission. If you listen carefully to Jon’s story, you’re going to learn that he had to pay a big price to be doing what he loves every day right now, and that price was over 20 years of slinging massage tables in a business that he didn’t really love. He was good at it. He had mastered what that business needed to do. He leveraged all of his skills and talents to make that business the biggest in the industry, and it sold for a lot of money. That is what’s given him the power to drop hundreds of thousands of dollars on wine as an experiment, to get up each day and to spend his time thinking about how he’s going to use those resources to do the fun shit that he gets to do every day.
Dana Robinson: I think it’s important for the listeners to think it’s important that you do something you like, but I don’t think we’re all entitled from the get go to do what we love and think that everything else will follow. I think it’s still a great story to see. If you do what’s Jon’s done, you’ll reach a point where you get to do what you love every day for sure.
Nate Broughton: It was very interesting to learn that he almost had this in his grasp, where he’s sitting with us on the lawn in 2018, in 2001. He knew he wanted to do this. He had Earthlite. It was successful. There was an offer on the table, and it slips out of his hands because of the market crash. He still stuck with it, and we talk a little bit more later on about do you wish it would have went differently, and it’s like no, not really. He was still able to work on the side while he continued to build Earthlite towards an exit to get a lot of the things in motion to do all this stuff up in wine country. He knew he needed the cash to do this thing that he’s enjoying so much day to day, and it was a means to an end.
Nate Broughton: Whether it happened in 2001 or 2018, he’s still happy with that. It was just really cool because I didn’t know that, you know? I just look at him and say oh, he cashed out and he came up to Napa. He’s still hustling, and that’s cool. It’s not really retirement because he’s working his ass off, but I didn’t know that he had to go an extra decade plus to make it happen. That’s really cool and commendable, and it fits what we see from him in his personality that it’s not really retiring at all. He’s doing more than he’s ever done and really going for it.
Nate Broughton: When was the point where that shifted from … I can assume, but when you didn’t have that feeling probably with your old business, or something like that. When you got to this point, what was that like? Turning point for you from waking up every day excited and happy.
Jon Roleder: Well, the most exciting day was the day that I saw the funds hit my account from selling the company. I realized I no longer had responsibilities and didn’t need to get in my car and drive to the factory and “go to work every day”. I loved that job. I was passionate about that, too, but there was something more interesting on my horizon that I just could never get out of my mind, and that’s why I started going down that road and pursing that in parallel with this other business, which was challenging but I just had to do it. I needed something more stimulating and something that was higher on the scale of something that was passionate for me.
Jon Roleder: I was doing that in tandem with the other business, and the day the company sold, I just really sat back and thought about how great it was that now I could do that every single day and pursue that, and try to make that as great as I possibly could.
Nate Broughton: If you had to go back, would you have taken a different path to get to the point where you could do what you wanted to do? I mean, it seems like it worked out great, and it certainly provided you with the financial freedom to pursue an industry that requires some financial power. Was there another path to get to this point do you think?
Jon Roleder: You know, I spent a lot of time trying to figure that out. I knew that I needed a chunk of change to pull this off and do it the way I wanted to do it. I wanted to be in control of the operation, and so I just felt like I had to stick it out in my current long term business and get it to the point where it had significant value and I could sell, and then take that investment and move on.
Nate Broughton: That’s what really kept you going day by day-
Dana Robinson: Knowing you were going to get an exit.
Nate Broughton: Or, working towards an exit with a very specific purpose.
Jon Roleder: Right. The exit strategy was there. I had a number of partners, and it was just number one, getting the business to the point where there was a significant sale, enough money to meet everybody’s goals and then getting everybody to agree that okay, it’s time for all of us to move on in our own direction. That was very challenging in itself.
Nate Broughton: That’s cool that that worked out because those deals are hard to come by.
Jon Roleder: They are. Privately held companies are a real challenge. It’s a beautiful thing and yet, it can be very challenging, too, when different people want to leave and exit and enter the business. It’s not a simple thing because really the only way if you’re a majority stockholder, or one of them, it’s very difficult if you want to move on and everybody else doesn’t. There’s definitely some challenges in getting the stars aligned there.
Nate Broughton: What did you drink on the day that that money hit your account? What was the bottle?
Jon Roleder: You know, I don’t think I drank anything.
Dana Robinson: Anticlimactic?
Nate Broughton: Yeah, it was so cathartic. It was like [crosstalk 00:47:13].
Jon Roleder: I think if I remember correctly, I went down to Torrey Pines and did a hike and took a long walk, and came home and just barbecued and hung out with the family. I was trying to figure out what had really just happened.
Dana Robinson: It’s a long time coming. Take us back. Let’s talk about Earthlite. I promised we revisit it. I think the beginnings of all entrepreneurial journeys are interesting and instructive for everyone who aspires to own a business. This was a long journey. How did it start?
Jon Roleder: Friend of a friend. I had just finished a furniture making business in Maquiladora down in Tijuana. I had just sold that and I was taking six months off, and a friend of a friend said “Hey, I know this guy who has a massage table company” and he was looking for a production manager. She said maybe you could go meet this guy and recommend somebody. I knew nothing about the massage industry, but I knew quite a bit about manufacturing so I went up to Vista and met this guy, Tomas Nani. I was just completely taken at what a wonderful little business they had. The most interesting thing was when I walked into the sales area and I go, “How do you guys sell these tables?”
Jon Roleder: They said, “We just answer the phone. The phone just keeps ringing and ringing and ringing. We can’t make the tables fast enough. We don’t have enough people to answer the phones.” I was just shocked. I was thinking that’s crazy. I spent some time there, and Tomas asked me to hang out for a little while and get a good feel of the business. He had been traveling in India and needed some time off to recover from some sort of a stomach virus that he had. I told him, “Hey, don’t worry. I got this. I’ll run the place for a couple weeks and let you take the time you need.”
Jon Roleder: He came back and we had made some pretty good progress in a couple weeks. We didn’t have a pallet jack. I’d bought a pallet jack. When the lumber truck would roll in, the entire staff would go out and unload the boards hand by hand. Most of the equipment was pretty light duty, and if you ran it for more than an hour it would thermal overload, and you’d have to let it sit and cool off for a couple hours before you could start production again. That was the opposite of the background I had come from where we had big, high powerful equipment. Tomas asked me after a couple weeks, he wanted to hire me as the production manager.
Jon Roleder: I’m like no, no, no. I’m just recommending somebody here. I said you can’t afford me. After talking for a while, he said well, how about if I give you half the company? He just handed me the keys and said, “Let’s just do this.” I said okay. Off we went, we were doing about $400,000 a year in gross sales, and there were I think maybe 20-25 people working there. I had to let half of them go right away for a variety of reasons. They weren’t people that we wanted there long term. We quickly reorganized, mortgaged the few assets he had, bought some real equipment. I put a coffee pot out in the production area, and offered great free coffee to everybody, and immediately production went up and off we went.
Jon Roleder: For a while there, every three years, we were growing out of production land and built a facility. We grew, and we ended up doing 30 million a year in massage tables. We were the largest massage table manufacturer in the world, and sold in I think it was 56 different countries. Had a warehouse in Amsterdam and Japan. We had built our own 100% owned factory in China to compete with other Chinese imports. It was our dream to build all tables in the therapy world. Anything that needed a table for somebody to perform healthcare, I figured we’re good at building tables. Let’s continue and specialize in building tables.
Jon Roleder: We did. We ended up with a pretty sizeable factory, and at one point, 350 employees. 200 here in the US and 150 in China. It was a beautiful thing.
Dana Robinson: Yeah, congratulations. On that journey, you almost sold it once and outside forces took that opportunity away. You just dug in and kept the thing growing.
Jon Roleder: Yeah. I mean I always like to think things are meant to be, and I’m a real believer of that. I still struggle with having to give up that beautiful ranch and not developing it way back a long time ago, but the reality is now when I look back on it, I feel very blessed to have been put back into the business because I really wasn’t ready to depart. There was still a lot for me to learn there at Earthlite.
Dana Robinson: You don’t obviously need to share the details of the sale, but you had a sale queued up right before 9/11, and then you had a sale that you just did. Was the eventual exit better than the first opportunity that you had had way back then?
Jon Roleder: Yes, it was definitely better. It was definitely better.
Dana Robinson: In a sense, can you look back and I don’t know, are you thankful that life took the turn that it took?
Jon Roleder: I’m actually very grateful, and it’s not necessarily the money, but it was the skillset that I picked up that next 10 years, 10 plus years. Our business at that point that we were going to sell, the internet was just coming around. Things were getting much more competitive. Business was pretty easy back then. We had a great product, a great manufacturing process, and it was pretty easy to sell. Then, we started getting imports. Costco came along and it really challenged us. We had to build a factory in China, so our business went from very simple to super complex having to put in MAP pricing policies and trying to keep brick and mortar people happy with big box retailers.
Jon Roleder: It went from a small little business printing money to a big company that struggled for our EBITDA bottom line. What I learned from that really is allowing me to do what I’m doing now with a lot more confidence. I don’t think I ever could have done that 10 years ago without that learning experiences. Earthlite grew and got more complex. We hired very professional people … CEO’s, CFO’s … and I learned a lot from those folks.
Dana Robinson: You gave up that great property. You didn’t get to sell when you thought you were going to sell, but you look back and you’re thankful. I just want to preview for those of our listeners that want to tune in in maybe six or eight or 12 months, there’s some really cool shit that you’ve done that we can’t really talk about because there’s confidential deals in the works, but you’re going to end up with a lot more than a little winery that you would have had back in those old days.
Jon Roleder: Right. I never would have dreamed even 12 months ago that what I was getting into up here in Napa could turn into, and be a part of something that’s really going to be international in terms of being involved in the wine industry in Bordeaux. Hopefully, we’ll be in the wine industry in Italy and down in Chile as well, but the scope of the project now has just been blessed, and met and partnered with some just incredible people in the industry. I still pinch myself and say I can’t believe I got into this. Incredible.
Dana Robinson: One of Nate’s favorite themes is audacity. The audacity to just reach out, or the audacity to take a chance, or to do something that seems outside of your comfort zone, or outside of your expertise. You’re, I would venture to say, a newbie to the Napa Valley and you’re running a wine barrel business that you intend to revolutionize the wine business. In fact, the deal that you’re in the middle of … I won’t say more than is necessary, but you were just looking for another little piece of land when you found this.
Jon Roleder: Right.
Dana Robinson: For the price of an average house in this area, you managed to secure 80 acres?
Jon Roleder: 220.
Dana Robinson: Okay. 220.
Nate Broughton: That’s a lot.
Dana Robinson: We’ll give away the secret when the cat is out of the bag, but for about the same price now you control over 200 acres that is proving you an opportunity to do really big things. A lot of that was also this audaciousness to just say “Hey, why is no one buying this piece of land?” It turned out it was just unexplored, unseen value that you had the tolerance to look at and all the insiders had ignored it.
Jon Roleder: The reoccurring thing that keeps coming to mind is everybody I would share this idea with, with this property that I picked up and the direction I wanted to go was you don’t need anything that big. Why would you want that much in terms of a challenge? I’ve just always thought that you know, I think most people’s problem, they just don’t dream big enough. I’ve never had a problem with dreaming big.
Dana Robinson: These are mantras and they’re popular for a good reason. They’re contrary to what a lot of people would have thought maybe 10, 20, 30 years ago about life. Mantras for life. He’s right that a lot of people don’t think they can. They don’t think should I walk into this restaurant and tell this owner that I would like to clean his kitchen? Right? This is for a 20-something who only cleaned the church to walk in and do that. This is a big audacious move, and that’s a theme of his life. At each stage, Jon is able to think bigger about what he wants do and not really view the obstacles as big as they really are.
Nate Broughton: Yeah, absolutely. From the cedar chest story into the furniture business, to what he’s told us about getting into the wine industry, I don’t know what would be more intimidating than trying to break into the wine industry. It’s an industry that requires an insurmountable amount of capital and it’s steeped in tradition and ways of doing things, and families, and you’re going up against the weather in a lot of cases, too. The same way Alex was telling us, too. It’s just happenstance approach in a way, like I just figure it out because I meet a person and I go to a place, and I meet someone else, and I give them a piece of the pie and they help me out, and I help them out.
Nate Broughton: It’s a personality trait that I think a lot of people lack, and it’s coming through once again from one of our guests that you can dream big because you’re going to get help along the way. I don’t think you can anticipate the relationships and people that you’re going to run into once you jump into a side gig, or project, or big audacious business that you’re trying to build. I think we look at anyone who has a business … Dana and I looked at someone whose got five million podcast downloads and said, “God, I don’t know if we’ll ever get there. I don’t think we should even start a podcast.”
Nate Broughton: We asked them how they got there, and it’s like well, I met a guy at this thing and then I interviewed this person. We’re all just people doing a thing and it’s all attainable. Jon’s story is such a great example of that. Jon says specifically that it’s not hard to find smart people to help you do the things you don’t understand. Jon’s not a savant. He’s not Leonardo da Vinci, right Dana? He’s finding all these people along the way, building his team, sharing the pie and making it work.
Dana Robinson: Yeah, there’s something I think that some people misunderstand about dreaming big. There is really a sense that what people like Jon do is they have vision. It’s not really a dream. He’s not a dreamer. This isn’t daydreaming. I once met a guy that pointed to a big building that was probably worth 500 million dollars … You know, like a big downtown building … and said some day I want to own this building. I just thought this is a ridiculous statement. This is daydreaming. There’s no vision there. There’s no sense of how much you don’t know. There’s no sense of how much you need to accomplish in order to step through. You got to own a condo before you can own a house before you can own a fourplex before you own 100 units before you own 1000 before you can even start talking about a strip mall before you can even start talking about a high rise.
Dana Robinson: Dreaming isn’t really what we’re even talking about. People like Jon are visionaries and that vision they’re able to translate to other people.
Jon Roleder: I’ve probably always extended myself in terms of my physical capability and my knowledge. I’m always extending myself, but I’ve just always very confident that I’m good at dreaming and the things I don’t know I try to really understand my limits of my knowledge, but I just know there’s so many smart people out there and it’s not that hard to find smart people to help you with the things you don’t know or don’t understand. If you try to do everything yourself, you’re going to have some trouble but as long as you know your limits and you get help, seek out those people that can help you, I just look at it as well, then my only limit is how big can I dream. That’s really held true with this property.
Jon Roleder: I sat back and figured out different ways to parlay the success of this property into other ventures and namely, by giving pieces of this property to key people and trading equity into those ventures, which has been very fortunate and proven to be very valuable.
Dana Robinson: That’ll be a fun one to talk about once there’s some press releases done.
Nate Broughton: Right. I wanted to ask, though. We’re sitting here in this garden front yard with … How big is this tree? 200 feet something redwood that’s friggen 10 feet around and very idyllic setting. It’s a dream setting. You talk about being a dreamer. People, they see this and they’re like oh, we’re talking to a guy who works in the wine business. He retired and moved to Napa and is messing around in the wine industry. You’re doing a lot more than that but it could be described that way. What part of that perception is … We’ve established that it’s not reality that this just a vacation. What part of it is actually true, though? What parts of this are a fantastic lifestyle and a fun place to be, both as a business person and an individual with a family? What up here really is the good life?
Jon Roleder: Well, immediately I think of family. Family and small town. Born and raised in Los Angeles in Torrance, and spent some time up in the Santa Barbara Ventura area, and then 25 years down in San Diego. I was definitely from the larger metropolitan area, and that was never where I really wanted to be. I loved the beach and the ocean, but I always wanted to be a little more out in the country. I realized with a family, you can only be so far out in the country, and then that might not pan out so well for my family, at least my wife and her interests. Saint Helena here seems to be the perfect setting. Population 6,000. We’re just north of the city of Napa. Calistoga is even about the same size north of us.
Jon Roleder: It’s just a perfect small little town. We’re in a narrow part of the valley surrounded by beautiful mountain ranges, and I love having the hardware store, the police station, the post office all within walking distance. It’s a great small town feel. You get to know people. Our kids go to school at the Saint Helena Montessori School, which is just an incredible place for them. It’s just a great place to raise a family. It’s very safe. It’s as safe as small towns get. A lot of people don’t lock their doors here. It’s just an incredible place to be. I love the seasons. I love seeing the vineyards go dormant in the winter time and come alive in the spring time. It’s great to see the hustle bustle of harvest around town here. The whole school where the kids are, everybody’s involved in the wine industry and the wine business so for me, it’s just the coolest thing to go to a parent-teacher conference and there’s always as many bottles of wine as there are people there at the meetings.
Jon Roleder: It’s a very respectful group, and very knowledgeable group. There’s an amazing amount of talent here in the valley. A lot of the people who have been very successful are able, and have the privilege of being here. It’s an expensive place to live, but it’s an incredible lifestyle. If you’re ever lucky enough to come check it out and explore it, it’s worth taking a look.
Dana Robinson: I feel like it’s a small town. That’s what you-
Jon Roleder: Oh yeah.
Dana Robinson: Okay, which is good and bad, I suppose. Does everybody know everybody’s business?
Jon Roleder: Yes. You have to be so careful especially in the business that we are in now developing some properties, vineyards, restaurants, hotels. We’re in the food-wine hospitality industry, but that’s what everybody’s in here. When you are hanging out with your buddy at a bar, you have to be very careful what you’re saying and how loud you’re saying it because you have no idea your competition could be sitting right next to you. It’s just a small town, which is the cool part of it but yet, you definitely have to learn how to do business here in Napa Valley. I, by no means, knew how to do that. I’m learning constantly. Fortunately, I have a couple wonderful business partners that have coached me through that and I’m learning quick.
Dana Robinson: What I’ve always loved about you is that you’re one of the nicest people that I know. Genuine, real, generous with your time, your knowledge and I think that’s an ethic, an ethos that a lot of the Opt Out people we’ve interviewed first referenced that if we’re drinking while we have Opt Out, we toast.
Nate Broughton: He said Opt Out.
Dana Robinson: … when we say Opt Out. [crosstalk 01:04:37].
Nate Broughton: There we go. It took over an hour.
Dana Robinson: Sometimes we’re like every other paragraph is Opt Out so we end up drunk by the time it’s over. We got to shoot an episode of drunk history Opt Out style.
Nate Broughton: After. Later.
Dana Robinson: Later. Is that character, that generosity of spirit, has it been good for business? Or, is that bad for business?
Jon Roleder: I think it’s good for business, at least here in wine country. I should include Sonoma as well as Napa. Where I really saw that is after the fires here back in October. It’s just incredible to see the generosity of people lending hands, doing everything they possibly can to help out. Being a small town, it really shows. It’s just amazing to see the level of financial support as well as people giving their time and energy to help clean up and do things. You couldn’t go anywhere without seeing somebody completely out of place with what they normally do, it was obvious that they were helping. They didn’t know what they were doing to help, but they were just there to help. They wanted to help.
Jon Roleder: It’s just a great nurturing place to be for a business. I think it’s a positive.
Nate Broughton: It’s a trait that many people in this industry and area share. You know, this thing is called the Opt Out Life that we’ve started, and it’s tied to Dana’s book that he wrote while he was in Bali primarily. We define it as people who have chosen to place lifestyle on an equal plane as making money, I guess, and figured out ways to do that. Non-traditional ways of creating income, of approaching business and maybe not prioritizing certain things over others that they would later regret. How do you feel that you might fit that definition of the Opt Out life today?
Jon Roleder: The idea of having the time and the money to contribute to something that you feel strongly about is a real driving force for me. For me, I need time so that I can contribute time to helping with that school and developing that school. I need time to pursue on making a big impact in the wine industry, and all that takes money, so I’m motivated in that sense to mobilize my ability and resources so that I can help in that way. I don’t know if that answers your question.
Nate Broughton: You have these resources, and time and money. What are some things that you do to protect your time? Decisions that you make to make sure that you still have that because things fly at you not only from your business, but other opportunities I’m sure, whether they’re business or social or whatever. How do you protect your time and allow yourself to have that opportunity?
Jon Roleder: Well, you know it’s really challenging. One of my curses I’ve always said is I’m a jack of all trades and master of none. It’s very easy for me to get involved at a lower level and physically do a lot of the work and things myself. I’m always surrounding myself with smart people, smarter than I am, to do the work more efficiently and more successfully so that I have time to do what I’m better at which is I think being the visionary and pulling the bigger concepts together and getting talent to execute on that and pull that together. Otherwise, I end up getting up early. It’s 12:00 at night and I still have a lot of things on my do list.
Nate Broughton: Yeah, it’s a recognition of your limited time and perhaps limited skillset, and that you need to delegate and be okay with that. Some people certainly have problems with that as entrepreneurs. It allows you to have freedom to not only do more for the business in an effective way, but also hopefully have time for the family and things like that.
Dana Robinson: This morning, actually before we came here, you tried to cram all of your work day into the first couple of hours. How many people have jobs and careers and are trucking off to the big city to make their millions and are missing these opportunities? I think I didn’t have that much in terms of resources when my daughter was then 3rd grade, but I was there on Wednesdays to have pizza day. I think that’s part of the Opt Out philosophy is that those things are important and that if you establish your lifestyle the right way, you can do those things even when you’ve just got a couple side gigs.
Jon Roleder: There are a lot of Opt Out’ers up here. It cracks me up because when we drop our kids off at school, it’s moms and dads dropping kids off. If it’s not the mom and dad, it’s the grandparent. When we joined this school, they basically just said if you think this is a school where you have somebody drop your kids off and pick them up, we would rather you not be involved in this school. You will be involved and you’re going to be a big part of your child’s education here. To me, it’s a big social hour. The parents are great. Everybody’s involved. Everybody knows each other’s kids, and it ends up being a very warm and loving environment for the children. I can’t say enough about it. It’s really special, but a lot of these people here have figured out Opt Out lifestyles.
Jon Roleder: I am fortunate to be part of that now, and I wasn’t a year ago. I really wasn’t. I had a lot of flexibility and financial resources, but I didn’t have the time. I had to sell that company and move on to my next phase of life to have the time to do the things that I really wanted to do. One of them was spend more time with my two daughters and my wife.
Dana Robinson: Can you think of any advice you’d give to a new entrepreneur that’s never been in business before? Do this or don’t do this.
Jon Roleder: Well, definitely align yourself with the smartest people you possibly can and don’t for one minute think you know all the answers. All the old rules apply. Everything takes twice as long, costs twice as much. My business, which I didn’t know, is probably ten times. I guess don’t lose sight of your dream and try to figure out that balance. I’ve talked to so many people who have only focused on their dream and didn’t have a balance, and they ended up with a broken family and divorced and all kinds of other issues. You really need to figure out how can you be happy with your wife, how can you spend time with your kids and still pursue your dreams. I think that needs to be part of the master plan.
Jon Roleder: The Opt Out Life was a big part of my plan. I needed that to happen. I had a hybrid of that for a long time, but I really needed to execute it completely before I was able to really pursue my dreams the way I wanted to.
Dana Robinson: I guess there’s a lot of debate maybe around the concept of whether to make your money before you do what you want or whether you should just start doing what you want. You did a little of both, I guess.
Jon Roleder: Right, absolutely.
Dana Robinson: I mean, you were doing something you felt good about, that you were learning from, but massage tables weren’t really your life’s passion.
Jon Roleder: No, I didn’t know anything about it. It wasn’t.
Dana Robinson: You knew it would empower you, though, if you executed well to take the next phase of life totally by the reins and have total control.
Jon Roleder: There’s a real lesson to be learned there. I think from a young age, I knew I wanted to be in the wine business. I love this area up here. I knew it was expensive, and I knew working a day job I’d never get there. I knew that there were going to be a series of career choices that I would have to take to get to where I wanted to be, and a lot of them weren’t going to be glamorous things and things that I really wanted to do, but I figured out a way to make them enjoyable along the way and it was part of the master plan. I stayed focused and worked really hard. My dad always said if you’re going to do something, do it well or don’t do it at all. I’ve always taken that to heart.
Nate Broughton: All right, as we’re wrapping up here with Jon, we get to the funnest part of the conversation where we get to ask him for recommendations from a man in the industry on where to hit in Napa from restaurants to winery’s. Dana, you and both love wine country. Obviously, we’ve made it a big part of our podcast lately. I don’t know. What’s another suggestion, or what’s another experience that we’ve enjoyed that we can maybe give to our listeners here because we’ve talked about how wine is mostly an experience. It’s not a product per say. It’s not an asset per say. We love going up there because of the memories that we have driving around that beautiful place, and visiting beautiful winery’s and drinking great wines, right? I don’t know. I feel like we should add a little bit to what we had here with Jon as we wrap up.
Dana Robinson: All right. This will actually be a test of just how different Nate and I are when it comes to our freedom of … Well, our budgets. Is that a good word for it?
Nate Broughton: There we go. Just cut right to it.
Dana Robinson: All right, I’m going to cut right to it. I’m going to give you the Opt Out tips for hitting Napa and Sonoma, which means how to be cheap and still have this great experience. Then, I want you to talk about some of the more lavish experiences because I think those are still a blast.
Nate Broughton: Oh my God. You get me so excited.
Dana Robinson: The high level tips. You can’t get free wine tasting on the Napa Valley side. You can on the Sonoma Valley side. If you like big deep reds, the most expensive and wonderful wines are on the north of the Napa Valley, so this is where Jon is, Saint Helena, Geyserville, Howell Mountain. We’ve got some sitting on the desk right there, which I wish we had a corkscrew right now. If you pop over to the top of the Sonoma side, you get almost as good of wines for a third of the price. Hit Healdsburg. Healdsburg’s fantastic. It’s innovative. It’s got a bunch of youth and less traditional winemakers. The pricing is good, and you can get free tastings often.
Dana Robinson: You can also in most of those, if they’ve charged for the tasting, they’ll knock it off if you just buy a bottle of wine. Another Opt’er Out’er tip, if you fly Alaska Airlines straight into the Sonoma County Airport, you can take a case back with you and it’s not counted as your luggage and it’s free. The shipping that you would be paying to ship wine can be pretty high, so plan your trip so that you pick a bottle here and a bottle there so that you’re not paying for your tastings.
Nate Broughton: That’s actually a good tip because back in the day, the first time we went there, we ended up back at SFO with two cases of wine. Didn’t know what to do with them. We thought about shipping them. We were going back to Missouri at the time, right? We were like do we pay to ship these? Do we package? We’ve got to buy something to pack them in to check them. It was a whole deal. That Alaska Airline hack is well worth it.
Dana Robinson: Absolutely. Then, the accommodation hacks. Air B&B and VRBO are great. A lot of the little cottages are on Where did we stay, Nate? On this last trip, it was a great little accommodation in Geyserville.
Nate Broughton: No, it was in Calistoga.
Dana Robinson: Calistoga. That’s right. We were in Calistoga, and that little cottage starts at $135.00 a night for a cottage that’s got a sofa sleeper and a bed, a pool table, a pool, walkable to shops and restaurants and winery’s.
Nate Broughton: Yep, that was good. All right, if you want to blow it out-
Dana Robinson: Scale it up. Let’s do it.
Nate Broughton: If you want to do it spin-chief Nate Brough style, here are some tips for visiting Napa. First of all, some great places to stay that are expensive but cool. The Carneros Inn. Beautiful property in the Carneros area, kind of in between Napa and Sonoma. I don’t know how much acreage they have. Maybe 60 acres, maybe 40. Something like that. There’s a vineyard on the property. It’s all individual like little houses and huts built around this area, and it’s got a luxury restaurant, bocci court, a fancy gym and a pool. You’re just walking around this little idyllic area with your own little hut. Outdoor shower. Every unit has its own deck. It’s great.
Nate Broughton: One of my friends rented a house, and they also have residences there behind a wall by this barn restaurant. He rented one for a month there. Three bedrooms with an upstairs patio. He could look out over everything. Definitely recommend the Carneros Inn. Another great one that’s a little expensive, but also a fun little place in Glen Ellen is The Gaige House. I recommended it to many friends. Great place for a romantic getaway. Singular main house with 15 rooms in it. They do breakfast and a cheese and wine hour, and they also have separate units that they’ve built in around the pool that are a little more high end. You can walk to restaurants in Glen Ellen. Some good accommodation tips there.
Nate Broughton: Wineries. Here are some of my tips. Always get the reserve tasting. I don’t care if it costs more. You’re going to get way better wine.
Dana Robinson: I agree. I agree there.
Nate Broughton: All right, he’s on that one.
Dana Robinson: If you want to be cheap, split it with your partner.
Nate Broughton: You can always buy a bottle of wine and knock it against the tasting fee. If you really want to get cute, just sign up for the wine club. We always end up signing up for three or four while we’re there. You can cancel it a couple months later if you feel like it. Some of them have restrictions on that, but if you walk in, you ask for reserve tasting, you sign up for the wine club, they’re going to treat you real, real nice and you’re going to have fun at that winery. We just got a shipment of one I should have canceled awhile ago, but fuck it. It’s fun to get wine in the mail.
Nate Broughton: Restaurant wise, I mean, go to Yountville, go to French Laundry, go to Bottega … also very good. Go to Mustard’s over on the Napa side. You’re going to enjoy that, too.
Dana Robinson: I got once fancy experience that you can bootleg a little bit. Solbar, which I believe had a Michelin Star. I’m not sure I’d recommend it anymore, but get this. It’s a great bocci ball court, and the bar is amazing so if you want to have a luxury experience and not have to drop a couple hundred bucks on your dinner, go to Solbar at the Solage Hotel in Calistoga.
Nate Broughton: Of course, the best hack of all. Make friends with someone who’s in the wine industry so they can get you into all the cool places without having to call in advance. You get a bunch of shit for free. That’s what Dana’s done with Jon, and I’ve had a few friends, as well. You go up for the first time as a tourist and you’re going to have a great time. It doesn’t matter where you go in Napa, what your experience is, how much you like wine, how much you hate wine. You’re going to have fun because you’re in a beautiful setting and you’re drinking. The days that I’ve spent with people who are in the know and the places we’ve gotten to have been unforgettable from the things that you taste to the way that you’re treated when you walk in. You go to a vineyard and it’s got 50 wine club members and a small Italian family on Howell Mountain doing something that … It’s just wine that you’re never going to be able to taste anywhere else. That’s what makes me come back to Napa.
Dana Robinson: It’s the experience. Restaurant recommendations for-
Nate Broughton: You’ve got to give us some Napa [crosstalk 01:18:56]-
Dana Robinson: Saint Helena. Let’s start with the closest to home. Here we are, we’re going to walk to lunch hopefully from this yard buzzing with cicadas and [flu birds 01:19:04] and finches. We’re going to walk over into Saint Helena. Where we going to lunch?
Jon Roleder: Well, the architect we’re working with on a number of projects is Howard Backen … an incredible career and history. He has a restaurant that’s just right here on Main Street called Archetype. I think it would be fun to pop in there and give you a little idea of what he’s all about.
Dana Robinson: That sounds perfect, and good recommendation. Fried olives. Deep fried olives.
Jon Roleder: You can’t leave Saint Helena without popping into Goose and Gander, a very, very cool restaurant. Apparently, it’s Lebron James’s favorite restaurant here in town.
Nate Broughton: That’s interesting.
Jon Roleder: It’s a great restaurant upstairs, and one of the coolest bars you’ve ever seen downstairs. It’s an old converted bungalow house with a cool basement bar that you might not realize is there.
Nate Broughton: Can Lebron fit into the basement?
Dana Robinson: He might. Yeah, he might. Just the staircase is a little low.
Nate Broughton: He has. [crosstalk 01:20:02]
Dana Robinson: Brasswood for pizzas on Wednesdays?
Jon Roleder: Brasswood pizza Wednesdays. Great outdoor spaces. The magic crystal fountain for kids is real special. It’s not really for kids, but I don’t think the architect designed it that way but it’s a really fun thing that the kids love. It’s a beautiful place. It’s a little north of Saint Helena on your way to Calistoga. Yeah, Brasswood’s great. Market Restaurant and Bar is our local hangout. My business partner and I called our clubhouse specifically down on the end of the bar where it makes a sharp right turn, so we try to occupy the corner on the south end of the bar at least three days a week. We try to wrap up our work day there and brainstorm and reflect on all of our opportunities. Market is a great bar and hangout in Saint Helena.
Dana Robinson: All right. I have one secret trick for really great Caymus but I’m not going to say what it is because I want people to email us if they want Dana’s secret-
Nate Broughton: Oh, okay.
Dana Robinson: … to [crosstalk 01:21:09] best value for Caymus wine. Hit me up if you like Caymus and you want to try something less expensive but twice as delicious. How about you, Jon? Is there a great wine that’s a value or great experience that you can think of that people should definitely hit when they come up here?
Jon Roleder: Avaia.
Dana Robinson: Okay, well I’m going to talk a little bit about Avaia’s co-working space, which is pretty bootstrap-y and a blast. I’m going to put pictures actually on the website so people can check out the Avaia operation, but I’m not sure that you’re ready for public tastings yet, are you?
Jon Roleder: Not yet. We’re going to make some of those decisions tonight at dinner, actually.
Dana Robinson: All right. Yes.
Jon Roleder: We think some of our wines have come out of bottle shock and we’re ready to hit the pavement with them and leverage some of our contacts here in the industry presuming they taste appropriately.
Dana Robinson: Yes, well you got to get your website finished and you need your membership program up so we can promote it.
Jon Roleder: Right, right. All that’s happening in this next six to 12 months. We’ll be making great strides towards all that.
Dana Robinson: All right, get in early on the club membership for Avaia.
Jon Roleder: That’s right.
Nate Broughton:
Jon Roleder: Yes.
Nate Broughton: 10% off. Free tastings.
Dana Robinson: Cool. Anything else, Nate?
Nate Broughton: No, I don’t think so man. Thank you. [crosstalk 01:22:24].
Dana Robinson: Thanks, Jon. Thanks for letting us into your front yard. Thanks to our listeners for enduring our first experiment with an outdoor, onsite remote location recording. Trucks, birds …
Nate Broughton: We’ll do our best. I think it was all right.
Jon Roleder: They’re all good trucks in the background. Those are all wine industry trucks going by.
Dana Robinson: Yes, they are all money on wheels. [crosstalk 01:22:46].
Nate Broughton: All right. Opt Out out. Bye.
Nate Broughton: Thanks again for listening to the Opt Out Life podcast. If you like this episode, or any of our episodes, we’d love to have you as a subscriber. Click the subscribe button on iTunes, or wherever you get your podcast. Then, head over to There, you can enter your email address to get on our email list so you’ll be the first to know about new podcast episodes as they come out, including handpicked highlights, links to resources we mention and top quotes from each episode. Dana and I are also publishing new articles on the site, including how-to guides and blueprints for you to use to find your next side gig or find a creative idea to help you live the Opt Out Life. Opt Out Life email subscribers also will be the first to get access to upcoming video content, which includes a short documentary we shot recently here in San Diego, as well as opportunities to interact with us and our growing community through the Opt Out Life premium membership. All that and more starts by heading to and entering your email.
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