Stephen Puhl, ’20, and Trent Sawicki, ’20, opened House Wine for business on Sept. 24, 2018. Their business centers around creating wine with a higher-than-average alcohol content. (Courtesy of Stephen Puhl).

Growing grapes, getting grades: Juniors start wine business


After a busy day of classes and homework, student entrepreneurs Stephen Puhl, ’20, and Trent Sawicki, ’20, still find time to manage their company House Wine, which officially began selling its products in Pennsylvania on Sept. 24.

Puhl and Sawicki’s business centers around creating wine with a higher-than-average alcohol content while still meeting the legal limit of 18 percent alcohol per volume.

House Wine is available in two flavors — Concord Red and Niagara White.

Puhl said the company produces wine with a high alcohol content by adding a lot of sugar and waiting for the sugar to ferment.

House Wine took time to gain momentum, as the two said they faced challenges balancing their business with school work. To ensure efficiency within the company and manage their time better, Puhl and Sawicki said they have taken on different roles. Puhl acts as overseer while Sawicki handles company operations.

Michael Puhl, Puhl’s father, also has a hand in House Wine. Because Puhl and Sawicki are under 21, House Wine is under Michael’s name for legal reasons. Puhl said his father is good at getting the brand out and selling the product as well as picking up orders and helping with consults.

“(House Wine) has been a big learning curve for my son going from not knowing anything about a market to having to learn it all in a short amount of time,” Michael said.

With hopes of expanding, House Wine would like to bring more people into their business. Additionally, Stephen Puhl, ’20, and Trent Sawicki, ’20, would like to add a bottle to their options of three-liter bags and five-gallon boxes. (Courtesy of Stephen Puhl)

With House Wine finally taking off, Puhl and Sawicki said they have started to think about managing the company after graduation.

“With social media and people being able to interact and talk about the product, I think it could be huge and really help get our name out there, and it is a possibility for this to be long-term,” Puhl said.

While Puhl and Sawicki said they did most of the work to start their business, they also seek help from other students with different skills. Puhl said the company plans to reach out to a web developer or a computer science and business student for help.

Apart from their web interface, Puhl and Sawick want to improve their physical product as well.

They said they would like to start selling their wine in bottles on top of their current offerings, which include three-liter bags and five-gallon boxes.

Puhl and Sawicki are in the midst of acquiring a liquor license to sell their wine in stores out of state and hope to host spring break events to promote their wine.

Apart from personal goals, Puhl and Sawicki said they are looking to help others with their company. They plan to set aside a portion of their profits for philanthropic purposes.

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