bannerFranchisee Spotlight

Retired Navy Commander Finds Fruitful Career with Waters Edge Winery Franchise

Despite having no business ownership experience, Jason Witt and his wife, Dyan, took a risk and opened their own winery franchise in Norfolk, Virginia.

By Jeff DwyerStaff Writer
11:11AM 10/12/23

Jason Witt, a retired Navy commander, was looking for a new career path when he left the military after more than 20 years of service. During his search, he was given the advice to look for an opportunity that would provide him with what he calls “the big three wins” — a good quality of life, satisfaction and liking what you do. 

Following that approach, Witt and his wife, Dyan, discovered the franchise Waters Edge Winery and Bistro, which the pair instantly knew was right for them. 

1851 Franchise recently sat down with Witt to learn more about his story and what led him to open his location at 6464 Hampton Blvd in Norfolk, Virginia in March.

Jason’s Story

Before diving into the franchise space, Witt served as a pilot for the U.S. Navy for 21 years. As he was transitioning out of service, he and his wife, Dyan, were looking for their next business opportunity. Like many others who were unfamiliar with the franchising space at first, Witt didn’t have a complete understanding of the industry. He recognized big-name brands like McDonald’s and Subway, but until he started conducting his own due diligence, he didn’t realize quite how many opportunities were available.

In their research looking for a business that would provide them with the “big three wins,” Jason and Dyan wanted to invest in something special and true to their belief. Also, they wanted an investment that would support them in the long-term.   

“When we were looking to get into franchising, we wanted to avoid the corporate-owned feeling and find something that we could make our own while still having support from a franchisor,” said Witt.

Waters Edge Wineries was the perfect opportunity for them.

“The Waters Edge Wineries franchise model allows owners like Dyan and myself to pour our heart and soul into the business and make our winery a unique place for our community,” said Witt. “We are able to serve our community while tailoring our business to fit the needs of our neighbors.”

Since opening their location earlier this year, the Witts have seen a great response from the community.

“People know that we are a grassroots place,” said Witt. “Dyan and I are extremely hands-on in the winery, giving it a real community feel.”

Advice and Lessons Learned

But it hasn’t all been easy sailing for the Witt couple. As Jason said, the initial ramp-up process to get their franchise open presented them with day-after-day challenges.

“I thought I would be paging through books about wine, but I found myself consumed with construction, payroll, insurance and all aspects of the business setup,” he said. “Regardless of what business you are getting into, learning how to set up and run your own business in the beginning is the most important factor in setting yourself up for success.”

Reflecting on the journey, Witt believes taking the franchising route was the right way to go because the support and backing they receive from the franchisor has been instrumental in their success.

“Between our location and the home office team at Waters Edge Wineries, we work through kinks and issues together,” he said. “There is not a book with an answer to every single problem with all the solutions spelled out, but we’re a team. I would have never been able to get our winery where it is without the help of the Waters Edge Wineries team answering any questions we have. Having the support of a franchisor is like having another team member available anytime as a fantastic resource.”

For ambitious entrepreneurs looking to break into the world of business ownership, Witt said it’s important to clear your calendar and be ready to take on a challenging first few months as you prepare to open your doors to the public.

“It’s easy to spread yourself too thin in the beginning, it’s a lot of work,” he said.

Looking to the future, the couple is focused on scaling their business to create a delightful and accessible wine experience for as many of their neighbors as possible.