Fowler, 63, would like nothing better than to put all his time and energy into wine-making, which he and his wife, Heidi, a homemaker, see as their entrepreneurial focus after he retires from his position in about two years.
But because he has relied on using disposable income from his salary to buy vines—which he expects to more than double in number this year—trellises, equipment and supplies, he's understandably reluctant to give up his funding source.
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As part of governmental compliance requirements that Fowler must fulfill to sell product—his company, which produced about 100 gallons of wine this year and does not yet have an official name—he'll have to invest about $30,000 in new infrastructure, including converting his basement and barn into part of a bonded warehouse.
"I'm really in an 'if-only-I-could' situation, but I can't leave full-time employment right now," said Fowler, who's also a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and has another entrepreneurial effort going: military memorabilia company WhisperingHope.net, which was launched in 2006 but does not generate enough income to provide a livelihood. "I'll be more ready to retire when I have my safety net in place—my Social Security, other pensions and the ability to take IRA distributions—but not until then," he added.