Volume 1

Trailblazer: Unveiling Entrepreneurial Paths

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THE ENTREPRENEURIAL BACKSTORY OF SINGING WATER VINEYARDS

This past week, we had the wonderful opportunity to visit with Missy Ivankovich at her vineyard, Singing Water Vineyards, in Comfort, Texas. This vineyard, right in the heart of the Hill Country, is owned and operated by Missy and her husband, Andy Ivankovich, and their team of knowledgeable employees. Andy and Missy have been in the business of entrepreneurship for many years and have worked together on several successful organizations; from software companies helping consumers get loans to weekend getaways at a vineyard, this couple has seen it all. I had the privilege of sitting down with Missy to ask a few questions about her entrepreneurial past; her answers will be detailed in the following section.

One of my first questions was simply asking Missy what connections she has seen between her past work in the software industry and her present work, running and operating a vineyard. Missy believes there is a common misconception when thinking about people who work in multiple industries—that they do not connect. But for Missy, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. While there are plenty of differences in what running the separate businesses looks like, at the end of the day it always boils down to customer experience and doing everything in your power to ensure the customer is satisfied. While designing software for loans, Missy believes the reason she and Andy found so much success was because their product was tailored to the consumer. The speed and efficiency of their app helped them stand out, and constant tweaks and improvements helped to keep them ahead of the competition. The couple has applied these same principles to their vineyard, doing everything in their power to escalate

the customer experience. By playing into the beautiful scenery and nature their land has to offer, while still keeping customers from getting dirty or messy, Missy believes Singing Water is doing just what it needs to keep everyone happy and deliver an experience that the consumer is searching for. This belief is immediately apparent when driving into the property. Everything is properly labeled and laid out to make an easier experience. The parking and seating areas are shaded to combat the Texas heat, and the elements of nature are all present the moment you step foot on their land.

After asking Missy about the couple’s entrepreneurial past, we dove deeper into the origins of their entrepreneurial spirit. Missy, speaking on behalf of her husband, shared how Andy’s time in the Air Force helped shape the person and entrepreneur he is today. Missy believes the main thing the Air Force did for an 18-year-old Andy, with almost nowhere to go and not many options in front of him was to “widen his worldview.” Being in the Air Force helped to broaden Andy’s horizons, and helped him to realize he wanted to do more with his life. He was encouraged to use the GI Bill which allowed him to go to college after his time serving was complete. Andy’s time in the Air Force also further developed some of his entrepreneurial attributes. By volunteering to do the tasks that no one else wanted to do and putting himself in the hard jobs, Andy found himself being rewarded with opportunities that many of his peers weren’t. This further instilled in him that “doing the hard, gritty work—work that many entrepreneurs have to do—ultimately pays off and is worth the risk.”

After learning about the couple’s past, I asked Missy to describe what it is like working full time with her husband, and what advice she has for other couples starting a business together. Missy answered this question by simply stating, “Yes, it is hard.” She followed by sharing that even though it is hard, it is doable. While it is different for everyone, Andy and her have found setting boundaries, dividing the work, and finding mentors have been some of their main success factors. Missy explained that to her “setting boundaries” basically means “no business talk in the bathroom.” She laughed, as she explained how important it was to her to make it clear to Andy that when she is getting ready she is getting ready, and that is not the time to discuss their business. Missy also believes a good practice is to have different focuses in the business and to divide up the work. There will always be disagreements, but if you trust in each other and each has your own area of expertise, ultimately the right decision will be made. Finally, Missy believes each person needs to find their own mentor; someone to go to for advice and to keep them in line when times get rough. Missy has found these key factors work well for her and Andy, and it is evident that even after many years of marriage and operating businesses, they are still thriving more than ever.

Finally, we ended by asking Missy what advice she had for any aspiring entrepreneurs in the area who are looking to establish themselves and their brands. Missy said, “Be willing to put in the work.” It is difficult, but at the end of the day, hard work is rewarding work. Missy also stressed a quote that she lives by, “when someone shows you their true colors, believe them the first time.” She believes that by following this quote, she has saved herself countless hours and troubles of trying to change someone who doesn’t want to change. It is important to trust your gut, follow your own lead, and not rely on someone who has disappointed you before. Finding the people who help motivate you and propel you to be your best self is one of the most valuable things you can do.

Looking back, this experience was invaluable. Starting my day with the scenic views of the hill country and learning about the history of Andy and Missy and their mission at the vineyard was truly amazing. Missy gave a wonderful back story on the couple and their ventures, and her advice was impactful and intentional. I look forward to seeing all these two contribute to their community moving forward.

TEXAS A&M AGRILIFE FIGHTING PIERCE’S DISEASE AT SINGING WATER VINEYARDS

Singing Water Vineyards and Texas A&M AgriLife Research are working together to change the course of Texas wine production. Andy and Missy Ivankovich took over ownership of Singing Water in 2022 and in 2023 they began collaborating with AgriLife to study a treatment plan for Pierce’s Disease. For business owners in the wine industry, Pierce’s Disease, or PD, can diminish crop production.
Pierce’s Disease can wipe out an entire vineyard in three years. Since it can take up to three years for vines to even begin producing grapes for harvest, finding a treatment plan for PD is essential.

Pierce’s Disease is transmitted to vines via the glassy-winged sharpshooter. When the sharpshooter bites the leaf on a vine, the leaf becomes infected with PD. This process can occur multiple times, infecting many vines very quickly.

One solution Andy came across to help treat the infected vines is called XylPhi-PD. After learning this product was already in use in California, Andy reached out to the AgriLife Research team to inquire about using it on his own vineyard. For Texas A&M AgriLife to agree to partner with Andy and test XylPhi-PD on Singing Water’s vines, Singing Water had to agree to several terms, including: not pulling any vines without their knowledge and allowing them to track exactly what was sprayed on or injected into the vines. With this agreement, Andy was able to receive free product coverage for 2 – 3 rows. After hearing about the partnership, William Chris also decided to join in the effort and covered another 2-3 rows of vines to be part of the research. This is a 3-year study and is managed by the Texas A&M AgriLife Research team.

XylPhi-PD is a serum injected into the vine’s trunk before the first cordons. This serum contains a bacteria that eats the disease and then dies once it has eaten all of the disease in that vine. They put 2 injections on each vine, one on each side. A third injection may be required for more mature vines about halfway up. A syringe filled with approximately 30 mL of XylPhi-PD is injected by a CO2-powered gun. This amount of serum can inject around 500 vines. The process is very labor intensive due to having to squat up and down for several hours in the Texas heat. It typically takes 3 days to complete all the injections at Singing Water.

This treatment costs $6,000 to inject a vineyard once. The vines must be injected 3 times in a season, every 4-6 weeks, totaling up to $18,000 per growing season. Some might say it doesn’t make sense to put that much money into something without the guarantee it will work, but to Andy and Missy, the risk is worth the potential reward. This product and study could mean a significant change for the better, putting them years ahead of the competition.

One might also wonder if the injection of XylPhi-PD affects the taste of the wine produced from grapes that come from injected vines. The good news is that, due to the study completed in California, Missy and Andy know that the treatment and injections do not have any effect on the taste of the wine. It is also an organic remedy for Pierce’s Disease since all the ingredients in Xyl-Phi-PD are organic themselves. The vineyard is already seeing promising results with the injections and Missy and Andy remain hopeful about their continued collaboration with Texas A&M.

We look forward to seeing all that Singing Water continues to offer to their community in the future, both in their research contributions and as a breathtaking vineyard for the enjoyment of residents and visitors of the Texas Hill Country.

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In early 2024, Katie and Melissa came together to co-found Prickly Pair Consulting; their goal being simple; to offer honest assistance with property taxation, with a focus on education and helping clients navigate what they feel is often an intentionally confusing and misleading system.
Recently, Das Greenhaus hosted a Summer Speaker Series open to the Boerne and Kendall County community. Over a three-week period, the featured speakers—Catie Campbell, Rod Collins, and Samuel Riehn—provided the community with education and inspiration over their lunch. From inspiration on how to stand out in a crowded industry, to information on doing business with the Department of Defense, this speaker series saw a wide variety of both topics and listeners.

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Published on: Boerne Lifestyle
Published on: Boerne Business Monthly