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Belle Meade Plantation: A Social Entrepreneurship Marketing Strategy

Tina Sesa

Ottawa University

Strategic Marketing BUS 7450

Dr. Koch

January 20th, 2021


Belle Meade Plantation: A Social Entrepreneurship Marketing Strategy

I. Situation Analysis

Belle Mead started as a horse-breeding plantation, and it survived the U.S. Civil
War to become a museum with a focus on nineteenth-century history. This case study
focuses on challenges Belle Mead was facing such as declining revenues, donations,
and long-term maintenance. Kelleys family came up with a solution to keep this
plantation alive, and that solution was a use of social entrepreneurship strategy to
create the historical winery at the plantation. Bellow, I have presented a SWOT
analysis for the Belle Meade Plantation case.

Strengths Weaknesses
 Historic location  Winery is the only source of
 Uniqueness of the Belle Meade funding
plantation  Lack of space for expansion
 Excellence sales staff  Limited promotional budget

Opportunities Threats
 Low cost of social media  Slowing growth in charitable
 Consumers’ willingness to pay giving
more for a unique product and  Rise of other social
experience entrepreneurship ventures
 Biltmore plantation winery in
North Carolina and Belmont


The roots of Belle Meade extend back to its successful breeding of thoroughbreds.
John Harding commissioned a brick home in the Federal style on his farm and
officially named the estate Belle Meade. Tennessee became well known for raising
thoroughbreds. Belle Meade is a well-known region in Nashville, with the historic
homestead surrounded by 30 acres of land.
Belle Mead is the only non-profit winery in Tennessee, which makes this winery
so unique. Building and operating a nonprofit winery on the historic site was a
phenomenal idea to help sustain current and future long-term financing needs. Having
a unique product and being the only winery in the region gives the winery a
competitive advantage. Furthermore, the Greek revival-styled mansion is furnished
with nineteenth-century antiques that embellish the style and luxury that the Southern
people enjoyed in the late 1800s. There are tours that are provided to the general
public, with costume guides following a theme that changed every three months with
seasons. There are a couple of buildings that visitors can visit such as, log cabin,
creamery, and smokehouse. These tours make a part of the history stay alive, and
these tours also provide an opportunity to experience life in the nineteenth century.

Having knowledgeable employees is one of the crucial parts when it comes to

boosting the business. Belle Mead makes sure that everyone on its staff is
knowledgeable about the winery process with information such as, where and how
the grapes and other fruits are grown, and how is the actual winemaking process
taking place. Everyone on Belle Mead’s staff knows how to bottle wine. This is one
of the reasons why their staff is top-notch.


During the decrease in the economy, the income of non-profit organizations was
affected based on a couple of factors such as donations decrease, federal and local
funding decrease. Belle Meade’s funding was coming from ticket sales from visiting
tourists, hosting special events, corporate and private donations, and sales of items
from the gift shop. Admission ticket revenues were not enough to fully support the
site’s operation. The winery was a great embrace of social entrepreneurship. When
running any business it is important to have different income resources to prevent
losing the business based on only one source of income. As in this case, the winery is
the only source that is keeping the Belle Meade plantation alive.
Belle Mead winery always seems to get close to its capacity limits. Visitation of
the plantation has grown to a great extent, handling the growing crowd and its
staffing has been a challenge for Belle Meade as they approached capacity limits.
Furthermore, when local restaurants requested from Belle Mead’s winery to use their
wines as the official wine of their restaurants, Belle Meade had been forced to decline
to sell to restaurants due to limited supply.
Limited promotional budget is one of Belle Mead’s weaknesses. The winery uses
a couple of options for promoting its business, and they have been using vouchers
through Groupon to get more customers.


Belle Mead winery has a couple of ways of promoting their business, such as the
organization’s website, social media, word of mouth, and tourist visits. The shortest
and quickest way to get to customers is through social media. Social media is one of
the ways for a promotion that can be done for no cost but with a quick turn-around
time. In general, people spend more time on social networks than reading emails, so
when a business promote itself on networks, it will be easier for the business to reach
a larger audience. Potential buyers or customers follow the companies on social
networks and thus find out the latest information about discounts or sales.
The success of any business depends on its customers. Having a unique product
attracts more customers who are willing to spend money on that product. If the
product they purchase is also of outstanding quality, the customer will buy the
product without doubting it, and no matter what the price of the unique and
outstanding product is. How much Belle Meade’s wine is outstanding and well-
known can be seen thru their sales. As mentioned in the case, in the first year 10,0000
bottle sales goal was topped with 54,000 bottles. Also, many restaurants in Nashville

have requested that Belle Meade wine products become official wines of their


Charitable contributions to non-profit company exceeded its bottom in 2009.

Donations from corporations and individuals decreased so low, that Kelleys had to
look for solutions that were outside of the proverbial box. Belle Meade with its
organization and board of directors could not rely solely on donations anymore.
While Belle Meade is well-known for its excellent staff, unique and outstanding
products, captive audience, this might change due to the competitiveness of other
organizations. If competitors enter the same market, Belle Meade’s competitive
advantage will decrease. There are other historic properties in Nashville, and if these
historic places decide to follow similar social entrepreneurship opportunities, Belle
Meade will definitely need to find ways to stay ahead of its competitors.

II. Assumptions and Missing Information

While reading and analyzing this case, I found information on the different types
of promotion Belle Meade is using, but there is information missing if Belle Meade
has a promotion budget, and if they do, there is no information on how much they
invest in promotions each year. There is also no information on wine prices, tour
prices, nor tasting ticket prices.
Due to climate change, if Belle Meade’s plantations got destroyed, there is no
information if this historical place has insurance to cover possible damage and loss.
Wine information had a lack of evidence of bestseller, as well as its pricing.

III. Statement of The Problem(s)

There are several problems that can be addressed from this case study, such as,
climate affecting plantations, what would keep the business running if the winery
cannot be the only source to keep this historical place alive, and how would winery
stay ahead of its competitors. Out of these three problems, I will be focusing on
developing alternatives and recommendations on what the winery needs to do to stay
ahead of its competitors and to stay the leader on the market.

IV. Development of Alternatives

- Bring the price of product down and keep the same quality
- Make wine flavors that winery currently does not produce
- Offer children activities that were not used before

V. Evaluation of Alternatives & Recommendations

One of the alternatives to keep the winery ahead of its competitors is to lower the
price and keep the quality. In this case, there is no information presented on how
much they sell bottles of wine for, nor how much it costs to do a wine tasting tour. As

they have fruit plantations on their property, they do not have to invest money in
importing the ingredients. Lowering the selling price for wine will still keep the
customers they had, and attract more customers while the quality of the product will
contain the same.
Furthermore, Belle Mead’s winery portfolio of wines leans heavily to the sweet
end of the spectrum. While sweeter wine’s objective is to make money, dry wine’s
objective is “status”. Introducing dry wine, as well as expanding Belle Mead’s current
wine menu will definitely give Belle Mead’s winery a huge competitive advantage.
According to a case study, there are currently between 500 and 750 acres of wine
grapes grown in Tennessee, and that number is always increasing. But not all wines
are produced from grapes. Fruits such as black raspberries, peaches, blackberries,
strawberries, rhubarb, and apples are used for wine production. This case study
mentions that Belle Mead offers a blackberry wine, as well as sweet wines.
Offering children’s activities that were not used before would be another
alternative when looking at the current problem. As only adults are allowed to do
wine tasting tours and purchase alcohol, bringing more activities for kids would be
beneficial, as parents would be able to bring children with them and while they are
having wine tours, their children will be able to tour and learn about Belle Mead’s
historical plantation in general.

VI. Implementation

All of these three alternatives listed above would be great options for boosting
Belle Mead’s winery revenue and keeping the winery ahead of its competitors, but the
best alternative for solving this problem would be expanding the current wine menu
by introducing dry wine and having a variety of flavors available for customers.
Belle Mead winery currently offers sweet wine, as this wine’s objective is to
make money. With other competitors entering the same market, Belle Mead will need
to introduce dry wines as they are referred to as “status” wines. With this offer, Belle
Mead will offer wines for all types of social level. As mentioned in the case, because
of the uniqueness of vintages produced at the winery, tourists and customers usually
buy multiple bottles and sometimes cases to bring back home to their family and
friends. Currently, there is no information on what kind of wine is being offered at
Belle Mead’s winery but sweet wines, so expanding their menu with unique flora
plantations will bloom the winery’s business.
Presenting this alternative to the board of executives will be the first step to put
this alternative in play. Explaining and answering the question “why this alternative”
is really important, as the board of executives is the ones deciding if they will put this
action into work or no. All members that are invested in this historical place have the
best interest for this place, and making this place more unique with its alternative will
put Belle Mead winery ahead of its competitors. This alternative will need the least
investment when looking at other 2 alternatives, as Belle Mead has its acres for
Conducting customer surveys on what wine flavors customers would like for
Belle Mead winery to add to its menu will be done thru social media, on wine tasting

tours, and thru advertisements on Groupon, and any other internet platform winery
uses to promote its deals and coupons.

Weeks 1 2 3 4 5 6
Conduct customer surveys
on what wine flavors
customers would like for
Belle Mead winery to add
on its menu
Collect and analyze data
Start producing the product

VII. Evaluation and Control

As Belle Mead winery has been the only non-profit winery in Nashville, and it
has the highest ranking when it comes to uniqueness and quality products,
introducing dry wines and different wine flavors will be a challenge for the winery
and the historical place as the whole, as the winery is the only source of income. The
question is, what if the competitors offer dry wines as well or other flavors, will the
customers still be choosing Belle Mead’s winery over other competitors that entered
the market. All the alternatives must be closely monitored, so the goals and results
could be achieved.


Ferrell, O. C., & Hartline, M. D. (2017). Marketing Strategy, Text and Cases. (5th ed.). Cengage