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Jim Riley, Professional Off Road Racer, Spartan & Wine Importer: Just Say YES

You are in for one heck of an experience. We're talking with Jim Riley who is the President of Baja United Group.
He has an amazing story and journey of being able to do what he does, which is import wine and beer. He also had a stint at Ketel One Vodka. He was there for quite some time helping build a brand that eventually was sold off. He is a professional off-road truck racer and a Spartan enthusiast.

There are many valuable takeaways. I want to give you a couple of highlights, so you know what to expect. Number one, in the show we talk about crowdfunding. He leveraged the power of crowdfunding to fund and jumpstart his venture. Before that, he went out and raised $5 million and he shares his secret and the mindset of how he was able to do that and what investors and people are looking for. It's his biggest advice that he gives folks and we got him to share on this episode exactly how you can do that if that is your desire.

In addition, he shares this strategy of visualization and how he's been able to knock out these crazy feats of endurance. How he's been able to run these crazy races and the benefit of doing permeates through all of his businesses, through his life, through raising his kids. He shares that in this episode.

Dustin
I hear you enjoy what I call punishing yourself which is running, crawling, jumping, swimming and doing whatever you have to do to overcome obstacles in Spartan Races. I want to make sure I’m fully capturing the essence of a Spartan Race. What is it like to do one of these?
Jim
When I started, it wasn't with the notion of punishing myself. I wanted to have fun doing something interesting. What had happened for me is I was spending a lot of time with the personal trainer and so was my wife. I go to the gym to be physically fit for my off-road racing career. I’ve been doing it for many years. When I’m in the race car, I want to be the best I can be. I knew by getting fitter, I could survive in the car. I’m having a good year at the gym. My wife's having a good year. He says, “Why don't you guys go do a Spartan Race together? It would be fun.”We’re both like, “What is that?”We had no idea. We signed up. We didn't even look into it. As we got a little bit closer, we realized it's obstacles and running. Neither one of us is a runner but we’re pretty fit. The first one was three miles. We thought we were going to die. It was the hardest thing we've ever done. It was out in Mesquite, Arizona, they call it Nevada but it wasn't. We had an RV at the time. We get back to our RV and the guy across from us is camping and he finished the race. We're dying and like, “You made it.”He goes, “Yes, I can't believe. I’m going to do it again tomorrow,” and both of our jaws dropped. I could not fathom doing another day and we only did three miles. It was almost a couple of years ago. We didn't imagine punishing ourselves as we did.
Dustin
You're nationally-ranked for this. What happened from almost dying and not wanting to run it the second day to being nationally-ranked?
Jim
It's a sickness. Spartan does a good job of and if anybody's interested in doing obstacle course racing, that is the best series. It’s a great organizer. They do three different sized races. A Sprint, which is three to five miles of super which is eight miles and then a Beast, which is thirteen miles. They all have obstacles. The longer the run, the more obstacles you have. What's cool is when you finish the race, they give you this beautiful heavy metal, but then they give you a third of a second medal. If you go do the other two races then you put your big medal together. It's crafty and like, “We've got to go do another race to get our trifecta.” We decided we had much fun that we were going to go do the second race, which we went out and did. This is where it all unfolded for me during that second race. We're running and they have what they call open class. Everybody enters that class. People are on their cell phones, they’re taking pictures. They're walking and all that stuff.
My wife and I are competitive and we're getting annoyed. These people are in our way, we can’t get around them. I don't want to hurt them. We finished up and I said, “We should enter competitively.”She’s like, “Let's do that.” The third race she won. She got first place in her age group. I got a third. It was on. We were hooked. We had two more races that year, which was 2017.We also did the XTERRA series down in Laguna Beach. We ran one race there. I won. She got second by literally a half a second. We go, “Maybe there's something here for us.” In 2018, we've raced competitively all year. The first quarter I was ranked number one in the world for men over 50 in the Competitive Age Group series based on the races that I had won and the points that you get for them. I started chasing the 30-mile Ultra Beast that they do. It happens at the World Championships in Lake Tahoe. I switched my training up to go away from the competitive shorter races and train for this 30-mile race. It had 66 obstacles. It took me eight-and-a-half hours but I got second. It was quite the accomplishment for me. I’m done. I’ll never do another 30-mile race. It was too much on my body.
Dustin
You're not one of the guys that want to do the 100-mile or run 24 hours straight. Is that in the back of your mind?
Jim
I like the sound of that and intensity of that, but I was running 70 miles a week leading up to prep because I want to go win. I could probably train and go out and run a 100-mile event and have fun, but I’m going to want to win and it's going to require that time commitment. A lot of people don't understand that if you're going to go to win something, there's a whole different level of training and out-running. 70 miles a week is a lot of running.
Dustin
You're already dropping nuggets, which are your commitments. You recognize in life that if you want to do something to win, you go to win. You don't play it for fun and you know that about yourself.
Jim
What I’ve also learned about myself is don't commit to something that I’m not willing to go win at or put the time in to do it. When you start getting older, everybody wants to go golf with you. A lot of people, “Jim, you want to go golfing?” I know that I don't play golf and I suck at it so I’m never going to win, so I don't play. On Facebook, I get comments like, “Jim, you're good at everything you do,” and I wrote publicly once I said, “I only do the things that I know I can excel at, that I enjoy and that I can be good at.” I don't post things up about me playing basketball because I’m terrible at it. I’m not good at everything that's out there. I’m good at the things that I like to do.
Dustin
I want to get into the truck racing. You mentioned doing the Spartan Race because you thought it would help you in that path or in doing that. Where have Spartan Races affected you in other areas of life? What have you brought from doing these races, winning these races, training into other areas of your life?
Jim
It's given me an intense level of visualization in my training. Visualization is important for being a success. You can do that in your business and see what the future looks if you made money or if your business succeeded. With racing and your training, you're in the gym for an hour or you’re running on a treadmill or 70 miles a week. You've got a lot of time in your head but for me, I got a good visualization. I was seeing what that race course looks like and what the podium looks like and what that felt inside weeks and months before I was even there. One thing that I’ve brought home from that is the ability to be focused on something in my thought process so that it comes true. You heard my podcast before. I always end it with, “What you believe is what you will achieve,” and that came to life for me more so now than ever.
Dustin
Looking at your life resume and it's fascinating, you sold one million hamburgers in a year at In-N-Out Burger. You worked there for quite some time. You took care of VIPs at a casino in Lake Tahoe. You helped pioneer gourmet foods at ski resorts before it was a real thing. You were part of Ketel One Vodka and helping with that brand for many years. You started your own tequila brand and now you import beer and wine from Mexico.
Jim
There are a lot of little side gigs along the way but that's the scope of where I've been.
Dustin
If you look at that resume, it screams to me hospitality or food and beverage. I’m not sure of what people call that but that's what it sounds like. It seems you were destined to be in this field of food and beverage and hospitality. Now looking back, do you see it that way?
Jim
Yes, I do to be honest with you. At a young age growing up with my mother at the time, I spent a lot of time in the kitchen. I was a latchkey kid. I would make something to eat first when she got home. My grandmother from Oklahoma was a real Okie. She made the fresh pie and bread every day and the roast beef and all that stuff. I was always around cooking within my family units. It was a role that I had to play so when my mom got home, we’ve got to eat something and I enjoyed it. My early lesson was if you ever had Bisquick, they always have recipes on the box. Back in the day, they had about a dozen on there. My goal as a kid, literally eight, nine years old, was to make every recipe on that box. I did it over and over again. Food and beverage have been in my life ever since.
Dustin
Have you ever taken an opportunity, because I know you're big on saying yes to opportunities that present themselves in life? Did you ever say one to an opportunity that's outside of food and beverage and came back to it? Did you ever venture outside the bubble?
Jim
Not necessarily. I’m doing some life coaching and some public speaking so that's outside that bubble but I’m falling back on my years of history doing food and beverage. When I left In-N-Out Burger, I thought I want to sell stocks or invest money for people and build a portfolio. I took a job with Transamerica who was in Irvine at the time to do investments. I took the courses. I missed the test by literally one point. I was getting ready to go back into the school to test again and I landed the gig in Tahoe and it's like, “Let's go to Tahoe,” and I put that aside. That's as close as I got to doing something else.
Dustin
You seem to have these opportunities in life that you say yes to. You were talking about the girl at the Starbucks or the coffee bar that's like, “You should put your application in on top of the mountain or whatever,” and you're like, “Yes, I’ll do that.” Do you feel like that moment where you miss that test by a point? Was that a signal or a marker for you to go in a different direction or that was just life?
Jim
It was just life. It was going to make me be something that I’m not authentically. To me, it's a blessing it didn't work out because I was going to live a different life that I was becoming opposed to, which was all about money and chasing that dollar. Instead, I transitioned out of that and I continued doing what I love.
Dustin
You're big on saying yes to the opportunity. Have you ever said yes to something, an opportunity and put yourself in a tricky situation may be uncomfortable for yourself? Do you have any stories there?
Jim
The problem with saying yes is you can do it too often and you can overload yourself. I wouldn't say a tricky situation or something funny we're talking about but you do have to be careful how often you say yes. I’ve been getting a lot of calls and I got off the phone saying no to somebody and my wife looks at me and goes, “Did you turn down some work?” I’m like, “I did.” She goes, “I can't believe it.” I said, “I’m committed to our family unit and the number of hours that I spend with the family. That is my sole priority for almost a couple of years since I left the tequila company.” I’m getting used to saying no a little bit more now than I have ever.
Dustin
You've been a yes man and now you're saying no. What is your advice to other people that struggle with that to help the mown their time?
Jim
I have two thoughts on saying no. The first is by saying no, for me, it allows me to be authentic to what my goal or my vision is. It's all about being around my kids. Saying no reinforces what my goal is because I can load up a whole bunch of stuff and that's what I don't want to do. My advice on that is to stay authentic and true to what your goals are and if you don't have goals, write some now. Get after that now. Figure out what that is or make a goal to write your goals. The other thought process on no is no can also keep you successful in what you do. I worked for In-N-Out Burger for a long time. Everybody knows at least in California, maybe in five other states now, they only sell hamburgers, fries and drinks since 1948.They have said no a lot of years to a lot of other items, fish and chicken and everything else that’s out there. By them saying no has made them what they are now. That's important to recognize in your own business and in your own life that sometimes saying no can continue your success or continue down that path that you started on.
Dustin
How do you vet opportunities now? What are your boundaries when you look at an opportunity or a deal or taking on a client? What are some of those things that are important to you? Obviously, one is family.
Jim
The thing that I always try to avoid or at least that I tell people that I’m interviewing for a job or a business opportunity is don't set yourself up to fail. Don't say yes to something if you know you're not going to be able to do it. Maybe the money's there so you can go down that path saying yes to something and realize internally that you'll never be able to succeed at that, but it's all about the money grab. Eventually, that's going to flush out and then where are you? You'd probably be out of a job. What I try to do is lead by example. I’ll pick things that I know that I can be good at and succeed at and be honest with myself. I got a job offer on the phone. I got off the phone like, “Why did he call me for that? He knows I can't do that.” Meaning it was a conflict. It was a compliment that he wanted me but then I was like, “I can't even say yes to that even if I wanted to,” but staying true to who I am, that's an easy no. It's interesting how life will tug at you in different ways and you need to have that barometer.
Dustin
I want to transition into starting your venture with Azuñia Tequila. You were at In-N-Out. You worked with gramps. You worked with dad in the family biz. You went to Ketel One
Jim
That's been the story my life, right place right time. What I’ve talked about the last many years is that off-road racing has done more for me than anything else in my whole life. Meaning opportunities, relationships, friendships, good times, memories, the orphanages that I worked with were also a result of off-road racing. What had happened was in my role at Ketel One, the writing was on the wall that there was going to be some major transitions there. We could see that things were changing. People were starting to look around like, “What am I going to do next?” I happened to be at a meeting for sponsorship with Who's Your Daddy Energy Drink. It's been a long time since that's been around. Dan Fleyshman founded that. It was my first sponsorship deal. Dan's a marketing guru now on Instagram and Facebook.
I was at a meeting about Who's Your Daddy Energy Drink with their investors, trying to convince them they needed to sponsor my race team. I walk out of the meeting and I have my Ketel One card, that's what I’m handing out. This guy pulls me aside and goes, “You're in the vodka business.” I said, “Yes.” He goes, “I’m in the tequila business. Not exactly, but my family owns this distillery down in Mexico.” It happened to be the one that Sammy Hagar was using for Cabo Wabo. Sammy had sold Cabo Wabo for $70 million to Campari and they picked up operations and left that distillery high and dry there. They're looking to do something, “You know how to do this business. Do you want to get in the tequila business?” This was cold. I was like, “Let me look into it.” That's my initial yes. I go home and I’m thinking about it. I’m like, “Let's go to Mexico and check this place out.”
I’d already had affection for Mexico because I’ve been going down there surfing and working with orphanages since the ‘80s. I was happy to go back down to Mexico. I’ve never been to mainland Mexico so we flew down Guadalajara. I tasted the tequila down there and met the family. If you drink vodka, by definition it's odorless, colorless and tasteless but it definitely tastes different. Vodkas taste different than each other. That was a great part about Ketel One is that it tastes significantly different than Absolut or Grey Goose. We always won these taste tests. I’m in that taste test mode. I taste this tequila that they're making at a place called Agaveros Unidos. I was like, “This is the first time I had Ketel One. What is this?” What we learned is that they were authentic practices. They own their own fields. It's organic, aeration, all these different things. It's what we learned in Ketel One. It's about what's in the bottle. Everything else you can develop, the marketing, the assets. It's about the taste of the product. I knew that tequila was a product I could get behind. That's how I started Azuñia.
Dustin
You put together an interesting deal. It was a 30-year lease arrangement. Can you explain what that deal is?
Jim
Everything transpired fast. These are things that we talked about publicly in the early days is that the family didn't want to get pushed aside again. Everything had dropped so they were aggressive on, “Let's do a 30-year deal. Let's commit 5,000 acres of agave fields to you.” They wanted to lock us up. I’m over here going, “I want to lock these guys up.”We both have the same vision for different reasons because I knew the long-term of this could be significant. As it turns out, it was. It’s a great brand. They're doing well. I’ve been gone for almost a couple of years and they're doing a fantastic job over there.
Dustin
I’m curious as to your advice for folks in terms of negotiating and putting together deals like this or any deal. Do you have any tips or strategies on how to sit at the negotiation table with somebody and create a great scenario?
Jim
Have a business plan. It's a piece of advice I give everybody that wants to go into business or do something. I always ask them first, “What's your business plan look like? Can you send me your business plan?” If they don't have one, don't call me. Write your business plan. I spent several months in the evening writing business plans after work and grinding it out and spending some time with my wife. Eventually, I finished that and then I hired a professional business plan writer for $5,000. I said, “Here's my business plan. Can you polish this thing up?” I spent $5,000and all those evenings to do that, but I used that business plan and I raised $5 million in 2007. We were in a market crash. Nobody was handing out money. That $5,000 investment to have a good business plan based on what I had written was the best investment I ever made. That's my advice. Get a business plan. When you go into those meetings and you're going to structure a deal, you should know what your vision and your plan are already so that you can negotiate what your needs are in that business plan. If you truly did write it and you understand the business itself, you know where the negotiation can happen and how much you can waiver each way or not.
Dustin
You’re saying it's a journey. As you're writing it, you're figuring out how people are going to knock this. How can I make the stronger? You're figuring out where are the negotiation points. It's about the journey of it.
Jim
Know what your goal is with that business. This is another thing that I ask people. They want to get into the alcohol industry. I had a call with somebody who wanted to get in the rum industry. I said, “Is this a play for your ego? Do you want to see the bottle on the back bar and you can show your friends that you have a rum? Is this going to be a business that you're going to invest lots of time, money and effort into this and it's going to take a lot of years of patience?” Based on their response there, then I know where I can go with it. If it's an ego play, we can do something simple and have fun with it. If it’s a long-term play, then we're going to invest in that business plan and we're going to do things completely different.
Dustin
Why did you retire?
Jim
I call it retirement, it's a loose version of the word. I wanted to spend more time with my kids. I was starting to spend a lot of time on the road building the brand East Coast. I'd already gone through all that with Ketel One and I know what that story looks and I didn't want to do it again.
Dustin
Is it door knocking like going to bars and trade shows and things like that to get the word out?
Jim
It's nighttimes. In the alcohol industry, you're building your brand and what they call on-premise bars and restaurants because it's a cheap entry to the market. You can buy a drink for $5 and try my tequila at the time as opposed to going to the store and spending $35. You build your brands and on-premise and for me, that was going to be a lot of nights, a lot of time away. My goal was to spend more time with my kids. I worked out a deal with our investors where I stepped away completely. I have nothing to do with the business although I still have my ownership shares over there.
Dustin
I want to talk about what you're doing now with Baja and importing wine from Mexico. Off-road racing has opened a lot of doors for you. Number one, what kind of racing are we talking here that you're a professional at and decorated at?
Jim
It is off-road racing by definition and I race in a couple of series. It's SCORE International, which is in Mexico and best in the desert, which is up here in the United States. Primarily that runs in Nevada and Arizona. SCORE International purchased the rights to the original Baja 1000, which raced from Ensenada all the way to Cabo. Technically, the first one race from Mexicali all the way down to Cabo. SCORE International has three or four events a year all based in Mexico. It's been many years since I raced my first race. To describe the vehicle that I’m in, the best way to describe it is it’s a NASCAR made for the dirt. The tires are specked out to dirt. The class that I race in is specked out so we all run the same motor, just like in NASCAR would. It’s the same transmission and then there are a lot of unlimited factors but it's about the driver. It's point to point. Sometimes it's a big 400-mile circle that brings you back to the same place but you're not going over it many times.
Dustin
It's dirt so you can pass anything. You don't have to stay on a track or a path?
Jim
Typically there's a GPS trail that you'll download into your GPS unit and the trucks so you do need to follow some parameters. There's a 50-yard leeway either side but you're in the worst environment ever.
Dustin
When you pass somebody, are they right on your tail or right on your side? Is it like NASCAR?
Jim
We're literally nose to tail passing somebody but literally bumping fenders. If somebody doesn't get out of your way in our sport, you can tap them, a nice friendly tap. You'll see on my front bumper I’ve got several good-sized dents from tapping somebody and I’ve got a couple on the back. You want to be a gentleman about it but you can tap somebody.
Dustin
What speeds are we talking?
Jim
120 miles an hour through crazy dirt, rocks, silt, sand, water, whatever's in front of you.
Dustin
You've got to tell me about the ‘71 Nova and the ‘57 Chevy that I found out. You raced the Nova. Didn't the Nova explode?
Jim
The racers I run in with what we call Spec Trophy Truck, the car that I was describing the NASCAR for the dirt. We do run that SCORE race, which is called the Baja 1000 and then we do a number of races up here. However, in the ‘70s and ‘80s, before they had these NASCAR-style vehicles, they had what they called Heavy Metal classes which were the Novas or the ‘57 Chevys and all different types of vehicles. Eventually, they graduated into more of a pickup. I own one of the most famous vintage cars, which are a 1957 Chevy off-road vehicle that was featured in Hot Rod and a number of other magazines. I own that and what I do with that is that once a year there's a sanctioning body called NORRA, which was the original Baja 1000 sanctioning body. They came back a few years ago to only run the original or as close to original Baja 1000 course. I raced that vintage car on that vintage course. I also brought the Nova. I raced that two times and then the Chevy three times. I’ve won the race in my class three times now.
Dustin
Did no one tap your bumper in the Nova?
Jim
Nobody tapped the bumpers in those other cars. It would be a fistfight. It's not that they're valuable but in terms of what they are and what they represent historically, we respect each other in those cars. It's still a race, don't get me wrong. We want to go out there and win but we’re not tapping.
Dustin
That's not where I was headed with the question. I get the whole respecting. I was thinking about the explodability of the Nova.
Jim
We’ve exploded that motor. We've done all kinds of things.
Dustin
Your mindset about the race or how aggressive you are or how often you compete, has that changed since having kids? Is it still full go, your balls to the wall when you're in that moment?
Jim
I’ve been an extreme athlete most of my life. What I love about that is I’m faced with life and death situations in off-road racing, which allows me to be a better CEO and owner of a company. When I make decisions it's like, “What's the worst that's going to happen? I’m not going to go die,” whereas in the race car, “I could die.” Doing those sports has allowed me to be a better CEO in making decisions and living with those decisions and moving past them, whether it's a mistake or if it was for the benefit. I do have a little bit different mentality in the car knowing that I’ve got to come home to my kids. My wife is supportive of off-road racing. I met her in that world. Her brother was one of my mechanics. She was more in acceptance of it and it's who we are as people. As a person or as a dad, I do think about that. My mind's not going to change. I like the thrill. I do think about the time that it takes to go racing, so I’ve slowed down my racing this year cautiously.
Dustin
When are the kids able to get into some version of this? When do they get in the conversation?
Jim
Probably seven, eight. They’re three and five right now. There are some classes out there like the go-cart stuff, off-road things. With my girls, they can do whatever they want to do. They might be leaning towards horses, ballet and who knows what else. If they want to get in a car, we’ll figure it out.
Dustin
I want to go back to Baja and what you're doing. My understanding is you did crowdfunding to get this venture off the ground.$250,000?
Jim
Two exact rounds, different times, $300,000.
Dustin
Walk me through the mindset. You wrote that business plan. You’ve got $5 million in that other business. You're going crowdfunding this time. Why not do the business plan and go raise $5 million or whatever? Why go crowdfunding?
Jim
I have to give you the beginning of that story because as we mentioned, I was loosely retired. My business partner, Eric Morley from Blue C Advertising, spends a lot of time down at Baja because he works with all the racers. Part of that is he'll spend a little extra time and go to Valle de Guadalupe, which is north of Ensenada. It’s the wine region and he's been telling me about it. He’s like, “My wife and I go down there. We have a great time. You should come to check it out.” Finally, I got nothing on my plate so we go down there together and I’m having a fantastic time. The wineries down there are incredible, the infrastructure. I’m always looking at the infrastructure of things like, “Is this short-term? Is this long-term?” They're putting millions of dollars into these properties down there. About three-quarters of the way through the first day he’s like, “Jim, what do you think? Do you want to import wine?” I was like, “You drag me down here for a purpose not just to enjoy ourselves.” I said, “I’m interested.”
When I came back to the table with this I said, “I want to bootstrap this. I want to donate back to orphanages if we make some money. I want that to be a component of this business.”His goal was he wanted to show people that he could market in that segment. He wanted to create a business and have fun with the wine but he wanted to leverage his marketing company to showcase what he could do in that segment. We created this company called Baja United. My next call was to the distributor that I’ve been working with for the last 25 years, which was Young’s Market  Company. I said, “I’m going to be doing this project. We're bootstrapping. It's a hobby. What do you think? Do you want to bring some Baja Wines in?” The Vice President of Sales, his name is Matt, he goes, “Jim, I’ve been looking for Baja Wines for several months. I’ll take everything you have.” I was like, “What do you mean?” He goes, “If you got it, I’ll take it.” Their first purchase was $45,000. I called Eric and I’m like, “This can't be a bootstrap anymore. We've got to turn this into a business.” I didn't put the amount of time and effort I normally would into the business plan, but I knew what it needed to look like instantly.
Back at Azuñia, I had met a lot of people up in Canada because we sell the tequila up there that was in the crowdfunding space. I did a small crowdfund before the laws change to do a small movie project. We raised $15,000 to do an off-road racing movie. I knew that it worked, but the space that I’m talking about up in Canada is a lot of people raising money through crowdfunding for breweries and spirit companies. I thought, “I’m going to try that with this. I want to experiment in this space with crowdfunding.”Overall the years of being in this business, all my friends want to get involved. They always want to invest in what I was doing. It wasn't an option. My investors were like, “No, it's just us. Nobody else.” I thought, “Not only can I experiment in crowdfunding but I can get all my friends involved that wanted to do it.” That's why we did the crowdfund. I had no idea how it turned out. I envision that we'd make some money but I didn't realize it would be $300,000 later. I’m thrilled with it.
Dustin
What advice do you have for folks that want to crowdfund an idea or a business?
Jim
It's a great opportunity for them to raise money. That was a small PO offering so it's public shares and you have to follow all those rules. It probably cost you more upfront than what you might imagine, probably around $10,000 by the time you get all your accounting and your legal files and all that stuff. You have the ability to raise up to $1.01 million. That's a lot of leeway in a business. What you'll find is if you can target people that are interested in your topic you could probably raise a significant amount of money. What I would say is if you're thinking about it, it's a great route to go. Don't be afraid or intimidated by it. StartEngine is the platform I use. They have a great team of people. They have all kinds of options where you can pay for a little bit more help, which I did because I wanted to streamline the process. That person was like a personal assistant. Anything I needed like, “On it.” By the time I woke up the next morning, stuff was done. They're motivated. They make a small percentage. If it's 3% and I can raise $300,000, that's a good investment. They have other tools available for social media and different things like that all turned out to be good investments. If you're thinking about raising money, add that to your list.
Dustin
Did you do anything creative like your name will be inscribed on an oak barrel or you'll get a bottle of wine?
Jim
Initially, crowdfunding like Indiegogo was more about donating money to a project. You'll get your name inscribed on something, in my case when I did the movie it's like, “I’ll give you credits or I can run a commercial in the movie for you,” or whatever all the benefits were. People were trained to receive something insignificant for their money, but that's how it worked at the time. Now that the laws have changed on crowdfunding where you can own shares, you're getting shares now. You don't need your name engraved on something, but because people are trained to get something, you're highly encouraged to have some type of offering. What we did is all the investors, based on what they invested got a percentage off their wine orders for the first year. It was like 5%, 10% and 15% off.
Dustin
What's the vision for Baja now? Where do you want to go with it?
Jim
We are on the cusp of something big in the wine industry. It's not even an appellation down there yet, meaning you don't go, “It’s Napa. It’s Sonoma.” Once they are an official appellation, more of the world will discover what they have down there. I got a call from a guy in Florida was like, “I need to have your wines.” I can't even convince the distributor to take my phone call down there and I know him. He doesn't know about Baja Wines yet. What they're doing is they're investing in high-quality facilities, top winemakers. It's too great not to and to be on the cusp of something in many years to go, “I was a pioneer of this.” That's why I brought Matt’s name up at Young's Market Company because he was a pioneer. He goes, “Jim, I’ve been looking.” I said, “Why are you looking?” He goes, “The market's asking for it. I work in San Diego of California. The market's asking for it. This is on the come.” It's exciting for us and I want to ride that out.
Dustin
We’re talking wine. Is beer on the horizon still?
Jim
Beer is on the horizon. That's more of a brand-building opportunity. Big beer companies don’t create brands anymore. They buy brands. For me, being on this type of show, what I’m looking at is that could be a short-term sell for me. I can build a beer brand and sell that and take some points in perpetuity, maybe one point or something. I can put some early cash in my pocket if we do the right job with the beer brand. We can always ride the wine out for the long-term.
Dustin
You've got wine. The beer is coming. You are doing tours. Is that another stream? Is that a different company, a different stream of revenue? Is that like, “If you do wine, you've got to do these tours and experiences as part of the biz.”
Jim
There's nothing like experiencing being in Mexico and going to these wineries firsthand. I’ve been pro-tourism for Mexico most of my life. If I can get people down there to experience Mexico in general, I’m winning. If I can get them to go to my wineries, that's a win-win for me. We don't own the tour companies. This is great for entrepreneurs that are coming up or trying to think of revenue streams. We partnered with these tour companies that already have the business, the infrastructure, the staff, the whole bit. They said, “We'll send customers to you but we want something on the back end. We want a referral fee.” We contracted in a referral fee with them. Now we’ve got a little revenue stream. It’s still their business. They're going to pick up new customers they never had before. The great thing about working in Mexico is people can only bring back one bottle of wine from Mexico legally over the border. It’s one liter of any alcohol. We said, “If you sell to your guest some wine via online using your code, we'll give you guys a commission.” It added a whole new loop of customers for us for the people that they're taking down there already. We created two revenue streams out of the tour companies.
Dustin
It’s been said that you're great at tapping into local talent and resources to build well-rounded businesses with strong leadership. That was written in an article about you. What does it mean by tapping into local talent?
Jim
I don't think you need to necessarily go reach out far for talent. There are a lot of people in your own inner circles that could probably do the job just as well if you give them the opportunity.
Dustin
Are you saying friends and family?
Jim
No. Sometimes we get enamored with the fact that, “I’ve got to go to a headhunter. I’ve got to go find this guy from this major city.” There's a lot of great talent that surrounds us every day. What that's more about is I’m open to seeing that as opposed to trying to go reach far beyond when it's not always necessary.
Dustin
What's your take on leadership?
Jim
Everybody wants the job but once you got it, you don't want to be there. It's tough. It's getting tougher when you look at the laws and the way that we're governed now to be an effective leader but also be cautious. I tell people early on when they start going to college and like, “What's your major?” and if they're not sure I said, “Be a lawyer.”“Why?”“You're going to need it. I don't care what segment you go into. Be a lawyer. It's going to pay dividends for you even if you're a CEO for a hamburger restaurant. Knowing the law is a good idea.”
Dustin
I’m 100% with you. I always felt that was my Achilles heel when I was running my own biz was that I didn't have the legal background. I didn't know the negotiation. I didn't know the leverage like, “Is this person legit or not with their threats or their demands?”
Jim
Even at Ketel One, I was the Vice President of Public Relations and marketing mainly events over there. When you think about events, I saw your board early. You guys do all kinds of events. Every event venue has a contract, “Here's what we expect. Here's what you're going to pay. Here’s when you're going to pay it. Here's your insurance that you need to have.” I realized even in that role, if I had a law degree I could be a little bit more effective on these documents. This was my case at Ketel One. I wasn't even allowed to sign those documents. I had to hand them to the CFO and then he had to hand them to the lawyer and then it came back. The whole thing got drug out.
Dustin
You're also big into voice. You believe podcasting and voice-related marketing and technology is a big thing. Can you explain a little bit about that?
Jim
I love how nonintrusive it is and what I mean by that is you can listen to podcasts whenever you want. For me, you talk about my Spartan racing. I’m on the treadmill a lot. I’m out running a lot. It gives me the opportunity to digest that information. YouTube’s great. It’s one of the largest search engines out there but you're inclined to watch something. You can’t always watch something, at least not when you're bouncing down the road whether you're running or driving. In a podcast, you can get what you need, whether it's humor or business or anything in between. It's all right there. I love where the podcast thing is going. I know you do. You obviously like what you’re doing. It's such a powerful tool for anybody.
Dustin
You've got The Answer Is Yes podcast. Who's been your most interesting guest and why?
Jim
I interviewed my brother who's the CEO of In-N-Out Burger. He's been there for many years. He's my brother. I know him well and we’re close but I didn't know his business mind. When I walked out of my interview with him, which was at his house, I got in my car. I felt like I had a piece of gold in my pocket. I called my wife like, “You would not believe the interview I got with Mark Taylor. I got a piece of gold in my pocket. I’m excited about this show.” I called my producer and I was telling him about it. He’s like, “How long was it?”I said, “We went over an hour.” He goes, “We’ll cut it in two and make two segments out of it and you can do the pre and post.” Everybody's different. Everybody brings something different to the table but for me, that was the piece of gold that I got.
Dustin
I want to move us into the WealthFit round, which is rapid fire. What’s your most worthwhile investment?
Jim
It’s my family. I waited until I was later in life and I didn't have kids. I had my first one when I was 46. There is nothing like having your family. Investment in the family and where I’m going with that, no substitute.
Dustin
What's that investment you don't want to talk about?
Jim
Wasted time. For me, I want to be on task all day every day. It drives me nuts when I look back like, “I wasted time,” especially in 2017 because I’ve been doing much running. I’m up at 4:30 or 5:00. If I wake up at 8:00 then I’m like, “I blew three hours,” and I’m pissed at myself. I know that's not a monetary investment but to me it is. I wasted that time where I could be doing something productive. In my case, the more I make now in those off hours my kids are sleeping. If I can make money while they're sleeping, it's more in the coffers for later on and I don't have to work.
Dustin
What is your guilty pleasure spending? What do you splurge yourself on?
Jim
I’m a clothes whore.
Dustin
Any particular? Do you just like nice shirts, suits?
Jim
I used to buy suits like they were going out of style when I was at Ketel One. We had to wear a suit to work every day. I like clothes. That's my guilty spending.
Dustin
In the last few years, what have you become better at saying no to?
Jim
Staying out late. It was my life. To be a little bit clearer on that, there are a lot of great opportunities that come our way every day and have to say no to things to prioritize spending time with my family. My brother invited me to Metallica in Las Vegas. He's like, “These are great seats.” When he says they're great because he's a Metallica fan, they're probably the first few rows. I had to tell him no. I had already planned something with the family.
Dustin
Fear and self-doubt often stop people from achieving success. What do you do when you feel out of your comfort zone or you feel fear knocking at your door?
Jim
I tried to research it a little bit more. Not my fear but what it is that's giving me that doubt and then I can identify if I’m going down the wrong path. We have the internet now. Google is the best thing in the world. If I’ve got self-doubt, I’ll research it. If that doesn't give me the assurance, I’ll walk away.
Dustin
You mentioned getting up early. Are there any special routines or rituals you do?
Jim
I eat oatmeal every day.
Dustin
Why oatmeal?
Jim
What I do is I use rolled oats and I put a probiotic Greek yogurt. I mix them together the night before and then in the morning they have soaked up the entire yogurt so they're palatable, they're soft. I eat yogurt every morning. It's part of my diet. It gives me the probiotics, it gives me some protein. I’m a coffee fanatic, black. Stumptown, I love it. Starbucks, I love it. I look forward to my coffee and my oatmeal in the morning and then that will get me through the day. That's my morning routine. If I’m not doing something athletic in the morning, I’m shot for the day. My motivation goes out the window. Even on my days off of training, I need to get up and get a little exercise even if it's a ten-minute run.
Dustin
How do you overcome overwhelm?
Jim
I don't know that I always overcome that. Sometimes you find yourself in that position that’s like, “I’ve got a lot on my plate. How do I start getting these things off my plate?” That's the overcome part. You have to identify, “I’m overwhelmed,” but you could be months into that and it's starting to go, “I’ve got an off task here,” because for me I talked about my time management so I could be with my family is all the things creep in. That's what was happening earlier in the years, things would creep in. Now I had to learn to say no to stuff. Don't allow the creep to happen anymore.
Dustin
Looking back, what do you say your biggest defining moment is?
Jim
There are many things that can define you. Business in my case, add professional sports, family. I have a story that will define me. I was making a lot of money at In-N-Out Burger and it's in the press now as far as what managers make. I was 26 years old. I pulled $160,000 down that year. I sold one million hamburgers. I was crushing it. I went to Mammoth Lakes for a snowboard trip. I spent $5,000, had a great time with buddies and everything. The following weekend I went on a missions trip with my church Mariners here in Newport Beach. We went down to some orphanages. We went through Tecate. We headed south and came back through Ensenada and then back through TJ. Our entire budget for 24 people and two vans to these orphanages was $5,000. I made a lot of money at In-N-Out, but I didn't like the job. It wasn't creative enough for me. They had three items, burgers, fries and drinks. I was over it. The money was keeping me there. When I got home from this orphanage trip, I realized I was living for the wrong reason. I was living to make the money, not enjoying my life.
What I did from that point on as I started transitioning out of working to make money and started working to give back. I left In-N-Out. I took my little tour up in Lake Tahoe working at the ski resorts. I wrote a cookbook. I did a TV show up there. It was about giving back and re-centering myself. The first job I took in Tahoe was minimum wage. I went from $160,000 year to minimum wage working at a buffet in a casino literally because I wanted to live for other things and not for my selfish self. That was a defining moment for me at that time. Ever since then, I’ve worked for companies and/or put my vision together for my companies to help others. Even at Ketel One in a company that was structured as they were, my role as a Vice President of PR and Events is everything we did from an event standpoint was charitable. We donated our products and services to help people raise money for their events. When I started the tequila company, we donated back a percentage of our sales to the local schools in Mexico. The wine company, it's part of our mission statement and every asset that we have is that we live with purpose and that's to get back to orphanages.
Dustin
You have kids, I’ve got kids. Other than you leading by example, how are you starting to think of passing down some of the lessons and the hard lessons or that trip that rocked your world and said, “I need to do something different.” How are you thinking about parlaying that to your kids?
Jim
All of my kids are three and five. Our parenting style is to treat them like adults. We've always talked to them in an adult voice. We don't baby talk. My neighbor who's a kindergarten teacher she goes, “Your kids are far advanced for their ages.” I attribute that to how we teach our kids about what we do. My wife, Samantha, is excellent at modeling, giving back and helping others. We were at Costco and we're pushing the basket out. She sees this lady across the parking lot in one of those wheelchair carts trying to unload into her trunk. She says, “Honey, I’m going to take the kids. I’ll be right back. Load up the car.” I didn't even know what she was going to do. I see her walking over to this lady with the kids and she starts helping her unload the groceries. She comes back and said, “That was amazing. I want our kids to see us helping others and that was a good opportunity to show them.”
My kids have a lot of toys because I’m spoiling them. Once in awhile we'll go through the toys and say, “What do you want to donate to the kids down in Mexico?” They know that we take them down there. My five-year-old has been down a couple of times and then we've gone to the schools and helped with the less fortunate. We’re already indoctrinating them into that. It's important because they learn the power of money and the benefits of having money and what they can do with it. I’ve got a business mentor, his name is John Solomon. He owns a successful liquor store in Upland called Liquorama. John says, “I teach my kids the 555 Rule,” and I’m like, “What's that?” He goes, “When they make money,$5 goes to themselves to do whatever they want with,$5 they can save and $5 they give to somebody else.” I’m like, “I love that.” I’m trying to teach my kids that and they get it.
Dustin
Jim, it's been amazing. I appreciate you coming and sharing with the WealthFit Nation. I want to encourage folks to check out what you're up to especially getting down to Mexico and seeing what you're doing. How can folks keep up with you?
Jim
You can find me on Baja United Wines. There’s info, email. Those come to me most often. If that's the easiest way, that’s a good one to remember. You can also find my podcast on iTunes, it’s The Answer Is Yes. Reach out to me there. At Facebook, Instagram it’s @JimRileyRacing. I want to help people. I love doing that. I love answering the questions and giving people whatever I’ve got to offer and that's what our show is all about. You talk about WealthFit on this show. A lot of things that we talked about are things that can make you more fit for your business and ultimately having that end goal, whatever that goal is.
Dustin
Thanks for being on the show. I appreciate your time.
Jim
I had a lot of fun. Thank you.

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