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Passion for business turns optometrist into a winemaker

By: Sarat Pratapchandran Posted On: 12/15/2020

The Winery

Duchman Family Winery

On the first Tuesday of September 2011, Dr. Lisa Duchman ’97 and her husband looked at each other and said: "Well, we gave it all we could and obviously we are not meant to have this business."

They were facing foreclosure of their winery business, a dream they had nurtured over the years. Luckily, at the 11th hour, an angel investor they had never met wired money to the bank and that allowed them to stay afloat.

Nine years later, Dr. Duchman and her husband, an interventional cardiologist now own Duchman Family Winery just outside Austin. The winery has a production capacity of 25,000 cases per year and over the last five years they have averaged approximately 16,500 cases annually. All of their wines are produced from 100% Texas grapes grown in the High Plains American Viticulture Area (AVA).

It wasn’t easy for an optometrist to become a winery owner with scant knowledge of the winery business. While practicing full time as an optometrist in Katy, Texas, Dr. Duchman found that she enjoyed the accounting aspect of the business and ways to grow the practice. She devoted time to business studies and enrolled in educational courses.

“I joined a few networking groups and started to explore getting an MBA when my husband and I were approached by some friends to start a project just outside of Austin, Texas. This project was slated to be a hill country destination to include a winery, restaurant, vineyard and eventually, a bed and breakfast.”

Dr Dutchman and family
Drs. Lisa and Stan Duchman

Dr. Duchman was charged with developing a business plan and certain aspects of the permitting process. She did a lot of research on the viticulture process, the growing region and soil conditions for the vine plantings. This required frequent visits to the property and soon realized that she could not continue focusing on the winery and run a practice simultaneously.

“Shortly thereafter, I sold my shares in the practice and began focusing on the new hill country venture,” she said.

She had to overcome several hurdles including a partnership deal that didn’t go well and soon she and her husband were embroiled in a series of lawsuits.

What started as a hobby soon became a full-time commitment and they had to try hard to keep the business alive. After 5 years as defendants in several lawsuits, they prevailed and they have been producing wines under the name Duchman Family Winery ever since.

Dr. Duchman still misses being an optometrist but enjoys her career as a business owner. “I love to learn about all of the new advances in eye care and I still keep in touch with a lot of my classmates. Going through the challenges of optometry school creates a strong bond with your colleagues that is irreplaceable,” she said.

She believes that anyone can become an entrepreneur in any field if you are willing to step outside your comfort zone. “Business is ever-changing and that is what makes it fun and challenging. There are a lot of disappointments and let downs,” she said.

However, if you can persevere and find a way to learn from disappointments, one will eventually learn to handle the stress better. Dr. Duchman and her husband have owned several businesses over the past 20 years, some of which were not successful. “There are many regrets but it's better to look at those regrets as lessons learned. You have to pick up the pieces and move on. Focus on the positive, learn from the negative. Surrounding yourself with good people, especially people who know more than you do and those that have a positive attitude, makes for a great team.”

She still has challenges with the winery but “we do what we can to protect the business and our staff. Despite the struggles, there are infinite rewards.