Responsibilities with your company: Owner, chief operating officer, chief financial officer, CEO — all the hats!
How do you exemplify the spirit of being a top Forty under 40 professional?
Challenging the status quo to create a new Napa, where families, farmers and wineries of all sizes can flourish. Reconnecting luxury to the agricultural roots of Napa.
Years with company: 10
Length of time in current position: 10 years
Number of companywide employees: 15
Number who report to you: 15
Greatest professional accomplishment: Not related to wine, yet, but serving under now Vice-President Kamala Harris in the Cold Hit Division and solving and prosecuting old cases in San Francisco.
Greatest professional challenge: Navigating and motivating people through two consecutive wildfires, COVID, and a number of personal challenges affecting our business, including my father’s health and mother’s death. It was a dark three years and needing to stay hard for everyone around me, including my young children, was very hard when I had very little support and was suffering myself.
Best advice received: It wasn’t advice. It was that successful people believe in me, so I knew that I needed to believe in myself.
Entrepreneurs are not regularly following a path well-traveled, so staying the course, thinking outside the box, and innovating in a crowded industry IS going to be uncommon and accordingly, oftentimes criticized by the masses.
There are a lot of roadblocks, but I just would return to people’s confidence in me, and remember that I must be on to something if they believed in me. I’m not afraid to make mistakes; I expect to make them. I’m not sure if that was advice – but believe in yourself was. No one promised I would always be perfect, but they certainly believed I could find my way out of a mess.
Single most important event in your professional life in the last 12 months: There have been so many. The highs and the lows have all been incredibly important. I have learned even more form my mistakes than any success. In the last 12 months, it was COVID – that overnight, the world changed.
That event confirmed that we can never be sure what is around the corner, so we need to have many plans, and be creative in solving problems we can’t even anticipate.
I think a lot of scenarios I imagined in business played out, but no one could have been prepared for the upsets -but also opportunities – a similar unicorn event could precipitate.
What’s the biggest change COVID-19, the restrictions and the economic impact has had on your work and personal life?
I am incredibly appreciative that it has kept me home more, due to restrictions on travel, so business partners have had to accept meetings virtually in lieu of in person – which in turn means less travel, which in turn means more time for my two kids under three!
In work, I think that it has accelerated a lot of the trends I anticipated manifesting in the industry and we were ahead of the curve, so we have seen success.
We were also more creative, flexible and innovative, so have stood above our competition – as well as in terms of being a leader – in our industry. I think in the wine industry in general, in many ways, COVID has leveled the playing field for wineries.
Small wineries, and large wineries, cannot hide behind huge travel and marketing budgets – we all have to find ways to connect with the consumer through the same medium. That has given small wineries a huge advantage in some ways, because we are ALL now restricted to using the internet to market our products.
With a smaller budget, that makes the creative more valuable than the big budgets, and that is the first time I have seen this kind of leveling of competition and door opening in this space.
And what’s the biggest lesson you’ve taken from that experience?
Be flexible. Expect, and welcome, change. It can open doors. It’s not always obvious, or easy to navigate, but nothing is static, so expect, and welcome, change.
What steps is your company taking to sustain your organization and morale in the current economy?
Open book management, and including all team members in the process of understanding the challenges, making decisions to remain open, and including them in the difficult decisions we’ve had to make from time to time. That allows ownership of our successes, and appreciation for how much owning a business requires compassion for employees when circumstances like this arise – or at least, why a compassionate business owner is a blessing and something to appreciate as an employee.
Next professional goal: Creating a spice company and creating a more robust culinary program, garden, etc. to live with or beyond our wine brand.