“I never get tired of telling compelling stories. Especially when those stories put real dollars in the pockets of small business owners.”Tweet
It’s time for another #GAWG! I’m thrilled to share this one because he was a fantastic boss and is an all around awesome human with jokes like you wouldn’t believe: Louis Calli, Co-Founder of The Find: A Wine Country Experience.
You’ve started your very own wine company! What made you take on this venture and what are you most excited about?
My partners and I own small wine brands (mine won’t be in a bottle until next year), and we’ve always had the idea to take “the show on the road,” so to speak. We toyed with the idea of opening a wine bar solely focused on the small winemaker owned brands, typically only found in wine country. So, we’re taking the wine country experience out of the walled cities of Napa and Sonoma and right into the backyards of wine lovers. The Find will have private experiences with the winemakers, a Vintner on hand to chat with and learn from, barrel tastings, a wine club, and even super geeky stuff like cork trials.
The moment we found the space in Danville California, it felt like the perfect marriage of timing and place to make our dream a reality. I think the thing I’m most excited about it is all the small, family owned businesses we’ll be supporting. In addition to the 14 or so wine brands we’ll be representing at any given time, we also will be selling things like Kollar Chocolates and Russian River Tea Company loose leaf teas. It really does “take a village” and we’re psyched to be part of that tradition.
What are some current challenges happening within the wine industry?
The first is simply competition. There’s a ton of wine. It’s one of the most competitive consumer goods available. In addition to that, the US runs on an archaic system of tide house laws and what we call a “three tier system” that can be incredibly difficult (if not impossible in some cases) for the small family owned winery to find scalable success in. Particularly since consolidation over the past 15 years, it has been controlled by basically 4 or 5 companies.
Another challenge is the change in the way consumers engage with wine (probably permanently), and the industry by and large has been extremely slow to adapt to those changes. As the older consumers stop buying wine, the younger generations have not stepped up to backfill that demand in the premium category. Rob McMillan (an industry oracle) of Silicon Valley Bank wrote a great blog on this (read it here) where he says:
“To be successful, we need to give the young consumer more compelling reasons to be wine consumers. Hoping they will grow into wine isn’t a good choice. As I say often, ‘Hope is not a strategy.'”Tweet
What predictions do you have for the wine industry in the next 5 years?
I hate to say this, but we’re going to see a culling of the herd. There most certainly are going to be some winners in our new reality, but there are going to be losers as well. The “If I build it they will come” approach no longer applies, and brands that don’t get creative and try new things may find themselves among the ghosts of Napa and Sonoma.
I don’t know what this looks like exactly, but I also think we’re going to see a drastic shift (that has already begun) in winery experiences and wine tourism as a whole. The air of change is thick around Napa. It’s something we talk about behind closed doors. Sure, the wine country fires of 2017 had a profoundly negative impact on tourism, but it’s something much larger than that, and it started before the fires.
Much of your background has been in marketing – What kept you interested in marketing and what marketers do you admire?
I never get tired of telling compelling stories. Especially when those stories put real dollars in the pockets of small business owners. Those dollars pay for ballet lessons and college funds. They keep homes warm and put food on the table. I’ll never get tired of that.
Marketers I admire? Barry Enderwick is definitely one. He was a marketing executive with Netflix during their meteoric rise, and is one of the most talented branding minds I know. He has a great video blog you should watch too.
“Most ideas are a bit scary, and if an idea isn’t scary, it’s not an idea at all.”Tweet
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
It wasn’t about business, but I’ll share it anyway. I once complained to my grandmother about not understanding women. I believe I was in my late teens and I’ll never forget what she said:
“When it’s her moment, stand behind her. When she’s nervous, stand beside her. When she’s scared, stand in front of her. The rest you’ll figure out.”
How do you encourage creative and innovative thinking?
Here’s my post on 4 things I do to get inspired – Check it out for more depth of brilliance on the below 😉
- Go outside. Alone, but be safe!
- Get out of your bubble.
- Read stories.
- Learn something new.
What advice do you have for young individuals wanting to be in leadership roles in the future?
Listen. Being a great leader is more about listening than it is pointing and directing. Listening to the market, listening to your customers, and listening to your team. As you go on in your career and find people you admire, listen to them intently. Not just what they say to you, but to others as well.
Know that criticism is good. It’s how you grow. Someday it will be on you to pass your knowledge on to the next generation of leaders, and it’s incredibly important that you know how to both receive and give criticism in a way that helps you both.
Develop empathy. Another part of being a leader is making difficult decisions. Sometimes those decisions include letting people go. There is absolutely a right and a wrong way to do that. Know the difference.
What is one of the most difficult decisions you’ve made in your career and what did you learn from it?
Making the move to Napa Valley 10 years ago. I took a 50 percent pay cut, a massive increase in cost of living, and moved here from the midwest knowing literally one person in all of California simply to be where the magic is. It turned out to be the best decision I ever made.
What I learned is to listen to my gut. If a decision is scary, it may be because you’re on the cusp of something big.Tweet
I love book recommendations to help me grow in my career and challenge my thinking – What books would you recommend as a must-read for career growth and/or just fictional fun?
I’ve gotten to be a pretty avid reader as I’ve aged. Here are three books I read recently that I absolutely loved:
Hit Makers: How to Succeed in an Age of Distraction – Derek Thompson
A great read on the history of “virality,” and why some ideas explode and others fizzle.
The Hard Thing About Hard Things – Ben Horowitz
Ben Horowitz is a captain of Silicon Valley and huge rap fan. This is a great read on the challenges of leadership and being an entrepreneur.
A Gentleman in Moscow – Amor Towles
A deeply enthralling and incredibly beautifully written novel about a wealthy and eccentric Soviet count confined to live in a hotel for the rest of his life after being convicted of writing anti-state poetry following the Bolshevik revolution.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for the next #GAWG!
— Gage Grammer