Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in winery but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Katy Wilson, Proprietor and Winemaker of LaRue Wines, located in Sonoma, CA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I am the founder and winemaker of LaRue Wines, a boutique wine brand focused on ultra-premium Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from sustainably-farmed vineyards across the Sonoma Coast. The mission is the same today as it was when I launched the brand in 2009: to personally craft quality wines reflective of their place and vintage through thoughtful vineyard selection, minimal intervention in the cellar, and a commitment to small lot production. My customers are wine enthusiasts throughout the world.
Tell us about yourself
I was raised in a small agricultural town in California where my parents owned a hay-hauling business and a walnut orchard. I grew up immersed in the world of agriculture and was never afraid to get my hands dirty, whether it be driving tractors or pruning walnut trees. After graduating from Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo with degrees in Agricultural Business and Wine & Viticulture, I set upon the path to building a career as a winemaker. After traversing the Northern and Southern Hemispheres for harvests, during my time working at Flowers Vineyard & Winery on California’s Sonoma Coast, I became enamored with a region and style of wine that challenged yet inspired me in all the right ways. Known for its cool conditions and winding roads leading to remote coastal vineyards, the Sonoma Coast offered the perfect canvas for crafting wines that effortlessly showcase their site and vintage conditions. When presented with an opportunity to work with a small amount of Pinot Noir from a few of those exceptional Sonoma Coast vineyards I adored, I jumped at the chance. In 2009 at only 26-years old, I launched LaRue Wines – named in honor of my great-grandmother, Veona LaRue Newell, who taught me that anything was possible through hard work and determination. Fourteen years later, that passion for adapting to the vintage and crafting wines reflective of their place is stronger than ever.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
One of the most memorable benchmarks as a business owner thus far was in 2019, when I celebrated the 10th anniversary of LaRue Wines. I celebrated with all of my longtime customers, friends, and family, and we opened every bottle of LaRue I had ever produced. To see everyone together in one place and have the opportunity to experience a decade’s worth of blood, sweat, and tears was priceless. It was one of those evenings I wished would never end and a moment in time that I will never forget.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
There is no sugarcoating the fact that managing work/life balance can be difficult. When you are working on something you have created, you want to do everything in your power to achieve your fullest potential at all times, even if it means working odd hours or fitting in meals between drives to the vineyards. As a business owner, even when I am not physically working, I still find myself mentally thinking about all the things that need to be done.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- There’s never a “right” time to do it. If you sit around waiting for that moment, you will be waiting around forever. If you have an idea or a goal to start your own business, carve out space in your day and your mind to prioritize taking steps to make it happen. Research, network, ask questions, set goals, create a launch plan, etc. You get out of it what you put into it.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. As entrepreneurs, being independent is probably one of the leading qualities we all share, but don’t let it turn into your Achilles heel. Set up your business so you can lean into the areas you shine in and delegate the rest. This will not only help you avoid burnout but also allow you to keep your focus dialed in.
- Be patient. Starting your own business is one thing, but building and growing it is another. Like anything in life, the path to where you want to go will have twists and turns, highs and lows. If you are just starting out, take the time to celebrate the small victories along the way – a first customer order, a positive review, etc. Sometimes we get so caught up only looking at the finish line that we forget to realize all the progress we have been making along the way.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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