Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Geena Luckett, Owner and General Manager of Luckett Vineyards, located in Wolfville, NS, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
We are a family-owned winery located in the emerging wine region of Nova Scotia, Canada! More specifically, our estate sits on top of Wallbrook Mountain in the Gaspereau Valley, where we have one of the most incredible views of the highest tides in the world.
Our customers are wine aficionados from all around the world, locally-focused champions who want to enjoy food and wine inspired and sourced from their backyards, as well as those who are new to wine and want to learn about Nova Scotia terroir and the unique wines produced here.
Tell us about yourself
Growing up, my Dad owned and operated successful specialty grocery stores. After working in them throughout high school and part of my university career, I realized I was not passionate about that industry. It has always been my plan to follow in my Dad's footsteps in one way or another, but it was a harsh reality at that time that if I was not in it 100%, I didn't feel it was fair to him or to I, to continue.
For my remaining years at university, and the following year after I completed my undergrad, I managed a high-end equestrian boutique. During my years as store manager, my Dad began planting grape vines at our family farm and talked about opening a winery.
Now a winery is something I can get passionate about! When a position became available one year after the winery opened, I expressed my interest and had to interview just like everyone else. Thankfully, I was a successful candidate! Starting my career at the winery as an Event Planner allowed me to work with the different departments. I got a glimpse into the giant machine that is - winery management.
Over the years, I moved around different departments to learn the business from the inside out. It was important to me to have an in-depth understanding of all these positions. Many of our current employees were older and more experienced than I was - I wanted them to feel that I was putting in the effort and feel confident in myself as a leader.
After five years of moving around the business, I moved into the General Manager role. I started to build a team that could support me in being able to explore some side hustles (social media management and retail buying) as well as becoming more involved with the Wine Growers of Nova Scotia association, previously as Chair of the Marketing Committee, and most recently as Vice-Chair of the Board.
My team motivates me on a daily; they are all driven and passionate about their roles and our business. We have built a culture around everyone taking pride and ownership in the business, and you can feel that when you're on the team. The position of the industry is also incredibly motivating! Nova Scotia wine is on the charge; we are being recognized for quality all around the world and continue to be a driving tourism draw for our province.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Our consistent employee retention - Despite being a seasonal business in a rural setting, our turnover remains low year over year. This is not the norm in this business, especially one that is not open year-round. This indicates to me that our team enjoys the work environment and feels valued. I love that for us!
Growing through COVID – The 2020 season was my first season running the show on my own, as my Father has moved on to another business venture. Even though we experienced all of the same COVID challenges and unknowns that everyone else did, we were able to quickly adapt, pivot, and actually grow our business over the last two years. Although these are not specific events or situations, they are two long-term achievements that I am proud of.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Being able to delegate. Even having a team that you trust and good leaders in your organization, it is still hard to step back or delegate certain responsibilities. This is an entirely different level of buy-in and commitment when your name is on the building. It is not just the guest experience and product quality now... it's your reputation and maybe even legacy. Although there are many tough aspects associated with owning a business, this one doesn't have a quick fix. It is something that has to be learned and developed over time, and although as I grow with my team and this becomes easier, it's still one of the areas that I find hard.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Passion is non-negotiable. If you don't care about what you're producing, providing, selling, or creating, neither will your team, and neither will your clients. Just because there is an opportunity or a gap doesn't mean it should be filled by you. Passion creates sustainability.
- Don't get comfortable! If COVID taught us anything, it is that nothing is permanent. The ability to adjust, shift and predict is invaluable in business. It's not easy, and you won't always hit the mark, but if you're taking the time to see what is happening around you will help you to be proactive in your approach to growth and opportunity.
- Fill your team with people who complement your skills. Don't find leaders for your business who operate like you. Identify your weaknesses and find those people who have different (but complementary) skillsets or backgrounds. Diversifying your workforce means you're more well-rounded, and there is more opportunity for collaborative thinking.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Nova Scotia should be on your bucket list!
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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