What inspired you to start your business?
Family inspired me. Et Fille, which means “and daughter”, is named that because my dad and I co-founded the winery in 2003. We started it because my dad, who was a software engineer, always made wine as a hobby in the garage when I was growing up and I helped him. After 20 years of doing that, he called me at my job in biotechnology and said he was ready to start a winery, but wanted to do so together. I had never thought of wine as a career — I was squarely immersed in biotechnology marketing and strategy management — but I didn’t think he would do it if we didn’t do it together and I wanted him to chase his passion. We made wine together for 14 years until he died. Now, I am the sole owner and winemaker making wines that are inspired by my dad’s legacy and daughter’s future.
What do you see as the coolest or most important trend in your industry?
The best trend in wine for all of us wine drinkers is the rise of direct to consumer (DTC) sales. Traditionally, wine has been sold in a forced three tier system in which wineries sell to distributors who sell to restaurants and retailers. However, COVID-19 upended that as we all got used to ordering products directly to be delivered to our door. This is terrific news for wine drinkers as many wineries don’t sell all their products through distribution, but save some of their most limited or best quality wines to sell through their clubs, website, and tasting room. Also, we have greater transparency into a winery’s values and practices when buying directly, so it makes it easier for us to support businesses that operate in alignment with our own values.
As a business owner, what keeps you up at night?
There’s no clocking out as a business owner. There’s always a litany of decisions waiting on you that you haven’t made yet and multiple conversations you haven’t had a chance to have yet. The top three concerns that keep me up at night are: 1) People — concern for my extended team and hoping I have given them the feedback and support they need to thrive; 2) Future — scenario planning and playing out the “what if’s” that pop into my head at 2am; 3) Money, money, money — worrying about realizing expected revenue and controlling costs. Other than that, not much!
What do you love about being a business owner?
I wouldn’t trade this for anything because it affords a direct line to meaning. When I worked in corporate biotechnology, I was one small cog in a big wheel (which, by the way, was a very critical wheel as we were bringing cancer and immunology drugs to the market to extend lives). But as a business owner, I see the impact immediately of any decision. It’s also very efficient — if I have an idea, there’s no approval committee, but we can simply implement it and measure whether it works. It also affords me the flexibility to be a very present single mom. No one tells me I can’t bring my daughter to the office. It’s a privilege to say no to calls before 8am and between 3-4pm every day so I can pick her up from school. That’s a luxury of being an owner, but I also try to embed that “family first” into our team culture.
What’s the hardest part about being a business owner?
As a business owner, it’s really hard to turn things off. During the early days of COVID-19, I was working 20 hours a day because there was no handbook for how to adapt our business to this and it was a matter of trying a bunch of experiments and seeing what worked. There’s no such thing as total vacation — I am always checking things because if I don’t, I hold my team and customers up. I definitely need to work on this.
How do you define success?
I define success as aligning action with intention. In business, that means living our values in our decisions and practices. We just became a Certified B Corp, largely because I wanted the guidance that a third party accreditation could provide in self-evaluating whether our operations are aligned with our environmental sustainability and social responsibility values. It also means being brutally honest with ourselves of whether we are behaving in alignment with our “family first” value, because sometimes we’re out of alignment and need to re-center.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?
I have two, both from former bosses: 1) “Be true, be true, be true” — In business and personal life, authenticity not only matters but is power. No one wants to follow you because you have all the right answers, but rather people are are inspired to follow those that say, “I have no idea what’s right, but let’s make a decision together and be courageous enough to see what happens and start learning”; 2) “Every morning on my drive in to the office, I think of one person who could have a better day if I pay attention” — This model of actively looking for positive moments to celebrate in those around you has been so important.
What are you reading or listening to now?
At any given time, I am usually reading two novels, listening to one audible book, and one podcast at a time. Currently, I am rereading The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles, one of my all time favorites and Early, a nonfiction book about prematurity. I am listening to Cloud CuckooLand by Anthony Doerr and the Small Things Often podcast by the Gottman Institute with 3-5 minute tips on improving relationships.
How do you unwind after a long workday?
Are you surprised if I say with a glass of Pinot Noir? Wine stops us in our tracks and allows us to be thoughtful about it and the moment in which we are enjoying it. Particularly in the past few years of most of us working nonstop without the demarcation between home and work, wine is a way of slowing us down and asking us to be mindful.
Fill in the blank:
When I face a challenge, I… meditate — it slows me down enough to trust my intuition.
If I could go back in time, I would tell myself… to everything, turn, turn, turn, there is a season.
The one thing I couldn’t live without is… connection — to my daughter, mom, dad’s legacy, friends, peers, team, customers — connection fuels me.
The best thing that happened to me last week was… receiving our B Corp certification and being able to celebrate how far we’ve come as a business in the last 19 years and all the places we will go in the next 19.
To get my creative juices flowing, I… sing Whitney Houston loudly with my daughter.
et fille wines
Et Fille, which means “and daughter”, was co-founded in 2003 by father and daughter winemakers and is now in its second generation with daughter Jessica making elegantly complex wine inspired by her late father’s legacy and daughter’s future. They craft wines from their sustainably farmed vineyards in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.