“Networking is the essence of business, especially startup. Networking is powerful in many ways. It allows entrepreneur to build and manage actual communication that will be the foundation for strong relationship and network. Additionally, it is an important tool to empower people and to be empowered.”
I had the pleasure to interview Danni Lin, the CEO of Great Wine
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My love for wine ignited during my years at University of Washington (UW). So, I started the education in the discipline of wine and spirit. I thought about how my knowledge about wine and critics’ opinions affected my likes and dislikes. Moreover, as a consumer, I am also getting lost in massive selections of products and ads. Then, I was introduced about the scientific concept of “vinotype” by Tim Hanni, Master of Wine. This concept of wine preferences and sensory abilities of people had transformed me from a wine novice to a wine educator who encouraged consumers to speak their mind about their wine preferences and experiences. It is the beginning of my journey of finding GREAT WINE. I hope that GREAT WINE Tasting Room will become a place that inspires individuals to find the perfect wine for their taste.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
When I began leading the company, I host a lot of wine tasting sections. There was this group in which two people had totally opposite preferences, one liked intense flavors and one liked sweet flavors. So, I began joking by saying, “in this group, I believe that you guys understand each other the most.” They looked at me in confusion. Then, I continued, “people tend to prefer not to drink with both of you, because you’re the ‘hard-to-please’ drinkers and you’re the ‘child-like’ drinkers.” Everyone started nodding because it was so true for their group. I told them that, “everyone was so unique and in wine tasting, there was no right or wrong, you just need a few more bottles on your table.” And, they all laughed. It is the story that I tell people every time to let them know that knowing others’ personal preferences is the key to create a wonderful wine time for everyone.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The funniest mistake I made when I was first starting was being too formal during our tasting sessions. I was afraid to do icebreaker because I thought that It would come across as unprofessional. However, because of that, people easily lost interest in the tasting session and our concept. After realizing that, the company decided to use personalization tools to understand our customers. The company collaborates with myVinotype (https://www.myvinotype.com/en/), a smart wine recommendation platform for wine-related businesses and connoisseurs to learn more about clients’ wine personalities. Our representatives communicate closely with the customers to learn more about their personalities and the atmosphere they want to experience at the wine tasting session. Lastly, GREAT WINE, Inc. creates different key messages for each groups of target audience to spotlight the uniqueness of each audience group. With all the personalization tools, I understand with different customers, different atmospheres have to be delivered. It is also how I train our wine specialist to help them create suitable wine tasting experience for our customers.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
GREAT WINE, Inc.’s mission is “let customers define what great wine is.” Keeping this in mind, we built our tasting room as “a destination for people to freely express their personal preferences of wine.” I can say that our company’s standout point is that we work to restate the uniqueness of individuals and uniqueness of each wine.
Besides adopting groundbreaking technology in winemaking, GREAT WINE also collaborates with myVinotype — a smart wine recommendation platform for wine-related businesses and connoisseurs to learn more about clients’ “vinotype.” Most of our clients are very surprised when they found out that they had been tricking their taste bud, training themselves to like the wine that did not taste good to them.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
GREAT WINE, Inc. is opening its first tasting room in China at the end of 2018. The tasting room is the foundation to promote the concept of “vinotype”, the discovery of individual wine taste and preferences based on individual sensory abilities, to Chinese consumers and clients.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
As a female leader, I always think that confidence is the roots of beauty. Every woman is unique and uniquely beautiful because they all have a different life experience. I network with other female leaders in different industries actively and have never stopped feeling amazed to see how different women shine their beauty in life and in their professional fields.
We still see many women living under gender stereotypes. I think one’s true self is the most vibrant, and I believe that more women will devote much of their time in the business world. I see myself as an active member of the business world, and will support more women to remain confident of their life choices.”
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
Build a working environment and culture that helps your team to work effective and efficiently. You should remind yourself that you are a leader not boss. As a leader, your responsibility to help your teammates, your team as a whole, the company, and yourself grow together. Female leaders should be both disciplinary and amiable. As a leader, I always remind myself that I do not set only myself as an example, but also encourage every members to be confident to use themselves as examples for other to learn from.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I would like to dedicate my gratitude to Tim Hanni, one of the first Masters of Wine in the USA, and our team at GREAT WINE, Inc. Tim is not only my business partner, but also my mentor. He brought with him into the business over 35 years of experience working in the wine industry. We worked together to determine the wine styles, targeted consumer group, and finding the best deals to make wines. In addition, I am very fortunate to have an excellent team at GREAT WINE, Inc. They are the key members who contribute to all of our achievements. In our first year of business, GREAT WINE, Inc. was named National Recognition as an American Small Business Champion by SCORE and The Bronze Stevie® Winner in Startup of the Year in The 16th Annual American Business Awards®. It was a team effort. Our marketing team has been presenting our company story to different media outlets. The team has done a fantastic work to increase our brand awareness. The financial department lead the company to be financially healthy for sustainable growth. Lastly, our advisory board are the minds of the company and the “marrow” that connects the “minds” to different dynamic parts of a company. Thanks to all the teams’ hard work, GREAT WINE, Inc.’s significant growth is recognized, consequently, we received these prestigious awards.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
We still see many women living under gender stereotyping and gender inequality. The biggest social assumption is that family should always be a woman’s top and only priority in life, not her career or passion. I have never stopped being amazed by how women shine their beauty in life and in their professional fields. I see myself as an active member of the business world. I frequently attend entrepreneurial and tech discussions, panels or conference for women to learn from other women and to support more women to remain confident of their life choices.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
· As a CEO, it is very important to always think and learn, and keep an eye on new opportunities. I enjoy speaking with people whose background is very different from mine because this will enable me to see things from different perspectives. From time to time, I also organize wine tasting events for my entrepreneurial-minded friends, so we can exchange ideas about wine and marketing. There will be times you will learn something that does not answer an urgent need of the business at that particular moment. However, always keep your mind open and unrelated dots will join someday. The fatal mistake a CEO can make is to think there are low jobs or low positions within a company that a CEO should not be involved.
· Networking is the essence of business, especially startup. Networking is powerful in many ways. It allows entrepreneur to build and manage actual communication that will be the foundation for strong relationship and network. Additionally, it is an important tool to empower people and to be empowered.
· Personality of job candidate is the most important criteria. The job nature of many positions in my company is customer facing. I do not have a strong preference on how experienced a person should be in a particular position, but I have high expectations for professionalism and friendly personality traits. I see this as the most important in connecting with clients. On the same train of thought, I don’t think the lack of experience hurts a job candidate that much. When I interview them, I would like to learn more about their personality to see whether they fit the company culture, where their true passion lies, and what their goals are. Very often, fresh graduates are energetic. This may be a big plus to startups like us, and they will grow together with us.
· Be ready to change for the market. I think success lies in the willingness to change, both as a person or as a business. The market will tell you what it needs, and the key to success is to be ready to change — after all, taste does change over time! For example, when GREAT WINE is founded in 2015 in both the USA and China, it was one of the few companies in the industry that successfully caught the changing tides of the Chinese market. Chinese young professionals now prefer affordable wines with traceable origins and stop chasing after high price tags. By introducing the possibility of comparing tea flavors of pu-erh and jasmine to wines, GREAT WINE carries the mission of introducing the traditions and innovations behind Californian labels to the global market.
· Mentorship is important: I have mentioned Tim Hanni. However, it is important to have different mentors in different areas as we cannot truly understand an area without learning and working with the person who has expertise in that field. When establishing our wine brand, I met two knowledgeable persons. One was a legal lead in a big wine group. He excels in getting trademarks, getting proper licenses, and getting wind about market trends. Another was an entrepreneur in the wine industry and has done many consulting project to help famous Napa wineries establish new product lines. He is an incredible help in wine packaging and wine marketing campaigns. I also have mentors in the field of financial investment.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
If I could inspire a movement that would inspire social good, I would inspire environmental movement and working sustainably development. Both are challenged at many levels, such as political, economic and social. I realize that both prevent people from acknowledging and receiving their rights. In wine industry, we often discuss about sustainability and the important of it in the industry. We acknowledge that in order to success, we have to work hard to improve the quality of the environment, working environment, and quality of life of our workers. So, I am working actively to support movements related these areas.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” — Wayne Gretzky
As an entrepreneur, it is important to be courageous and not afraid of failure. There will be ups and downs in the progress of setting up a business. This quote reminds me to not undervalue any opportunities.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for these inspiring insights!
Originally published at medium.com