Amenities, Supplies, Services,Wine,Wine Business

How Economic Downturn Has an Upswing For Some

Having to reinvent is one of the hardest things anyone has to do… I did it from radio PR to wine PR, and the story is filled with lots of pain, hard work, and laughter along the way.

Yes, Virginia, there is a real… way to get into the wine business…

This story begins with the simple request of a link exchange from someone who’s also made the journey.

Many people who query me can tell you that I spend more time communicating with them than the average bear, but that’s because I’m hyper curious. I learn a lot in the process about what’s going on in the world around me. While my kids roll their eyes at my over communication, others don’t know me well enough yet, so it’s a fun audience. (Being born on a lunar eclipse, for those of you into biodynamics, should explain a lot.)

Being queried for a link exchange is how I learned about Jeff Gould. He wrote asking for a link to The Wine Rack Company. I checked out his site first, like always, and felt that he’d fit in my “Supplies, Amenities, Services” category. I created the link, and then let him know.

We went back and forth a couple of times, then he shared his great story. [This image is borrowed from The Wine Rack Company site.]

Almost 5 Years ago I started The Wine Rack Company mostly by accident. I’m a General Contractor and I used to do a lot of deck work. That being the case I used to have a lot of scrap decks lying around. It was getting pretty close to X-Mas, and this was about the time that the housing market started to die. I needed gifts for my in-laws and I was short on cash. I started milling up the old deck lumber until I got some clean usable wood. My father-in-law likes wine and has a small collection. I decided that I could make a wine rack with the material I made.

The first one was a lot different than what I make now; I had to cart it down to Sacramento as a fully assembled unit. My wife suggested I try selling one on eBay, and sure enough someone bought one. Once I designed a model that could be shipped easily, I knew I was onto something.

Things were slow at first, both sales and building. I got a phone call one day about starting a website with the first three months free, so I did it. A few weeks later I got a $2000 job via the website, and I decided the website was a keeper. I had to build a special saw so I could increase my production. The next big client allowed me to purchase an industrial saw that increased production 850 percent. The rest is history as they say.

For the last two years all I have done is build custom wine cellars all around the country. I worked from home until I had to find a shop location last January. Everything has worked out with my customers over the phone and through email. I get all the specs and details from the client, and then I draw up a design, mostly by hand, usually within 24 hours, but sometimes the build requires my architect.

I have had to learn how to be manufacturer, architect/designer, website designer, SEO tech, writer, and much more than I ever expected when I started.

This is a fun story to share, because it’s from someone who had a paradigm shift from the downturn of the economy, and he just got busy. I love when that happens. And, it does happen all the time, I know… we just don’t hear about it very much, as the news continues to focus on the salacious.

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6 Responses to “How Economic Downturn Has an Upswing For Some”

  1. I really like this story! You bring up some great points, no matter how the economy it’s hard to switch careers. I want to hear more about your transition Jo! Are there any posts about it?

  2. Jo Diaz says:

    Hi, Stephanie,

    I’ve touched on my own transition, but never to the full extent of leaving a house in Maine not sold (which we continued to pay for the next six years, a story unto itself). The segueing from radio to wine was rigorous. I was laughed out of one great Napa winery, because I was so unconnected and so disoriented from having just left Maine (family, friends, job). The HR woman thought I was an idiot, at least she treated me like one. My resume read well, but I always came in second to someone with wine experience at all other interviews. So, I starting one day a week at Belvedere Winery, and spent the rest of the week working for a franchise cleaning service. I took that job because I didn’t want to take a job with a company that thought of me as a real asset, and would have to go through another rigorous hiring process once I had left them. The cleaning service gave me a great story, which I’ve yet to write. They had me sign a release when I exited… I’d never have anything “bad” to say about them. Well, let’s see, is telling the truth bad? Is slave labor bad?

    Meanwhile, at Belvedere I began to work my way into more hours. Within two years I was in the marketing department as the Communications Coordinator, working with Sam Folsom Communications. Sam was a great link to my future as a publicist. By the third year, I was a sales manager… selling to OR, WA, N.CA, N.NV, MN, IA, and I traveled to all wine festivals (New York, Boston, FL, Aspen, LA, the list is long and was wonderful for learning the wine business).

    Not wanting to do sales, I went to Mondavi as a wine educator, and then took a full time position as a PR Director for Ironstone Vineyards. After Ironstone, it was time to stop hitting that glass ceiling, so I wrote my final chapter as an employee… and now I’m living it like I should be, with only a few frustrations along the way. ;^)

    The economy was in place when I shifted; however, having two mortgages, losing my job as I went along (always someone else who wanted my job and got it), having Jose come to California and his company selling, that left him in uncaring hands, his own struggles (which became mine)…

    I’ve learned, no matter what the economy, if your circumstances have the rug pulled out from under you, you’re on the floor, and you have to pick yourself up. You have to become willing to scrub whatever has to be scrubbed, until you hit the right interview and keep going.

    Jose said to me with each Pink Slip, your job is now to find a job… And I did, more than once, twice, thrice. There are so many people in the wine business…. We’re a dime a dozen ;^)

    Did I ever let the get to me? No… I had to transform… And I did with great personal growth success.

    I’m where I’ve always wanted to be.

  3. FrankMc says:

    Hi Jo,

    What is it about winery HR people? I had one, who works for a very prestigious, some may say iconic winey in the South Bay say to me during an interview, “Well I suppose you’re never too old to learn”. I’m thinking, here’s an HR professional who needs a remedial class in what you say and don’t say to prospective candidates. I’ve had a less then positive view of that brand since then.

    Your last few paragraphs sum it up nicely, there is no shame in getting knocked down, it might not be a positive experience but the shame comes from not getting back up.

  4. Jo Diaz says:

    And your last statement, Frank, further sums it up… the shame comes from not getting back up.

    I believe we both don’t see it as shameful… Just a shame… to clarify.

    P.S. HR people *have* a job, which is why there may be a lack of empathy.

  5. Jo,
    What a fabulous read – first the inspiring story of Jeff Gould and his Wine Rack Company – talk about reinventing and its mother, necessity. Yours, too, since we hardly hear or share the stories of when we’re down and rejected, dejected, too…. these stories you’ve shared inspire since it’s so easy to get lost in the ‘down’ story rather than let the situation instill new growth and going for it, and yourself.

  6. Jo Diaz says:

    Thanks, Sondra. It also take time to get something like this out to a public format, too, because it is so deeply personal and had its painful moments.

    But… that’s life in the living zone ;^)

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