Director of Marketing at Amalthea Cellars
What is your professional background?
My professional background encompasses a range of different things, actually. While I was finishing up my finance degree at Rutgers-Camden, I was an office manager for a winery called Amalthea Cellars. After that I worked for Merrill Lynch for a short time where I was exploring the world of financial advising, then moved to technology sales in Philadelphia. There I was selling enterprise technology solutions B2B. I was selling for Microsoft, Dell, and Oracle.
From there I moved on to Vanguard where I was an investment specialist. At Vanguard I got series 7 & 63 licensed and helped clients make investment decisions on Vanguard’s suite of products. After two years I was getting opportunities to move up in the company and decided that the career path I was on wasn’t for me.
I’m a strategy guy. I love helping businesses grow and taking products to market. That’s what I have a knack for. So from there I actually went full circle and came back to Amalthea Cellars to help grow the business. At first, I was managing the day to day business, as that was where the need was. Now I’m the Director of Marketing and am focusing on taking the brand to the next level.
I’ve also recently launched my strategic marketing company TENFOURTEEN LLC which I plan on taking a handful of select clients in the restaurant and beverage business and working with them to craft deep seeded marketing strategies to stand out in such a crowded and popular industry.
What sparked your interest in marketing?
I’m not sure, to be honest. I’ve loved the idea of business ever since I was a kid. Whether it was selling hotdogs at the lake in my neighborhood when I was 13, raking leaves for neighbors, dreaming up clothing brands in college, or launching TENFOURTEEN, I’ve always had a genuine interest in it. After studying marketing daily for the last decade, whether it was through books, through my mentors, internships, my work experience, seminars, etc.; I feel I’m finally ready to contribute insane amounts of value to the companies I plan to work with.
Another point I find very interesting about marketing is that SO many people think they understand it when very few people actually do. The reason is because marketing is more based in psychology and how the mind is wired than it’s based in business. I love psychology and understanding what makes people tick.
What sparked your interest in wine?
Growing up I always loved the arts. I was a photographer and songwriter. But as I mentioned earlier, I’ve always loved business as well. Throughout college I tried to find a way I could make a living by blending the two. Through a few serendipitous events I came across the wine business and it instantly clicked that it was the perfect combination of art and business for my personality and I dove in.
In a crowded marketplace, how do wine brands differentiate themselves?
That’s a great question. The market is insanely crowded. There are two critical components to successfully branding in the wine business; story and experience. The wine business lives on storytelling.
If you think about it, in the category of wines that Amalthea Cellars operates (high-end premium reds and whites), each and every bottle has its own unique story...and it changes every year! It’s all tied to Mother Nature, the weather patterns in that vintage.
For instance, the 2011 vintage in New Jersey had a hurricane threaten the entire harvest! Each vineyard has its own story, micro-climate, and even more importantly, passionate people who love and care for it. Most people don’t go into the wine business for the money. They go in it for the love and passion of the process and end product. With that comes a great story that, as a marketer, is your job to fold into the brand’s strategy.
Experience is the second component of standing out. Running a winery with a tasting room for customers to come and visit puts you in the hospitality business. This is a unique opportunity to have customers truly experience your brand and interact with it. So if you are to stand out, it better be top notch. It’s almost like theater - much like the restaurant business.
At Amalthea Cellars we craft an authentic “French chateau” experience that leaves you saying, “I can’t believe this place is in our backyard!” People are charmed from the moment they pull down our crushed stone driveway. They then get out and are surrounded by 100 year old trees that tower over our courtyard to which the vineyard surrounds. From there they walk into our tasting room and our staff guides them through a tasting experience that takes them through several rooms in the winery, each with its own unique feel. People love it. I love it and I’ve been going there every day for years!
From a marketing perspective this is an experience that “sticks”. From that point on, when that customer thinks of wine, they have a strong chance of thinking about the time they came to Amalthea Cellars and how great both the wines and the experience were. Many end up coming back and bringing friends. THAT’S marketing.
What’s your favorite wine?
Oh man, it’s tough to choose! One of the cool things about wine is that there is so much variety. Wine is made in just about every country in the world and it can vary widely. Over all I like dry reds that are rich and spicy. That means Syrah, Malbec, Zinfandel (its red!).
You started at Amalthea Cellars and ventured into the financial industry before circling back. What brought you back to your roots?
I hinted at it earlier, but it really came down to not accepting doing anything less than what I loved to do in my career. I started realizing that SO much time and energy gets dedicated to what you do for a living. I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t wasting that time. I’m passionate about food and wine, and I love marketing. I had it right the first time!
I find I’m in my element working with smaller companies as well. I’m not interested in trying to effect change in a board room, because there’s such a small chance of anything happening and there are too many hands in the pot. With a small business you’re dealing with owners directly, and more importantly, you’re dealing with someone's passion. There’s very little passion in a corporation.
Your passion turned into a career. What has that been like for you?
Not easy! And I’m still working on it! It has taken a lot of thought, a lot of trial and error, and a few leaps of faith. But, for one reason or another, I wouldn’t accept life any other way. I’ll continue working at it until I feel my path is right. TENFOURTEEN is the accumulation of me working on “turning my passion into a career” for the last ten years. Society, your parents, your friends and coworkers, usually don’t get it, and that’s OK. I’ve always trusted my gut and used it as my guiding reins.
What advice would you have for someone who is starting out their career and is unsure of what to do?
Don’t settle. Absolutely, DO NOT settle for a career that you’re not totally happy with because you’re career makes up a huge part of your life. I see so many people living for the weekends and I really can’t see myself only having that to look forward to.
I totally get that sometimes you just have to “make it work”, but that shouldn’t be your permanent solution. This world is an amazing place and magical things can start to happen when you commit wholeheartedly towards accomplishing something, whatever that may be. So, of all the things I could say, I’d say don’t settle.