Arden Montgomery Gilfillan and Margaux Reaume of Argaux on their mission to make wine approachable, accessible, and engaging
Describe your business in a few words?
Argaux is an online destination for small production, family owned, and responsibly farmed wine that is operated by a team of female sommeliers who are passionate about customer service, education and creating both engaging and entertaining wine centric experiences.
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
A desire to make the process of learning about wine approachable and accessible. We started Argaux at the age of 23 so we felt like although we still had so much to learn (everything to learn), we could take the intimidation out of wine by being ourselves. We were young, female, educated and so excited to share our knowledge and continue learning alongside our consumers.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
We met in college at The University of Arizona! Arden is from Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Margaux is from Pasadena, California. We both love to cook and that’s how we initially bonded with one another.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
Neither of us knew or thought about being an entrepreneur or what that meant, but we are both very creative and looking back, we wanted to make something of our own and we were always excited about work and envisioned what kind of career we could have together.
Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?
When we first started our business, we were in front of people all the time hosting wine tastings in people’s homes or offices. Margaux was even cooking appetizers and sometimes 3 course dinners to pair with the wines we were pouring! She would make homemade gnocchi or raviolis, it was a lot of work and we eventually stopped cooking ourselves and found partners we could refer business to if someone wanted food pairings and more of a wine dinner vs. wine tasting. The point being, we said yes to everything. Even if we knew we would break even. We weren’t charging enough and we worked almost every weekend but it’s the relationships we built the first 3 years and making it a priority to get in front of people that helped get the word out.
We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?
Mistakes are a part of learning and growing. More importantly, it’s how you respond that can make all the difference. At Argaux, we try to view mistakes as opportunities. They are a positive thing because if we can respond quickly and adapt as needed, we are better because of it. It’s common to rehash and review failures or mistakes, but we have to be sure to take the time to understand our successes as well. When you ask why did that mistake happen? How can we avoid this from happening again? Be sure to ask the same questions when something goes right. Why did we succeed there? How can we implement these lessons to help us succeed over here? To answer the question, our business is a mosaic of many mistakes made over the years and certainly more challenges than we anticipated but each one has been monumental in helping us grow, change and continue building a company that gets better and better each year.
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
Making it through December 2020!
When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?
We are typically trying to gauge their problem solving skills and mindset in addition to their career goals. The specific question is dependent on the candidate. In regards to hiring tips, I would say take your time with the interview process. It’s difficult as a small business because at times you feel desperate to find personnel, but it’s important you hire for the right reasons and dedicate time and energy towards proper research.
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
As an online wine retailer, we were fortunate to experience growth throughout the pandemic given the quarantine and people wanting wine delivered to their doorstep. We were challenged with wanting to provide our consumers with something educational and entertaining to do while stuck at home. Along came the Blind Tasting Kit which is now our best seller. With growth comes growing pains and we felt those pains in just about every nook and cranny of our business. From fulfillment and carrier delays to tariffs and managing both your sales team while they are working from home, and your fulfillment team while they are on site. We were stretched so thin, there were moments where I thought this was it. This could make or break our business.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
Our team is laser focused on the customer experience online. We are working on tech and software enhancements while maintaining the genuine relationships we have with our consumers. Algorithms and wine quizzes asking you how you like your coffee are not how we want to interact with our consumer. The wine industry is reliant on human connection and we believe Argaux can create an unparalleled customer/user experience that enables consumers to actually build a relationship with their Pocket Somm and easily access the information they want to know about any given wine through creative, mindful content illustrated on each and every product page. Wine doesn’t need to be clunky, costly, or confusing. Anyone should be able to shop for it online, learn something while browsing, feel invited in rather than more confused, and be able to actually speak with someone if they need guidance or suggestions.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
How to manage stress. This was learned out of necessity!!
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
You aren’t supposed to know how to do everything.
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
We realized that feeling busy all the time is not productive. It can actually be a sign or signal of laziness or procrastination. After realizing this, we were able to manage our time better and be more productive where we needed to be. Carving out time for ourselves and our families, and making that a priority allowed us to feel more in control and focus our efforts and energy on things that move the needle.
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
Everyone has a different definition of work/life balance. Our work, especially because it’s in wine, is naturally a part of our everyday life. Work is constant for us as owners of the company, but we don’t define it as work. It’s life’s work! Everything we’ve learned in life has helped us in business and vice versa. So the balance is more about finding that connective tissue and what it means for you because quality of life (stress management, relationships, physical health, mental health) makes quality of work better. You also have to ask yourself what you want out of life, because we both want certain things. We want to be financially stable, to be able to support our families and the lifestyle we want to live. That requires hard work. So the life we want to live and that “life” balance is dependent on the work we do everyday and what we are working towards.
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
We share the exact same birthday!
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
Make your bed, exercise, and drink water.
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
Being an Entreprenista means being confident, self-reliant, and a cheerleader for both yourself and your team.