Caroline Conner on making wine education accessible (and entertaining!) to all with Wine Dine Caroline
Describe your business in a few words?
As Wine Dine Caroline, I provide expert and entertaining wine education for consumers through live virtual events, online wine courses, and in her free facebook community. When travel returns, my other business, Lyon Wine Tastings will emerge from its Covid-coma to teach our local wines to English speaking tourists visiting Lyon, as well as multi-day luxury food & wine retreats. Read more here!
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
I moved to France, couldn’t find a job in wine, saw a gap in the wine tourism market, and took the leap! It was awesome, and then Covid happened. I pivoted immediately into delivering online wine education.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
I’ve always worked in food & wine, mostly wine. I’ve sold in shops, restaurants, been a buyer, consulted, worked in wine bars, worked at wineries, and even edited a wine book! I’ve also been a pastry chef, a caterer, a kid’s cooking teacher, and a private chef.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
Definitely not, I don’t think I’ve ever had a really clear path. I still don’t! My life is certainly an adventure.
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?
My tourism business was all about SEO. The name Lyon Wine Tastings really did the trick, and I very quickly rose to the top. I also begged for TripAdvisor reviews, and that was really important to gaining trust.
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?
I have a tendency to go big and then collapse into a puddle. I lack patience and often react instead of responding. I’ve made a lot of mistakes! As an entrepreneur, you just have to keep moving forward. You always learn, even when you’re disappointed.
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
I am so proud of the work I’ve done over the past year. I’ve been flying by the seat of my pants since the pandemic killed my brand new tourism business. In the past 12 months I’ve taught myself how to create and sell courses, grown a successful facebook group, doubled my instagram following, started a youtube channel, learned about facebook ads and copy and digital marketing and so much more! It’s been a wild ride.
When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?
At this point my team is pretty small so I go with my gut, do I like this person? Do they seem like they are on my side and here to help me grow my business?
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
The wine trade has been turned on its head across the globe. Tariffs, bans from governments, restaurants dying, massive consolidation, it’s been very sad and it is unclear what the future holds for the wine trade.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
I’m going to have a food & wine travel show on Netflix. They don’t know it yet but they will soon!
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
I’ve always felt bad about being someone that acts quickly, I often rush into taking two steps forward and have to take one step back to undo whatever silliness I’ve rushed into. Ultimately, that quality has served me well this year. I did not hesitate, I pivoted immediately back in March 2020. I saw the writing on the wall and I acted. It hasn’t been smooth sailing and there have been steps back, but unlike many people who stalled, I have moved forward.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
That it takes time, that it’s hard but I can do it, that getting a team is crucial to allowing me to be my best and show up for my community.
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
Lol I haven’t slept in 13 months. I got a puppy in January and she is helping, but I would not say I’m doing a great job at being grounded. Things have gotten worse in France, the vaccine rollout is terrible, and everyone is really struggling, including me!
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
I would love to achieve work/life balance but cannot prop myself up as a shining example of that right now. The pandemic has given me the time to work a lot since life is paused and I can’t do anything social anyway. I don’t think I would have gotten as much done in the past year if I had more social and personal commitments. Making time to cook and feed myself good food is very important to me. Making time to go to the market and not rush that, enjoy the social interaction that I get from my French fantasy market life.
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
I studied archaeology & anthropology during my undergrad at Oxford. It had a really profound effect on how I see the world. I’ve always got one foot in the past, which I think prepared me well for seeing this pandemic for what it was early on.
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
Take breaks, delegate out the things you don’t like/aren’t good at, dial in your systems.
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
Being an Entreprenista gives me the opportunity to elevate and amplify other women. I think that’s the most powerful thing about making money.