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FRUITS OF SUCCESS:
FROM THE CITY TO THE VINEYARDS

Charting an inspiring journey from the Berlin media world to producing prize-winning wines.

FRUITS OF SUCCESS: 
FROM THE CITY TO THE VINEYARDS

Ahead of her inspiration talk, part of a LIGANOVA series profiling interesting individuals and stories, we sat down with German vintner Katharina Wechsler about the challenges of changing career and how she turned her family’s vineyard business into a successful brand – Weingut Wechsler. Plus, she shares her top three tips for switching professions. 

 

wines_big_01

Credit: Weingut Wechsler // Header: Katharina Wechsler by Patricia Seibert

 

How did your career change succeed and what triggered it in the first place?

After my sociology studies I worked as an editor for a TV production company in Berlin. I quickly realized, however, that I was unfulfilled in terms of both the tasks and future prospects. So I quit, without really having a plan B. The first trigger towards a new career was a phone call with my mother. She told me that our family vineyard business back at home was about to come to an end because there was no one to carry it on. For some reason, I got really emotional – and suddenly felt the need to go home and see for myself. I did a lot of research and realized that the image I previously had about vintners was out of date. Nowadays, many of them are real business people, selling their wines all over the world, from Tokyo to New York. In the end, I decided to take over the business. 

 

Wein

Credit: LIGANOVA

 

How did you approach your new job?

If I do something, I do it 100 percent! I went to a professional winemaking school to gain the theoretical knowledge, but even more important was the practice. During those two years, I interned at two highly esteemed winemakers to get experience and see for myself what it takes to make good wine. At home, I experimented a lot, as well. I couldn’t really ask my dad for advice as he produced bulk wine whereas I always wanted to sell wine in bottles, and there’s a big difference in the production process. 

 
What were the biggest challenges?

After I finished my first vintage, I was like: Right, who’s going to buy this wine? My parents’ business only sold wine to cooperatives, so that didn’t help. But I have a great network in Berlin and so I stopped by some nice wine shops and left them a package with my products. I don’t know if they ever tasted them. I did a lot of research and finally selected three people whose opinion on wine I thought mattered. I sent each of them a box of wine along with my CV. To my utter disbelief, all three wrote about my wines and the new business, almost immediately.  Suddenly, the phone was ringing all day long. This is how I got my first private customers. But the journey there was not easy at all. Moreover, every vintage is different and provides other obstacles because as a vintner, you are pretty much dependent on nature. I learned that no matter what, you have to give the best you can – always. 

 

A big part of your marketing strategy is about you and your personal story. How did you manage to build a brand for yourself?

I do most of the work alone, from taking care of the grapes to working in the wine cellar – and that shines though, I guess. My products are a real reflection of my personality. Plus, I assume that since I’m a woman from the big city who used to work in the media business and is now doing wine, I don’t really represent the image of a typical vintner. Of course, first of all, I want to be known for making delicious wine – and I only sell wine that I personally like – but there is more to the story than that. A big focus for me was also on the right public image in terms of labeling – I like it clean and minimal, which is rare in this business, and therefore might stand out from the rest. I really do believe in the value of brand recognition. 

 

Your top three tips for people who give up their job and do something entirely new? 

Look for inspiring people you can learn from. Develop a signature handwriting that makes you unique. Create a network for yourself. And if you want to bring something to the market, only do so when you stand behind the product 100 percent!

30 / 09 / 2016 // by LigaStudios Team

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