We hope you are all loving this e-series so far. We are sure learning a lot of valuable information and truly getting inspired to really take our business dreams to the next level.
This week’s feature is one that is ultra cool as this business venture began right here in Winnipeg and has evolved into to a corporation that is based in New York! Lia Banville, president/owner of Banville Wine Merchants imports wine from Italy and France to sell and distribute across the USA.
Lia’s journey began right here in her hometown when she opened a wine store with her sister in 1998 called Banville and Jones. Lia’s family owns a winery in Tuscany and with changes in legislation in regards to private wine stores, they felt that this would be a great business venture. After a year of working together, Lia decided to leave the retail wine business and began working more on the production side at their winery in Italy while her sister continued growing Banville and Jones, which is still a successful and developing business to this day.
The family winery in Italy (Tolaini) needed representation in North America and that’s essentially how Banville Wine Merchants was born. Today, Banville Wine Merchants has 24 employees, imports from 35 wineries and distributes for over 750 wines.
Lia has a business sense and a work ethic like no other. I’ve known Lia for quite some time and I’ve always admired her ambition, her ability to network and build connections and to truly take her passions and turn them into extremely successful business opportunities.
Thank you so much Lia for sharing your journey and for providing all of our followers with such great insight. You’re a motivation to us all!
WE: What would you consider your first big success?
Lia: My first biggest success in business was having my wines for sale at some of New York’s finest restaurants. The first time I met Julian Niccolini of the iconic Four Seasons Restaurant in NY (not the hotel, the hotel chain was established after this restaurant) and he purchased my family wines and several others in my portfolio. This made me feel like I had it the big times! It was a dream of many producers/importers to be on that wine list, it was a great moment for sure.
WE: What was the biggest hurdle you faced when launching your new business? How did you overcome it?
Lia: My biggest hurdle in launching a business in NY is the fact it is far away. Distance and air travel is definitely the most exhausting part. Also, balancing home, kids and husband have been the most difficult part. As a mother there is a different connection with your family life that makes it difficult to be away and not feel some sort of guilt or remorse. To be a good parent I believe one cannot operate out of guilt, so it’s a delicate balance. Returning home and trying to parent in a weekend can be exhausting and over bearing for everyone in the house. Having texting capability has made a huge difference for me. Constant communication with your husband and kids is key. It doesn’t have to be tete a tete and actually communication can be easier, via text in certain instances. Absence can definitely take a toll on everyone.
WE: What is your favourite part about running your own business? What is the hardest part?
Lia: My favorite part of running my own business is the direct contact with “wine” people. The Julian Niccolini’s of the world, the restaurateurs, the winemakers, the sommeliers. It’s a unique “world” full of very interesting characters and they all share a passion for wine. But wine, like any business, can be intense because it is still a business. Wine is abstract, objective and you sell it on its perceived inherent value. Its value is not clear. Just because I like it does not mean you will.
One of the negatives of this business, is that competition is fierce, as there is a lot of wine being produced with a lot of labels to choose from. Wineries with big marketing budgets, (the more commercial wineries) take market share because they have the money to spend on marketing. Success for a winery is not always about the quality of the wine.
Another negative is that scores from a few known journalists have become more important. Unfortunately, consumers do not always trust their own palates. This is the part of the business I don’t like. Wine can be intimidating and “stuffy” for some people. We aren’t solving any world issues or saving lives, we promote fermented grape juice, seriously!
WE: What is your number one piece of advice for any woman looking to start her own venture?
Lia: Be careful what you wish for. Be ready to be successful and understand what that would entail. Anyone can do anything if they believe in it enough, work at it hard enough, and listen to the market. Lastly, let the numbers do the talking; it’s all you can take to the bank. If it’s putting money in your pocket and you are determined enough, then it will work. It starts with a dream, but it needs to be a business and make money. Make sure you can differentiate when the dream ends and the business starts. Be honest about its success.
WE: How are you able to balance it all?
Lia: It’s exhausting and the guilt can be overwhelming. Missing important family events is so cliché, but it inevitably happens. Having a family who supports you and understands what you are trying to do/build and respects what you are doing is fundamental.
WE: What is your secret to staying motivated and inspired?
Lia: Money, seeing the bottom line grow and seeing that my goals are getting attained. It’s hugely satisfying.
WE: What would you say are your three top contributing factors to your success and growth?
Lia: Three factors that contributed to my success are; first, being well financed and personal determination. Secondly, seeing all obstacles as only small bumps to overcome and going through each problem. Not giving up is key. But most importantly is the third, having a family who has supported me every step of the way. They have even helped when it was time to move offices, do a special event and even spend their summers with me working at the winery. They too have made sacrifices to see my company get to where it is.
WE: What would you say is your top piece of marketing advice for Women Entrepreneurs?
Lia: If you believe in yourself and what you are doing I think the marketing comes naturally. An entrepreneur can sell themselves or their project if they believe in it enough. Ultimately, it helps if it has some “successes” to brag about and confirm it is in fact a profitable and noteworthy. Communicating success is sometimes seen as bragging, but that is marketing. With that being said, being humble is very important and outright bragging will not work, third party endorsements are ultimately the best kind of marketing!
Thanks again Lia for sharing such great insight!