Meghan Caiazzo, 9.28.17
Meghan Caiazzo is a founder and owner of Victory Wine Group, a highly regarded and successful distribution company operating in four states including Texas, and a mother of two, making her a rarity in our industry with a ton of insight!
How many years have you been in the business?
17 years. I’ve done wholesale, worked harvest, and been a supplier.
Did you have a particular “aha!” moment that propelled you into wine?
I had somebody tell me that I should get involved in something that's a consumable. They happened to be in the tampon business. I also had somebody suggest I get into an industry that's recession proof. They happened to be in the movie business. And then I always wanted to inherently follow my passion, and food and wine was always my passion.
Also, 1996 Marc Hebrart Special Club [Champagne] was a pivotal bottle that made me want to know all about how that happened.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Hands down it’s growing a business and watching our team embrace the community, and working with supplier partners and seeing the enthusiasm that they have.
Giving exposure to the small growers and vintners that we form intimate relationships with and helping them be a platform for exposure into the Texas wine market. It’s a very symbiotic relationship. It's a trifecta. We get to be the liaison between the producer, our team, and our clients, be it the Austin Wine Merchant or Jeffrey’s.
All around, just working with the most enthusiastic and passionate people about their trade and having a chance to see what gets them excited everyday, and figuring out how we can get them exposed.
Can you describe any prejudices you’ve experienced in this industry in regards to being a woman?
One thing that happens a lot is that, well two. One people always assume that I’m a sales rep or manager. They ask me how long I’ve worked here. And they're very surprised that a woman founded the company.
Another thing is, I'll mention that I moved from California to Texas with my husband to start the business, and they’ll assume that he owns the business. They assume that he's involved. I wouldn't say that I've had prejudices but assumptions. They assume businesses are owned by men. It is what it is. People don't say it out directly but I can tell where their head is at. I founded the company so I wear a lot of different hats.
How can we as women become aware of our prejudice and change our behavior?
I think that the wine industry is highly competitive and sometimes we can all be a little more kind and respectful of everyone's contribution. All facets of this business work really hard and we put our face, blood, sweat and tears in this business. There are always so many things that we’re doing that people don’t see.
In a perfect world, I think everyone should do wholesale to understand the hours that go into doing what we do and the backlash we experience that’s completely out of our hands.
We can be more compassionate and kind. It would just ease the pressure because the intensity is high. We all get into this for fun and we can’t forget that. We each play a role and we can work together.
We’re so much stronger as a team when we collaborate together, and we can create amazing experiences and businesses if we work together and not have egos get in the way. I think for women we have a way of letting our emotions get in the way. And you can’t help but take things personally.
I think we forget sometimes that everyone else is doing this too.
When it comes to wine, What benefits do you think we’ll see as a community by better supporting women in wine?
Well I think, obviously other women benefit because all ships rise together. But also, it allows for dynamics to exist that are different when a male or men are only in the position of leadership. Decision making tends to be a bit more rational. I think our value that we provide is our ability to balance and juggle a lot of variables and be people oriented. Men tend to tie their egos to the numbers side of a business.
I think women provide a lot of value in leadership in general because we embrace organic growth versus the peaks and valleys that can come from decision making when it’s not that way. We can organically support that and it feels good.
What change do you hope to see in regards to women in the wine industry in the next five years?
I hope to see more women embracing business ownership and entrepreneurship, and sticking their neck out to do their own thing, as we all continue to have more confidence about the ability to do so. It’s exciting times. I think with that also comes the ability to build a community of like minded individual that can support each other, which also falls into motherhood and how we manage the role of business owner and motherhood simultaneously and the compromises that come with that. I think that's really important.
I’m sort of on an island. I don’t know of any other distributor owners in Texas who are female and a mom. ‘How are you holding up?’ Someone needs to say this, because with it, as challenging as they both are, it also does provide a lot of freedom as well.
Entrepreneurship and why I support women is because it provides them a level of freedom they’ve never experienced before in their life. The most innovative and culture supporting companies can’t do that. Now it comes with lots of sacrifice and lots of risk, but if you’ve mitigated those risks and made good decisions and been a kind and genuine person, the outcomes are way more meaningful and satiating.
Can you elaborate on freedom?
Freedom for me means breaking every idea of thinking small, and it makes me think big. Everything is possible because I'm in the driver seat.
Freedom of time and putting your energies to where you think you provide the most value versus where you’re being told to put your energies. You can have a seat anywhere on the bus you want versus being told this is your seat.
We’re dynamic creatures and the way that our lives and careers are going to go is exciting and unpredictable at the same time. It allows you to pivot to what interests you. You’re not pigeonholed into what you’re going to do.
I want to inspire more women to not be afraid of the barriers of entry to get into a business. You have to believe more in yourself than anyone else. You have to know that you're investing in your abilities.
What message do you have for women entering the wine profession?
You have entered into community of lifelong friends and you’re going to go through the best times and some difficult times but don't burn any bridges. Don't be afraid to say no and maintain your personal space because the business can absorb you. It’s a lifestyle and not a nine-to-five. Don't forget why you got into it, in regards to the passion of the producers, meaning don’t turn it into a commodity based career. And have a lot of fun and a lot of success.
What ways would you say you are contributing to the overall empowerment of current and future women in wine?
I don’t know that I would say that I am. Back to what I originally said. I hope that I can inspire other women to relinquish any fear of business ownership and embrace the possibilities of what they can create. And that I can help them to realize that they can do that while embracing motherhood. It’s not a zero sum game.
Being a better wholesaler doesn’t make me less of a mom. You can do both. I have zero regrets about my path and I would love to see more people in this space. I hope that I can always be a mentor to anyone who wants to be involved and how I can provide mentorship. I think it’s really valuable that the wine community understands that business ownership doesn’t need to be male-dominated.
What are some defining characteristics of a wonder woman of wine to you?
Certainly enthusiasm, tenacity, and the ability to face fear and to feel it, and subside those emotions. The ability to give less fucks. I think you have to give a lot less fucks than you think, and the diligence of being focused is important as well. If you don’t know exactly what you want to do, it can be harder.
I think that the worst thing we can do is to think small and not think big. We have to really embrace that and embrace the possibilities. It’s all possible. It’s just letting go of all those voices. The money is always going to come. It’s just embracing that.
I’m very big on motivational speaking. I read a lot about it. Repeating the messaging of what you're trying to create, daily, hourly, you just have to keep reminding yourself. You’re going to have things that are throwing you off. You can’t let the highs get too high, and you can’t let the lows get too low.
What women of wine do you admire and why?
Well, of course you my dear. I think you’re doing a lot to spearhead the empowerment of women in this industry. We respect you for that.
Kimberly Jones of Kimberly Jones Selections. Paula [Rester] is always one of my little loves. I love everything Joelle [Cousins] is doing. I love what Jordan Salcito is doing.