Soncy Chin, 11.2.18
Soncy Chin has been in hospitality since she was 15, and has been working in wine for the past 15 years! Today, she is the On Premise Sales Manager for Favorite Brands Distribution. Soncy's leadership in our industry, along with having a family, and showing that you can be successful at both, makes her a true wonder woman!
How many years have you been in the business?
Restaurants since I was 15 years old and wine for the past 15 years. We’ll skip my age in that equation. From restaurants, to retail, to wine bars, and finally landing in distribution after graduation from the Hilton College at University of Houston.
Did you have a particular “aha!” moment that propelled you into wine?
I’ve had a few “aha” moments in wine, but the one that propelled me out of kitchens and into wine fully was Ridge Monte Bello 1996. Back when I was the head of a Wine Department for Spec’s in Houston, I was invited to a Ridge Vineyards tasting which included a vertical tasting of Monte Bello. I had never tasted a wine quite like it from California. Years later when I was able to visit Monte Bello with Paul Draper I instantly understood what made Monte Bello my “aha” wine.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Two things: Becoming a necessary part of my customer’s business and having a customer and/or sales person thank you for what you do every day.
Can you describe any prejudices or setbacks you experienced in this industry in regards to being a woman?
Currently, I’m one of seven sales managers in Texas and the only woman at my level of management, thankfully our ownership and sales teams are a bit more balanced. Women only account for 19% of total employees within Distribution in the U.S. (Bureau of Labor Statistics 2017). 19%!
On the distribution side, I have experienced and witnessed discrimination stemming from very unfortunate systemic prejudices. I have been asked to sit out of meetings with male co-workers due to a customer refusing to discuss business in the presence of a woman. Then there was the disturbing direction from a former manager to use a handsy customer to my selling advantage. Still, the worst is feeling the need to NOT discuss anything that eludes to me being a mother of twins when new to positions in fear that my reputation will be swiftly exchanged for a stereotype that a mom couldn’t possibly be successful in a career and parent her children appropriately at the same time.
These prejudices and discriminatory actions don’t necessarily set women back, but definitely keep women from moving forward. In 2018, Women in distribution are still walking on constant eggshells, afraid to be too assertive, too passionate (in fear of being labeled as “emotional”), too serious, too intense, too smart, all in fear of offending those in hiring positions that hold our careers in the palm of their hands. I do have to say, I’ve witnessed change in distribution in my time, but we have a long way to go, 19% is a too small of a percentage of women employees in ANY industry.
When it comes to wine, what benefits do you think we’ll see as a community by better supporting women?
I think we will see a more supportive community and more empathetic male counterparts. The more inequality is discussed the more the culture in our industry will change. I also believe that this will give women more of a drive to become winemakers, sommeliers, and into distribution. The more female faces in this business will result in an increase of sales. Currently women dominate the consumer side and there’s no doubt, women like to buy from other women.
What change do you hope to see in regards to women in the wine industry in the next five years?
I hope to see equality. More women in high level management positions is distribution, more female winemakers, women taken more seriously in wine. I really hope to see less women leaving this industry because they’re tired of fighting the good fight everyday for equality. And, like in all aspects of life, more women that aren’t afraid to speak up against social injustices.
What message do you have for women entering the wine profession?
Always do the right thing, no matter what the situation, the company, the customer. Doing the right thing will always move you ahead and will keep you successful. Integrity goes a long way. And for anyone getting into the wine profession I recommend building a support village with other women and men in this industry that you look up to or admire, stick together, it’s always good to have peers to encourage you and to encourage.
What ways would you say you are contributing to the overall empowerment of current and future women in wine?
Aside from activism in my everyday life for all woman, I’m contributing a few ways: mentorship of women new to our business, building a strong inclusive community of women that come from all aspects of the wine (beer and spirits) industries and by openly discussing the struggles that face all of us as women in wine.
What are some defining characteristics of a wonder woman of wine to you?
Humble, strong, driven, focused, self-aware, and uplifting of other women.
What women of wine do you admire and why?
Winery Owners: Robin Lail, on a work with years ago, Robin gave me advice about being a Mom in this business that I carry with me every day. She was a pioneer in winemaking and winery ownership and did it all while caring for her children.
Winery Suppliers/Importers: Jane Anthenien, just the history Jane has in the Austin and California wine industries that she gained while working retail and distribution in Austin years back as well as during her time representing families like the Trefethens and Wagners (Caymus).
In Austin: Rania, of course, this is a much-needed movement and I’m thankful to you for taking this on. Lucinda Roenigk, the woman beside the man, co-owner of the Austin Wine Merchant and married to John Roenigk. Lucinda has done more than she could possibly imagine when it comes to the wine business in Austin. Always checking in on those of us (not just women) making sure that we don’t lose sight of why do what we do every day. Always taking the time to stop and encourage us along the way in our careers.