Mika Jordan, 11.23.18
Mika Jordan is an inspiration in our industry. She has been in hospitality for over 10 years, and today she is the Wine & Spirits Buyer for Whole Foods Southwest Region.
How many years have you been in the business? Tell me briefly about your background and your current position today.
As with most people in the industry, I started working in restaurants while I was in college – over a decade ago. My first opportunity to completely focus on beer and wine was with Whole Foods Market about four and a half years ago. I started as the Beverage Specialist at our Gateway location here in Austin.
I was lucky enough to have leadership that encouraged me to curate the wine selection to reflect wines that I was passionate about sharing with our guests. From there, I stepped into my current role as Wine & Spirits Buyer for the Southwest Region, which I’ve held for a little over a year and a half. My region includes Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma. I’m tasked with working with our distributor partners and store team members to facilitate national and regionally-specific programming that lives in all our stores.
Did you have a particular “aha!” moment that propelled you into wine?
I got my degree in Anthropology, and while I ended up specializing in Forensics, it was learning about different cultures and their history that was initially compelling for me. It’s completely obvious once you start diving into food and beverage how they are inextricably linked to culture and the shared human experience.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Without a doubt the relationships that I’ve been able to cultivate through this role. Wine and spirits roll up into the Specialty Team within Whole Foods Market. In addition to wine and spirits, we have beer, cheese and coffee (all the best stuff).
I have several strong female mentors just on our regional specialty team alone. Outside of the regional team, we also have 43 stores with some of the most passionate, hardworking and creative team members in the company. It’s been truly amazing to get to know them – it’s like having an extended family spanning multiple cities in four states.
Can you describe any prejudices you’ve experienced in this industry as a woman?
I think I’m pretty fortunate in being able to say that nothing overt comes to mind. Whole Foods Market has a pretty strong company culture that encourages equality and opportunity across the board. I’ve never felt anything other than mutual respect from our primary distributor partners too. It’s hard to not be conscious of the fact that I’m more often than not the only woman in the room when meeting with suppliers, but I’m encouraged to see more and more women assuming those leadership and management roles in the industry.
When it comes to wine, what benefits do you think we’ll see as a community by better supporting women?
I think more diversity in any industry is a good thing. With women in particular, I think we have a tendency to be a little more reflective and conscientious of what we’re putting out into the world. If it’s a wine list, a wine display or helping a guest find that perfect wine.
I also see that many of the strongest women leaders, be it within Whole Foods Market or the Austin wine community in general, are very engaged in mentorship and guiding the long-term success of those surrounding them.
What change do you hope to see in regards to women in the wine industry in the next five years?
I would love to see more women in winemaking roles. I’m not sure if it’s a psychological thing, but my favorite wines tend to come from women winemakers. I think there’s a balance and finesse that many of those wines have in common.
I would also love to see the industry find creative ways to support mothers. Support with childcare, paid maternity leave, etc. I think the more the wine industry can innovate with this issue in particular, the more women you’ll see entering and staying in the profession.
What message do you have for women entering the wine profession?
Be assertive, ask questions, find strong female mentors to help guide you. Don’t be afraid to voice your passions to the world. I think you’ll be surprised how much your voice will resonate.
What does equality in the wine industry look like to you?
Valuing and rewarding work ethic and allowing for opportunity regardless of an individual’s gender, race or sexual orientation. Equal pay!
What ways would you say you are contributing to equality in wine?
A big reason why I went for my current role was because of my predecessor, who is also a woman. I was really inspired by her leadership, openness and honesty. I knew I wanted to work with her and learn from her and I forced myself way outside of my comfort zone to do so.
I can only hope that I’m inspiring other women in a similar way. Encouraging them upward and allowing them to not be afraid to put themselves out there.
What are some defining characteristics of a wonder woman of wine to you?
Tenacity is big. I think a willingness to listen to and engage with everyone that comes into your space. Passion in what we do and a desire to share that with anyone that will listen.
What other women of wine do you admire and why?
I’m in awe of Erika [Widmann], the wine buyer at our flagship location in Austin. Her vision and hard work has shaped that department into something truly incredible. No one can take credit for that but her.
I’m also a huge Arianna Occhipinti fan – her wines are responsible for my second “aha!” moment that had a lasting impact on what I drink and what I started to recommend to guests on the sales floor.