Evelyn Pool, 1.11.19
Evelyn Pool is a wine industry vet, having been in the business for over four decades. She was one of the first women in wine sales in Texas, and today is the President of Crush Wine Marketing.
How many years have you been in the business? Tell me briefly about your background and your current position today.
I have been in the wine business for over 40 years. I have always having an entrepreneurial spirit which has made the difference in my life. Some businesses were more successful financially than others, but I always learned great lessons.
I began working for a wine wholesaler as one of the first female salespeople in Austin, Texas in 1977, and moved to California in 1979 where I went to work for the top wine distributor/marketing company in the Bay Area.
By the mid 80’s I had started a wine brokering business, which wasn’t particularly successful financially but led me to a fabulous national sales position for a winery for the next ten years. I eventually left there and started another sales and marketing company representing several wineries. This phase led me back to Texas (I lived in Austin again from 2004-2008).
While in Austin, the company grew and I hired a salesperson - Kristin Breshears who referred me to you! I missed California however, so I returned to Napa in 2008 as VP of Marketing for a winery, and was soon promoted to VP of International Sales which I thoroughly enjoyed. Having left there a couple of years ago, I have once again started a company working with wineries in international markets and creating new brands for a Napa winery.
Did you have a particular “aha!” moment that propelled you into wine?
One summer while in college I got a job by coincidence in a la-ti-da restaurant that had a high end wine list. After years of working there I decided to look for something with better hours but where I could use my restaurant experience. I knew a fellow that sold wine primarily to restaurants, and I went Aha!, so I interviewed with his company, American Wine and Importing. And that is the beginning of the path for me for the rest of my working life.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Travel. It is not for everyone, but I thrive on getting to know a range of people and working with different cultures. Plus I get to drink great wine and eat great food from around the world!
Can you describe any prejudices you’ve experienced in this industry as a woman?
Many. In the seventies the entire wine business was a man’s world, but the gang that hired me at American Wine were broad minded gents, and took the chance on hiring one of the first female wine salespeople in Texas. I was an anomaly, but I was always a hard worker, and that usually pays off in sales. I looked past the insults and comeons, and proved that I could hang with the boys - and make the sale - by making intelligent decisions without relying on feminine wiles. I also went out of my way to befriend the wives and girlfriends of the men I worked with so that they were not threatened by me but instead were supportive.
How can we as women become aware of our prejudice and change our behavior?
I have always found that intelligence and a sense of humor can get you almost anywhere you want to go. Understanding who you are dealing with helps to find a way for a win-win. My prejudices are actually against men who treat me with less than my due respect. For better or for worse, I was born with a mouth that is capable of eviscerating that type of behavior. That is not a win-win, so I try to keep that side of me tamped down.
When it comes to wine, what benefits do you think we’ll see as a community by better supporting women?
My world has primarily been working in a man’s world, so when I see a woman trying to get her foot in the door I will always try to give her a hand up. Men have always had this old boys club, and women should have the same kind of network to help other females. Some people have been characterized as cutthroat and conniving for a sale, but I find that much less true of women than of men. I love seeing so many women succeed in the years since I was one of the lucky ones that was given a chance to prove myself.
What change do you hope to see in regards to women in the wine industry in the next five years?
As more women have more experience in the industry, I would like to see them in higher management roles. Women buy most of the wine, so why are there so many guys in charge of how wine is marketed to us? In the next five years, I hope to see 50% of decision making roles held by females, but also with pay equality.
What message do you have for women entering the wine profession?
Believe in yourself. Be willing to take chances. Have confidence where it is due and study to learn what you don’t know. Never play the part of the weaker sex, because then you are weak.
What does equality in the wine industry look like to you?
People are treated with respect that is due to them and are not held down because of their sex or their race. If we can do that, we have defined equality.
What ways would you say you are contributing to equality in wine?
I try to support female causes, tend to hire females when possible, and always try to make time for any female professional who is asking for help.
What are some defining characteristics of a wonder woman of wine to you?
Confidence, willing to take chances, respect for those around you, and lead others through your actions.
What other women of wine do you admire and why?
If I had to say just one, it would be Margrit Mondavi. She balanced grace, intelligence and humor to make everyone around her happy. She was a talented woman in her own right, and while supporting her husband, she did not live in his shadow. The epitome of a successful human being.
Otherwise, I have been fortunate to meet (and grow up with!) so many well known women in wine. It is hard for me to call them out, because it is not those that are self promoting or famous or wealthy that I think are the heroes. It is those who have a vision, have the wherewithal to accomplish that vision while supporting and inspiring others along the way. I meet them on a regular basis. They run wineries, have sales companies, promote wine in our daily life. They live in California, in Texas, in Canada, in Europe or Asia. You find them everywhere if you just look. And there are more of them every day!