5Q Friday profiles women who took a leap of faith career wise to start their own business and create the life they wanted. This week Kerstin Krall Walz shares her story.
1.) Who are you?
Professionally, I am brand builder, entrepreneur, and hold a Diploma in Wine Studies (DWS) from London’s Wine & Spirits Education Trust.
I grew up in West Texas and always dreamed of working on Madison Avenue. I moved to NYC with my dream and lots of energy. Over the next 14 years, I worked my way up in account management from admin to account director at several agencies including Saatchi & Saatchi and Young & Rubicam across a range of brands.
At 40, I’m loving launching and learning a new wine business!
2.) What’s your business?
My business is being the founder of a new wine brand, Stark Thirst. It’s a wine brand I created to deliver a great-tasting wine and give back at the same time.
I partnered with winemaker Christian Stark to make Stark Thirst. Stark Thirst is 100% Sonoma County Chardonnay that is unoaked and dry. Snooth’s editor-in-chief Gregory Dal Piaz wrote a vivid review: “lovely green apple peel, light citrus tang, gently acid-driven mineral snap…just a lovely expression of grape and place”.
Plus, Stark Thirst gives back through a partnership with WaterAid where 10% of profits are donated to help bring the world’s poorest communities access to safe water. This year alone, thanks to Stark Thirst’s efforts, 200 more people will have access to clean water for life.
Stark Thirst is exclusively distributed through Chelsea Wine Vault (CWV) inside The Chelsea Market in Manhattan. CWV featured Stark Thirst in April and hosted a rocking launch event! They generously donated a 10% of sales from the launch event to WaterAid. Another 40 people will receive water for life!
3.) When did you decide to take the plunge and “create the life you want”?
My plunge has turned out to be more like a long-distance swim!
January 2010, I found a goofy (but inspiring) fridge magnet that said “Leap Fearlessly”. These words motivated me to get enough courage to resign from my job in October 2011!
I needed time to complete my Diploma in Wine Studies and focus on my business ideas.
After five years, I earned my Diploma in Wine Studies in December 2011. It’s a rigorous program that literally spans every aspect of wine: viticulture (growing); viniculture (making); 100s of grapes varieties; sustainability; business; laws and blind tastings.
And then, in summer of 2011, I conducted focus groups with wine drinkers to test my ideas. I had the most heart for a charitable wine brand. Luckily, wine drinkers liked the idea, too, as long as the wine tastes good and the charitable component is a ‘cherry on top’.
Another big milestone was when I pulled the trigger to purchase the 5 tons of grapes in September of 2011. At this point, I felt there was no going back! Stark Thirst hit the shelves in April of 2012!
4.) Why do you love it?
Starting my own business is the best! It is extremely satisfying, rewarding, and challenging.
- Satisfying because I’ve created a wine that I am excited to drink myself and proud to serve others.
- Rewarding because I’m giving back through the WaterAid partnership.
- Challenging because starting a new business in a new category is the ultimate entrepreneur adventure. Sure, some days are discouraging. But most days, I’m happy.
5.) What’s one piece of advice you have for anyone thinking of taking the leap?
Start with a plan but be able to adapt as you go!
I used to have confidence that I had the experience to manage most advertising challenges. Today, while I may not know the wine business that well, I now embrace the “not knowing” and figure it out as I go.
-Contributed by Kerstin Krall Walz. Learn more about Stark Thirst.
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