What was your inspiration for the Styleliner?
I started the Styleliner in 2010 in response to the food truck craze! I knew I wanted to start my own fashion brand, but to make it in the industry I had to get noticed. I wanted to bring the products to the customer and this seemed like the best way to do it at the time! It was the modern-day trunk show.
And how did this modern-day trunk show evolve into your Sag Harbor location?
When I was pregnant with my first daughter in 2015, I knew it was time to consider a brick and mortar location. Being a pregnant truck driver had never been a dream of mine. I had established my name in the Hamptons and knew it was time to take the leap! We now have Joey Wölffer stores in Nantucket and Sag Harbor. We also just recently had a pop-up in L.A.
Why did you select Sag Harbor? And, what can other entrepreneurs learn from your thought process?
Sag Harbor made the most sense for my style and aesthetic. I also thought it was the best location, given our restaurant and winery were just down the road. I think going with your gut is the most important and most challenging thing about being an entrepreneur. You can get advice from everyone, but you have to feel it yourself to make it happen!
You can get advice from everyone, but you have to feel it yourself to make it happen!
You also are co-owner of Wölffer Estate Vineyard. What makes the winery unique?
Yes! I am still very much involved in the winery. We are unique because we are a brand that has been around for almost 30 years. We are always ahead of the curve and we don’t follow trends. My dad and winemaker Roman Roth dreamt up the Provence-style rosé in 1995, which now sells out. Everyone laughed at them at the time! That was my dad – he defied the norm and always took risks. We try to keep that mentality with our products. Our rosé cider was the first new product we worked on as the new generation of Wölffer and it is taking off!
From growing up on the vineyard to now running the business, what have you learned about working with family?
It’s so important to work with your skillset and with the right team around you. My dad always wanted to do everything – and that’s not realistic, nor is it good for the business. My brother, husband and I work so well together because we all respect each other’s strengths and we acknowledge our own weaknesses. In turn, we all add to the business in our own way and rarely step on each other’s toes.
Wölffer’s Summer in a Bottle is iconic. How did the idea and label come about?
The idea of Summer in a Bottle came about because my friends always said that Wölffer reminded them of “summer in a bottle.” So, we made it into a fantastic ad campaign and Roman suggested we make it into a wine!
The label is inspired by my parents’ memories of summers in the Hamptons. I tried to communicate what I had seen in photographs and experienced as a little girl to the designer as best I could, and he couldn’t have come up with a better graphic!
This summer you launched a Rosé drive-thru. What inspired this? And what has been the community response?
My role with the company is in marketing. Every time we hold our annual “creative and ideas” meeting with the whole team, I propose a rosé drive-thru and this year I finally got my dream! It’s so important to keep things fresh, so people don’t forget about you. The response has been more than we could have asked for. Everyone has Instagrammed and Snapchatted it, and it has done some serious sales to boot!
What are 3 tactics you have found to be most effective in building the Wölffer Estate brand?
- We stay focused. While we are well aware of what is going on in the rest of the industry, we try to keep our heads down and focus on what we are doing and who we are as a brand. I think often times brands get distracted by what others are doing.
- We never waiver from who we are. We don’t want to be a trend, so things like Frosé are a no-no for us!
- We stay ahead with products and design. For example, we will be changing our Summer in a Bottle graphic in the next year or two. It won’t be too different, but we want to keep it interesting and special for the customer!
Tell us about the creation of Finca Rosé. What is the most interesting aspect of working with partners in Argentina?
My father always dreamt of a vineyard in Argentina. He was trying to make that dream a reality when he passed away. We wanted to add variety to our portfolio as well as have the ability to give more wine to our distributor. This rosé is my favorite!
I love traveling to Argentina. The South American way of business is a little different, but I like the challenges it brings to the table.
Best advice for entrepreneurs navigating international business relationships…
Make sure you meet them in person before working with them! You can tell a lot about a person when you are face to face.
Describe your thought process behind the timing and creation of Wölffer Kitchen.
My brother has always been in the food and restaurant world, so I wanted him to start the restaurant. Then, I somehow got roped into it! In actuality, I love it now. It’s a great way to showcase our products with different foods. Both the Sag Harbor and Amagansett restaurants run like well-oiled machines thanks to great leadership from our executive chef, Brian Cheewing, and our hospitality director, Paul Weinstein.
We have to ask, what is your favorite menu item?
In Sag Harbor, I love the lamb chops and Caesar salad! In Amagansett, my favorite is the clams dish with zucchini “noodles” and chickpeas!
What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned in entering the restaurant industry?
It’s all about the people, whether they are in the back of the house or on the floor. Customers constantly tell us both our food and service are excellent! It is so important to me that we have a reputation for serving quality products with friendly service. Being “cool and trendy” isn’t essential to me; having longevity and returning customers is!
What does #EmbraceAmbition mean to you?
For me, it’s all about remaining unique and true to myself, regardless of what happens around me. I am always trying to be better and do more, whether it’s for my businesses, my family or others. I am never finished.
Your best advice for women entrepreneurs…
I am the only woman on our executive team of four at Wölffer. I am never afraid to speak up and always have the confidence to be who I am as a leader, regardless if it is the “right way.” The qualities we have as females make us excellent leaders and entrepreneurs, so embrace that!