“April showers bring May flowers.”
Spring 2020 is a season I will never forget. Complete with disaster, triumph, and milestones, these long days and weeks will stay with me for the rest of my life. Usually spring is a time to hustle. It’s a time to get after cleaning closets and the garage. It’s a time to close Q1’s books and prepare for the frenzy of a booming new quarter. It’s usually Rosé season, landing container after container of pink juice that gets slurped up quickly. It’s usually time to ramp up summer inventory as sidewalk patios spill out of restaurants with a melody of clinking glasses and the laughter of patrons who have been caged inside. This unusual spring has a different melody all together. Plans of hustling sales on bustling streets have been thwarted, and our attention has been narrowed to checking in on loved ones, caring for children at home, filing for unemployment, and other dire tasks. This was not how I anticipated celebrating my beloved company’s ten-year anniversary. In the spring of 2010, Tim Elenteny and I embarked on a new adventure and co-founded Elenteny Imports. The mission was clear: to help wineries, importers and small businesses connect the logistics dots and cross-off compliance tasks so that they could succeed in a complex and competitive industry by focusing on what they do best: sourcing and sales. Of course, it’s taken ten years to successfully write that concise sentence into an elevator pitch. I count myself as a lifelong learner, yet I’m still amazed at how long it has taken to get to know myself and to really get to know my own business.
That first year, we imported only three containers, and each one felt like a feat. I can hardly believe that we relied only on praise from friends to drum up new business. Our first holiday dinner was an intimate table for four at Minetta Tavern in New York City. Adding employees one at a time like LEGOs, I remember every interview and every outing…happy hours at The Standard, lots of bowling, lots and lots of karaoke, and even an ‘escape the room’ event. We did not succeed in escaping the room, but we did have fun at the bar afterwards. I remember every hard moment too; those are the ones where I really got to know myself. It’s challenging trying to be a good leader, not to mention striving to be a great one. Failed services, financial strife, and flopped customer service moments dot my experience. However, the sweet reward of winning new business, sharing teachable moments with an employee, savoring the satisfaction of earning a customer’s trust, and drinking wine with our loyal customers who have been on this journey with us continue to fill me back up.
Rather than celebrating this ten-year milestone, I have spent the past ten weeks watching the world turn upside down and my beautiful business getting upended along with it. I’ve fretted, furloughed, re-hired, and wrestled with new SBA programs that are hard to follow and will leave us far from restored. The team has worked around the clock, stressed and un-showered. We’ve shared gratitude statements and yoga over Zoom. We’ve enjoyed ‘spirit week’ complete with crazy hair day and bring your kids to work day. We’ve shared several “happy hours” from dozens of remote homes. I’ve spent hours on the phone with customer after customer talking about business survival – not logistics. These are new memories that will stay with me too. No anniversary or congratulatory party could have enlivened me the way this crisis has. We celebrated our company’s birthday by proving that what we built and who we built it with are extraordinary.
I feel proud that our original mission still rings true ten years later: to help wineries, importers and small businesses thrive in a complex and competitive industry. Whether that complexity is mired by tariffs and shuttered restaurants, or pained by a list of furloughed staff, as we watch the global economy stumble again, one thing I know for certain is this: I will look back upon this moment in my company’s history with pride and gratitude for my dear employees’ unwavering support…for my customers’ ingenuity to persevere…and for the fortitude in designing a company whose main mission is to help.
Co-Founder & CEO