The experience of the entrepreneur Alexi Cashen who divides her time between import and distribution activities and a famous podcast on the world of wine and female entrepreneurship.
By Agnese Ceschi
To many people she is known as the host of a popular American podcast on wines and spirits, while for the more experienced ones she is the woman who launched one of the most innovative models of wine import in the USA. We are talking about Alexi Cashen, an entrepreneur from San Francisco who, with her own company Elenteny Imports, founded in 2010, has set up a new wine import format that follows the customer from the phase of the shipment of the products to their storage -and, in some cases, up to distribution- making the export process faster, more customized and organic.
“I set up what I like to call a human import, distribution and logistics company. We have licenses to sell to distributors in all 50 American states, therefore in all of the United States of America, and we also have distribution licenses in 6 states, thus we can go deeper into the three-tier system and we can sell to restaurants and retailers ”, explains Alexi.
In the United States, where the three-tier system is in force, it is not taken for granted -from a foreign wine exporter- to rely on a single player in the territory – a person who who runs the logistics of the shipment, customs clearance and the consequent regulatory part (taxes, insurance and other), the storage and conveyance of the product to wholesalers and retailers. Cashen founded her company aiming to offer very advanced shipping and compliances services (adherence to regulations during customs clearance, taxation, insurance, etc.).
“Our platform allows us a more human approach to companies, which might otherwise be lost in the gigantic American market. We want to find the best way for them to enter this competitive environment, helping them to grow and elevate themselves “, continues the entrepreneur.
Entrepreneurial initiatives such as that one of Alexi Cashen reflect a new trend or, better, a desire to break through the net of the American system, which often makes the sale of wine difficult and certainly the cost of the product to the consumer very high. “The positive side of the three tier system is that it guarantees a level playing field for all players, from the largest to the smallest, and it sets a series of common rules and limits. In the complexity of the American market where we have 50 states and each with a different set of state regulations, this system creates an umbrella-structure where each state is required to follow these common rules. On the contrary, the negative side is reflected in the cost of the final product. The expectations in terms of quality/price on the part of consumers are high, but costs are growing year by year especially for imported products”, explains Alexi.
When we ask her what advice she would give to Italian producers, she replies that “the situation is constantly changing in the USA as in the world. I advise the producers who approach the market to choose a maximum of 3 states in which to invest, test the ground and above all find the right partners. There is no rule, everything works on the basis of relationships today.”
How will the market change after the pandemic? “American consumers are very open to imported wines, but today with the pandemic they are more inclined to buy local wines. In addition, many new platforms were born that sell directly to the consumer and there is also space for important wines on this front, although for the moment domestic wines are doing better. It will take time to return to previous levels in terms of shopping and social life. We have to be patient ”.
Determined and multifaceted, in her spare time entrepreneur Alexi leads her popular podcast dedicated to women in the wine & spirits industry. “I wanted to develop my creative streak. I have a passion for growing and elevating small brands. But I am also very interested in the role of women in the wine industry. Of the US businesses, over 50% are owned by women, but of these only 1% exceeds $1 million in revenue. So economic success is still unbalanced in the US. The podcast is a great way to talk about these topics and to make my experience known and connect better and more deeply to my network ”.
Finally, speaking of what she foresees in the future of wine and what can be improved, Alexi tells us how in her opinion a focus on technology is missing in many companies. “There is still a lot to do, many activities are inefficient and are not behind technological changes. Furthermore, in the USA we still have to do a lot of work to convey the culture of wine: wine is not for a selected few, sommeliers or experts; everyone must know the stories behind wine. And I’m trying to tell it with my podcast”, concludes the entrepreneur.