Startup: The Backstage Pass

When I was in high school, I was involved in theater. I wasn’t the star of the show–I wasn’t in the spotlight at all. Instead, I worked as stage manager, making sure everything was in place so my wildly talented friends would shine.

IMAG2740This earned me the ironic nickname “Famous Amos” (um, yeah, like the cookies). I wasn’t famous at all, nor did I care to be.  While I counted myself as a creative, too, I preferred to tinker quietly back in the painting studio. Publicly, I found joy in helping bring other creative folks together in one bright, shiny showcase.

Many of those comrades still shine. They went on to careers as dancers, opera singers, and actors. Me? I have continued to champion artists and writers in various ways (and, when I’m lucky, eke out my own practice.) Along the way, I have studied what makes a smooth-running production, in business and otherwise.

I’ve applied my observations to the wine industry, most recently building a business featuring women in wine.  Woman-Owned Wineries aims to bring greater social and economic power to women, and has been one of the most fulfilling projects I’ve undertaken.

(If you need more info on why this might be an important endeavor, please check its crowdfunding page, which is full of facts and figures. Donate, too, if you’re inclined.)


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Here’s the thing about this particular show–and the metaphor might break down, so forgive me. Some days, it feels like a full house shows up to watch, but I’m still in dress rehearsal. Terrifying, right?

The business has received fair attention for such a fledgling endeavor. It’s been featured by the media here and here, and other places too. Whether this is a reflection on my work or simply its relevance to our era is anyone’s guess, but its focus on women’s empowerment has given it timeliness.

Separate from any media influence, I have spent months preparing this business. I have

met with many winery owners, listening to their stories, gathering their advice, and tasting their wines.  I have met with a logistics and shipping expert who’ll help me implement a wine club exclusively featuring wine from woman-owned wineries. And I have brainstormed company branding with a longtime collaborator (who has a gorgeous logo, coming soon!).

All the while, I have felt like that stage manager back in high school–arranging props, checking lights, and occasionally realizing that the curtain is pulled back to reveal more than I intended. It’s at once exhilarating and nerve-wracking.

This is a work in progress, I want to say. The show goes on soon… give me a sec! 

Filming the crowdfunding video with former Sonoma mayor Rachel Hundley

Yet the show is ongoing, I now realize. There is no curtain call.

Since that day last fall when I posted this (soon-to-expand) list of woman-owned wineries, the project has been underway. So when imperfections arise, or lines are missed, or a prop is out of place, I must be patient and let it all unfold.

As a particularly insightful winemaker reminded me recently, “I think it is important to seize those moments when we can be vulnerable and honest with those around us and share our uncertainties.”

Actors use moments of uncertainty to improvise, and brilliant material is born.

When we do the same in the greater world, beautiful things happen.