Art by Gica Tam
Culture Spotlight

What I’m gonna tell you about love, I learned from selling rosé

There’s nothing like business—where money and reputation are at stake—to teach you about keeping a relationship
Celine Lopez | Feb 15 2019

Being in love is a wonderful thing. However, wise people will tell you over and over again that staying in love is hard work. Keeping a relationship red hot goes down to treating it like a business. It may sound prosaic and cold, but there is a method to this madness.

I started running my first real deal business Gypsy Rosé with my best friend Monette Bata-Garcia a year ago. Monette has become my work wife. She is the first person I text in the morning and usually the last person I text at night. When we have the occasional Happy Hour, she is the last face I see before I go unconscious. 

Yes, we have differences. Yes, there are long conversations circling around which bottle to choose, or even longer arguments on how to market our hooch. On the other hand, we have clearly decided on which tasks to assign to ourselves. We have each other’s backs for everything. If Monette decides to go for an Eat, Pray, Love vacation in Thailand, I happily carry the workload while drooling over her IG Stories. If it happens I need a breather, she would do the same. She’s patient with my severe lack of mathematical and organizational skills. 

My sisterly frisson with Monette does not come from pure kismet. We do have with us the basics: mutual respect, shared values, same vision, hardy trust, honesty, and we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. 

When she and I decided to do Gypsy Rosé for real, it felt like either we were going to conquer the world or go broke. Starting something is probably the hardest part. But we were committed. We put in real capital and cancelled our respective European summers indefinitely. Like a hot fling compared to a real relationship, its value depended on how much we were willing to give. As they say in Shark Tank —my business school – we’re all in. 

Lesson number one in love: The first step is the hardest step. It helps to be honest about what you’re willing to give and how much you’re willing to commit. There’s no shame in starting a small business as a creative outlet, but there’s also nothing wrong with going all in and thinking big.

As with love, everything in the beginning seems possible and perfect. Then the cookie crumbles. It always does.

It started when we asked other people what they thought. The majority said we were crazy and that the wine business is complicated and ultra-competitive. We suddenly felt jitters. 

Then others started giving us ideas on what to do. We suddenly felt confused. We went back to the drawing board, with weakened spirits. “What if they were right?” I mean, I’ve tried to start businesses all my life. I was the Avon Lady of Forbes Park at age eight and that was my peak as a businesswoman. I failed fabulously in many start-ups in my adult years. This particular one was extra tricky.

Thank heavens Monette and I have thick skins and it helped that we were slightly delusional. Despite my empirical history in failure—as far as I’m breathing, I can dream. The most important thing was that we believed in our product and ourselves.

Lesson in love number 2: Listen to yourself, treasure your dream and only listen to advice if it pushes you forward not backward. Know when there are too many cooks in the kitchen. 

We our initial orders placed, we started to throw ideas on how to launch our product. It was like how a couple would plan their first vacation together. When you start involving other people in pursuit of this dream, be very careful. Monette and I met with suppliers who disappointed us, we made mistakes by trusting others too much, and we found ourselves relying on people that didn’t love our product as much as we did. This can be a slightly deflating experience. Getting real ain’t for sissies. You’ll know as early in this phase when you are in over your head or if this is an occasion to be strong and just keep working for it. It doesn’t matter how you fail, what’s more important is how you get up and start all over again.

Lesson in love number 3: There will always be something that suddenly goes wrong. These curveballs test your commitment and are meant to teach you a lesson. There will be all kinds of flags. The crucial thing is knowing whether you have hit a crossroad or if it’s a deadly red flag. Is it something you can work on or is it an ominous message? Get real. Whatever it is, think about it and don’t wave the white flag too hastily. 

Last year, we have already announced that our initial launch would be during Art Basel HK but our shipment was delayed. Our rosé was still in France and we didn’t have a partner there to smooth things over. What we did was cut our losses and sprung extra to fly some of the rosé to HK. It was an unforeseen expense but we weren’t flakers and this was a great opportunity. We delivered just in time and fulfilled each order. We had a problem and we scrambled and sacrificed for a solution. Things got 200% harder but knowing there was still a way to make it work gave us only one option. Do it.

Lesson in love number 4: There are solutions and there are brick walls. Knowing the difference is key. When you let someone down it can be catastrophic. Your word is everything. If you love that person, you will want them to know they can rely on you. Sometimes the burden will be on you and sometimes it will be on them. However, never make it a blame game. What I’ve learned is that there are more solutions than brick walls. It really pays to roll in with the punches. As much as possible never break a promise. On the occasion that you do break a promise, find it in yourself to be open to future solutions. When you try to make it up to your partner, give or do something that addresses the problem at hand. It makes them feel understood and valued. Red roses and chocolates never make sense when you’ve let someone down.

As we eased into our operations we found ourselves completely surprised. The orders were coming in, people loved the product and we were suddenly everywhere. It all happened so fast. Sometimes Monette and I would look at each other and share a WTF look. On the outside it was amazing! Majorly #blessed. However, the thing we really wanted was how to be amazing in a sustainable manner. When I say we’re a small start-up simply means we are small. It was just Monette and I. Still, I would rather get a mullet than say no to clients. And we would find ourselves booked for events, sometimes tallying up to three events on a single day. 

So we found a way. We refined our system and added two employees. We decided to keep it tight as we were just hardly a year into the business. We decided not to add more money and make our current inventory work with the smallest army possible. There were offers to sell abroad. They were tempting but we wanted to be solid in home base first before treading into unknown territory. We wanted to correct our problems and perfect our operations. We knew our place in the market and we continue to grow using a blend of our shared intuition and knowledge. Taking things slow, respecting our pace and knowing our limits helped our brand grow into something both familiar and exciting. We did not want to be a flash in the pan.

Love lesson number 4: Supernovas burn bright but fast. Do things to keep it exciting but don’t be drawn with a buzzy and blinding pace. Seize the day by making the right decisions. Enjoy the learning process while finding ways for it to spark joy. I’m a fan of slow burns.

Now that we are growing, Monette and I make decisions everyday that will almost always inevitably affect the future of Gypsy Rosé. There are times we don’t agree with one another, but there are times you need to trust your partner and respect their decision. We talk it out. More often than not, we give each other leeway and we never diminish each other’s ideas. The respect we have for each other is immense. We know when to shut up and we also know how to objectively discuss our differences.

Love lesson number 5: When you’re making plans for the future, be practical and objective. Don’t let egos or emotions get in the way. The healthiest relationships are symbiotic, not territorial. Once you’re locked in a power struggle, you’re doomed. 

Lastly, we know what our product is. We don’t use trendy business jargon or radical business moves. When we created Gypsy Rosé we both said we want it to be a positive product. True enough everything we’ve done so far is aligned to our happy mantra which is “You drink to a dream”. Our clients often thank us for making their events extra enjoyable. We know what Gypsy Rosé is—we created its DNA. There were tempting offers for collaborations, but sometimes we just have to decline because in the long run it will confuse the identity of our product. People love the drink because of our happy and positive vibe. We’re not a snooty and complicated brand. We are inclusive and aspirational. Isn’t happiness an aspiration? Each day we make decisions that resonate our ethos. 

Final love lesson: Know who you are. You are after all the person your partner fell in love with. You can compromise in certain things but never sell out. Sticking to your authentic self can have its challenges. You can refine elements in your relationship as you grow, but be true to yourself. Be that lovable person and stay that lovable person. Don’t live and love through someone else’s eyes. When you love yourself, everything else blooms.

 

 

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