Thursday, November 26th, 2020

Almost an Entrepreneur: Lynsey Croll, Wine Rep

By Cathy Watters on Mar 14 2011 • Filed under Business

Lynsey Croll, Vancouver-based Wine Rep.

Lynsey Croll has a unique job that gives her many of the ‘entrepreneurial perks’ while still having a regular paycheque.

She's a Wine Rep.

“I jokingly tell people I drink and drive for a living,” she says. (Of course, not at the same time!) Lynsey drives around town, taking samples of wine to bars, restaurants, and private wine and liquor stores. She meets with decision-makers and offers them taste samples.

While she's not actually running her own business – she contracted with an agency and has a portfolio to represent several wineries – her job offers her many of the same things that people who go into business for themselves crave: independence, the ability to set her own schedule and working from home.

Before becoming a wine rep, Lynsey worked in a restaurant and  considered going to culinary school. However, she became fascinated by the way wine and foods are paired together, and her interest in wine led her to accept a job in a wine store, where she eventually became manager. Her passion and knowledge for wine led her to become a Wine Rep about 7 years ago and she’s been loving it ever since.

“It's freedom,” she says. “I set my own days. I called in sick today, but I've been taking phone calls, sending emails, I'm just not out there sneezing on people.”

She loves that she can work at home when she wants, and that every day is different. One day she may be at home taking phone calls and making appointments. Another day, she may be attending wine events or meeting with restaurant managers.

“It's all about relationships,” she says, adding that social media is as important as making phone calls and meeting in person. She reads a several industry e-newsletters, blogs and forums daily  and belongs to various social media platforms.

“I've received orders from people I've never met, just via Twitter and Facebook,” she says, adding that there are so many people blogging about wine that she doesn't have to. She just joins the conversation.

One of the perks to her job are free trips. Last summer she went to California for the Society of Wine Educators Conference. And before that, she was the only Canadian invited to go on a wine tour of Germany, hosted by a company that owns many of the German wineries. She visited 25 wineries and tried 285 different Rieslings during the two-week trip.

Wine Repping marries benefits of entrepreneurial and  employee lifestyles.

“I met people from Estonia, Japan, California and New York,” she says, noting she's still Facebook friends with many of them.

While it may seem quite glamorous, it’s also a lot of work. Some days she may get all her work done in as little as five hours. Another day, she may be working until 10 pm. September and December are “super busy,” she says, but then the start of the year is so dead, “All the wine reps go on vacation in January.”

It’s a job that requires being outgoing and proactive. If a new restaurant opens, she'll show up with a catalogue in hand. If there's an industry wine tasting event, she'll be there even if it's for a type of wine she doesn't represent.

“You can make 12 appointments in half an hour just by showing up, having a glass of wine in your hand and chatting with people,” she says.

Being a woman in the wine industry can be difficult. She's had to deal with genderism and agism. Starting the career in her early 20's, many people had the attitude that she was too young to know anything useful. And as bizarre as it seems in this day and age, some managers and owners refuse to even talk to her because – gasp! – she’s not a man! And they have pretty weird ideas of what a woman’s doing in the business.

“You have to be nice about it and you have to be persistent,” she says. “You have to show them that you're not some Bimbo who is out there to sleep with all the restauranteers and get free food and booze out of it.”

Sure, it would be easy to get mad, but Lynsey chooses a different approach. When she comes up against people who say, “You're a woman, he won't talk to you,” she just moves on to the next person on her list. She knows she'll eventually meet them at a wine event, sooner or later. One of her toughest (and newest) clients came on board after refusing to do business with her for four years.

For people who want to be a wine rep, Lynsey suggests working  at a wine store or a restaurant first. Get to know your wines thoroughly. And start out representing the $15-$40 wines because this is a popular price-range for most people. Remember that most important things you can bring to the table isn’t a certificate or a pile of credential, but experience.

“You can read all the books you want,” she says, “but if you haven't tasted it, you don't know what it's like.”


2 Comments

  1. Hi Lynsey,

    I am serious becoming a wine rep. My background has been in resort and residential sales so I figure that I have mastered the art of communication however I am just embarking on the knowledge of wine. I am considering taking a wine sales course in the Okanagan and will try to find work there as well to get started. Do you have any suggestions or people that you may know that I could start networking in the Okanagan?

  2. Nice write up Linsey. Good publicity, now go get ’em.

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