I speak with certified sommelier Casleah Herwaldt about how she turned her passion for wine into a business.
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What is 3 Questions For Solopreneurs?
The podcast about the solopreneur experience. Host Amie Kelbing asks every guest the same three questions about how they run their business, revealing that there is more than one way to run a successful business.
Welcome to three questions for solopreneurs. I'm your host, Amie Kelbing. Joining me today is the lovely Casleah Herwaldt, she is a certified sommelier, a small business owner, and she has her own wine label. Welcome Casleah,
Casleah: Hi, Amie. Thank you for having me today. I'm so excited.
Amie: thank you for being here. Yes, I'm excited too. You have a great story. Please tell us a little bit about your business and by business. I mean, businesses.
Casleah: thank you. Yeah. I'm a certified sommelier. I live in Hermosa beach, California, and my business is called By The Stem and it really? Yeah, like you mentioned, it has a lot of different facets. To it, it [00:01:00] started as like an events company in home, wine tastings and wine events and things like that. And it's ~um, ~really transformed over the pandemic and became like an official business where now I'm fully working through for myself over the pandemic, but I provide corporate virtual wine tasting.
So I have a lot of clients at big corporations, Google, Snapchat, all of us where we log on to Zoom and I guide them through a virtual one. And I ship wine all across the country. So everyone's sipping on the same wine together, and we have a lot of fun during those. I have a wine club called By The Stem Wine Club and it's a monthly subscription where I ship the wine to people's houses every single month and it's different packages every month.
So it really varies on what we're focusing on. Some months will be blind tasting other months that we've done like Canadian wines. We've done Portuguese wines, we've done all sorts of fun things. And then I have my own wine label, which is Casleah Wine. I have a Pinot Noir and a Rose out of Sonoma.
And so that's my fun projects. [00:02:00] And then I work with different brands on Instagram and blogging and I saw them on a lot of different like platforms, um, cozy meal, lifetime vintage, things like that. And I'm always in the market for new opportunities.
Amie: You are building an empire. I love it. I just want to talk a little bit about how like your business really did benefit from the pandemic because pre pandemic, who was thinking let's hop on Zoom and have an event.
Casleah: I know it's so crazy. I was working in healthcare literally up until March 17th, 2020, which was St Patrick's day. And I remember it so clearly because that weekend I went to a huge wine tasting event where I was around a ton of people. And. everyone was kind of starting to lock down, but also not really sure.
Like I was like, should I go, should I not go? Right. So then I went to my health care job on that Monday and I was like, I think I should probably wear a mask or something like, you know, this is, it's kind of getting serious. And then that Tuesday. [00:03:00] Everyone had started kind of locking down. And I remember everyone was kind of posting about, being sad that their St Patrick's day plans are canceled.
And so I decided to host a virtual happy hour where we dressed in green, let's celebrate St. Patrick's day on zoom, and we just had so much fun. Right. And so then I kind of made it a weekly thing. I was featured in Huffington Post for hosting one of the best virtual happy hours. And then my friends were talking about how they were running out of wine.
And remember, we were like too scared to go to the store at the beginning of the pandemic. Right. I remember I would like take my mail with a piece of paper towel and like put it on my patio for three days. Like we were afraid. Right. It was so scary at that point. And so I decided, oh my gosh, I can ship you some wine and I'll log on to zoom and we can taste it together.
And so it was literally by referrals, it was friends of friends and. One of my friends from the gym, her friend, um, she was in sales for or she still is for Google and her husband is in sales for [00:04:00] Snapchat. And so they loved the little get together. We did on zoom doing the virtual tasting that they were like, can you create a flyer so that we can spread this across the companies?
And from then on, I was literally booked solid with virtual wine tastings.
Amie: I love it. And like you said, we were all running out of wine. We were all scared and we were all bored out of our minds and looking for something to do. So what a perfect distraction you could offer people while learning something as well.
Casleah: Yeah. Yeah. It's so fun. I mean, wine's fun, right?
Amie: It's pretty fun. What did you tell us a little bit more about being sommelier, because it is a really intense world and if you're not that into wine, you might not know a lot about it. Myself included.
Casleah: Absolutely. Yeah. So there's kind of multiple programs you can get wine education through. Um, the most famous is probably the quartermaster sommelier. If you've ever seen like the som documentaries, it's kind of based on this program. And so they've kind of coined the term sommelier . Um, Four levels in this program.
So the [00:05:00] introductory course is a three-day weekend course and exam. And then the certified level is a three part exam of blind tasting service and theory. And it's really intense. It's like, um, I mean I studied for probably a year and a half to two years before signing up for the exam. And only half of my class even passed the exam and the half that did a lot of them were taking it for the second and third time.
So it's pretty intense then after that, there's the advanced level where you have to like, apply to even take the course. And they only take so many people per year. And then the master level, which is what these movies are based off of. And there's only like two or 300 in the world, so it's very, very intense.
But then there's another program called the wine and spirit education trust or the WSET. And they have four levels and I'm actually in their level four of this program, which is really intense. And I keep like everyday I'm like, what am I getting myself into? Because it is like, um, so it's called the diploma and it's it's five tests and.
a thesis paper. And so I've gotten [00:06:00] three of the tests done in pass, so I'm like halfway through. But the hardest is yet to come. I'm starting, it's called wines of the world and it's going to be like six months of really intense studying. But yeah, wine education is no joke. And the more you learn about wine, the more you realize.
I don't know. Right? Like it's a lifelong journey that we will always be learning more and more about wine and it's constantly changing. The market's always changing. So, luckily I'm passionate about it and enjoy it.
Amie: You're also are a wine influencer. So I mean, I see for you being able to like really combine these things and sort of like be a a wine thought leader and a wine, industry expert and getting out the word to people about what wines they should be drinking, what wines are great, what they should be looking for.
And maybe even simplifying, you know, you're taking all this knowledge and distilling it down and simplifying it for everybody.
Casleah: Yeah, I think that's key because the wine industry has kind of been this like closed doors, snobby kind of environment. And if you're a [00:07:00] consumer, you might not recognize it as much. Definitely like a, you know, a gentleman's club and it's definitely like, you know, well, that's cool. You tried that nice wine, but have you tried this nice wine or this vintage?
And it's just like kind of a constant game of keeping up with, you know, and so at the end of the day, like I mentioned, wine is fun and it's meant to be enjoyed and consumers, you know, don't really care about the vintages and dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, but they feel like they have to, because it makes them sound like they're smarter about wine.
And so my job is to make wine approachable and enjoyable. And, um, I always tell my clients the most important thing is that you're just enjoying the glass that's in front of you. If you love two buck Chuck in a solo cup with ice cubes, like good for you, right? Like it doesn't really matter at the end of the day, as long as you're enjoying the glass of wine, that's in front of you.
If you're sitting there and sipping this wine that you're supposed to like, cause it's a $600 bottle and you know, but you [00:08:00] actually hate it, then there's no point to that. Right?
Amie: no, there is absolutely no point and I it's so refreshing to hear that. Attitude, especially from a sommelier, just letting all of us have fun with wine and relax with it and really enjoy it and not stress out about it and view it as some kind of, some kind of elitist,
Casleah: Yeah, exactly, exactly. And like, I just, you know, hopefully after doing a tasting with me, you could appreciate it more and you can appreciate the difference between a two buck Chuck and an, you know, a more quality producer or something like that. But, you know, yeah. It's and it's a learning curve, right?
That's the beauty of wine. There's a million different bottles out there. And so, um, there's something for everyone.
Amie: I love it. And speaking of everyone, let's talk about your clients and the people that you serve. Um, so the first question that I ask everybody is, uh, why do you work with the people that you work with? Did they find you, or did you find them.
Casleah: [00:09:00] great question. Um, this is kind of evolved over a while. So I used to, when I first, like my first wine gig, I guess you could say was I was working for this company, um, which was kind of like, um, You know, like a multi-level marketing company called wine shop at home. And so it was like in-home wine tasting parties, like Tupperware parties, but for wine.
Right. And so my clientele used to be more just like, you know, groups of girlfriends or families or couples or whatever. And then it really evolved over the pandemic in reaching these corporations. And it's been so cool to watch, um, these corporations come together for these events because I'm getting people who are, you know, Chicago, New York Texas.
Colorado California, all coming onto one zoom together. And it's cool to watch the teams bonding and learning about each other and, you know, kids pop on the screens and dogs pop on the screens and getting to bond over, you know, technology. Um, so yeah, my clientele is mostly corporations, but of course I do [00:10:00] friends and family tastings as well.
My biggest clients. Yeah. Google, Snapchat, Oracle. And it's all referral. It's just been, um, it's been so cool because it's just, you know, what people enjoy the experience. They share it with their friends, with their coworkers or their friends, and, um, more people keep booking. So, and I'm shocked. It's still going strong in January, 2022.
Here we are.
Amie: Yeah, I'm sure you didn't predict that we would still be so online. Um, but it's great that you are still offering this so that everyone can experience this and has something to do. Um, I want to talk a little bit too about, uh, referral, how referrals helped you launch your wine label.
Casleah: yeah, that's kind of a fun story. So, um, it all started with my Instagram when it was kind of smaller and starting to grow. Um, brands started kind of reaching out to me to send samples for reviews and posting and things like that. And so this brand called [00:11:00] Prohibido wines, um, which the wine Ceasar, he's a Mexican and he makes a lot of
Mexican wines. And then he also makes these Sonoma wines. And so he wanted to send me some Prohibido wines and he just, we were like WhatsApp , chatting about it. And he was like, gosh, I'm so busy. I really need to hire a salesperson. And so I was like, oh my gosh, I can totally do that. And so that's kind of where this all transitioned in, but, um, because I met him, he had.
So long story short, I basically sold them out of wine from doing these virtual tasting. So he introduced me to, uh, Peter Kukeri who, um, also has his own wine label Kukeri wines. And, um, I was up in Napa and we were, I was taking my exam and Peter was kind of like coming out with us at this custom crush facility and taste some of the wines from the barrels.
And because of that connection, um, I was able, you know, we were tasting the wines and Peter. Extra. Rosé basically, that's got all my wine label was born, but I [00:12:00] think like this is kind of the, the point to get across to people. Listening is it's all about being open for opportunities. Like I think a lot of people would have just been like, oh my gosh, you're crazy.
But you know, I'm like, yeah, let's do it. Why not? You know? So that's like how opportunities are born by saying yes.
Amie: Do you have any plans to launch any more wines? I know that that, uh, that Rose it's like your, the best Rose that you've ever had, and that's why you were willing to put your face on it and support it. Um, any other wines that we can expect in the near future or for our
Casleah: no plans yet. Um, something about me is I am not like a planner. Like I'm gonna, I like opportunities come my way. And I say, yeah. So if somebody presented something I'd be down, um, you know, but no, I have no plans in the future. I'll probably have. For sure. Continue the Pinot Noi r um, that's been getting so much good feed.
Well, [00:13:00] they're both getting amazing feedback, but everyone loves the Pinot and, or like everyone who's tasted it. I've had a master of sommelier taste it and blind tasted like obsessed with it. Like it's a really fantastic Pinot noir, so I'll for sure continue that. Um, but yeah, no plans yet.
Amie: Well, let us know as soon as you have word, let us know. Um, why don't we move into the second question. So this is kind of about how you, um, you know, the scope of how you'd like to work with clients. Do you want to work with people, um, on a one-on-one basis or would you like to help more people and reach a wider audience?
Casleah: Yeah, that's a great question. Um, I definitely strive for the wider audience. Like I think the message of making wine approachable and bringing, bringing the fun back into it and taking the seriousness out of it needs to be a message spread on wider audiences. Right. Um, you know, I love working with my clients usually like, you know, they'll, it'll be more [00:14:00] one-on-one thing.
And my goal is always to meet. Extremely simple for them. So like on their end, all I need is a confirmed date and time and a list of addresses and an invoice paid, and then I handle everything else. And so I love doing that for the clients. It's always the con continuous feedback of like, oh my gosh, this was way too easy.
Like, is that it? You know? And so I love that one-on-one kind of work, but as far as like my clientele, I definitely want to reach as many people as possible and keep. You know, inclusivity is kind of the theme of my wine and my brand, and I just want it to be inclusive for everyone.
Amie: right, because wine can be such an expensive thing and it can be such a, like a prestige attached to the price tag and maybe not the wine. So, um, I think it's always great to include more people from. Economic backgrounds to be able to enjoy this, uh, you know, this really, um, [00:15:00] important cultural thing.
Casleah: absolutely. And it's kind of a myth. Like you don't have to spend more money to get a higher quality wine. You know, there's a lot of really amazing affordable quality wines, but if you are going to buy more expensive wines, like, uh, I'm, I'm pretty bougie. I like my luxury wines, you know, but I want you to be able to appreciate it and understand why this is a higher.
Retail, you know, wine and, um, being able to fully appreciate what you're sipping on. Yeah.
Amie: I love it. I love it. Um, and we can move on to our last question. Um, what are the benefits to the client when they're working with a solopreneur versus working with a larger company?
Casleah: Yeah, I think it's the personal touch, right? Like it's, um, the. The customization that's available, the flexibility that's available. Um, you know, especially the last couple of months with the omicron, like we've been able to be really flexible with, you know, having to reschedule and things like that. And I think you don't find that as [00:16:00] much in corporations, you kind of get like automated emails and things like that.
And I really try to make it personal for what my clients want. Um, and you know, you're supporting somebody like the money goes directly towards. Me being able to eat and afford my apartment. Right? Yeah. Supporting small businesses.
Amie: And not just that supporting your business so that you can continue to grow. And so you can continue to help all of these people enjoy wine. That's great. I mean, and it's especially interesting because, um, you are working with so many big companies. You know, coming in as a solopreneur, coming in as someone from a much smaller scale, that's, you know, must be so refreshing for them to, you know, have, have this attention and not have things get lost kind of in the, you know, in the chain of command.
Casleah: Yeah, it's just, it's one big blessing because if it wasn't for that initial Google and Snapchat kind of in the door, I think it is really hard to kind of break into that corporate world. And now I think a lot [00:17:00] of corporations work with me because they've seen that I've worked with other corporations, right.
So that's definitely, but the power of networking, the power of reaching out and, you know, knowing people that is like the key to everything.
Amie: it really is. It's so powerful. And I'm, I mean, that's how we met each other as well through a networking group. Um, and that's one of my favorite things about it as people that I might not have met, otherwise that I'm able to connect with through this group.
Casleah: Yeah, it's amazing.
Amie: It is it's. It's so simple. There is not a magic button, or there's not a magic thing that you can do to grow your business.
It is just good old fashioned human connection and keeping these connections nurture throughout the duration of your business and beyond
Casleah: I think like literally the key to success is integrity. Being your word, doing the right thing and meeting people and putting yourself out there and meeting [00:18:00] people. And I think that's, that's it like if you want to be successful, that's what you got to do.
Amie: Right. It's it's yeah, no formula. There's no, get rich quick scheme. It's all. It's all about that one factor. Just that really personal connection. Um, I'd wanted to talk to a little bit about. journey to becoming a solopreneur um, I like to ask every, uh, solopreneur that I have on my show, uh, to give a quick word of advice to solar preneurs, but I wanted to talk a little bit about, um, how you got here, because you started it off in the healthcare industry.
Um, had you always wanted to be an entrepreneur or was that something that just came about because there was an opportunity for you to start a business..
Casleah: Yeah. I always say wine found me. It was definitely like a passion that turned into a business. And I think because I was so passionate and still am so passionate about learning about wine and. You know, constantly making it, um, the top of my mind [00:19:00] that it turned into a business, it was never my plan to be an entrepreneur.
I think I always knew like healthcare wasn't necessarily my end game. Like when I got my occupational therapy assistant degree, like I went to community college and it was done in two years and I knew like, I'm just going to do this because I don't know what I'm going to do. And I knew I had.
Immediately make money and it wasn't expensive to get that degree. And so I always knew, like there was something else out there for me. If I knew I was going to be an entrepreneur, I probably would've got a business degree. Cause that would be helpful. But no, I had no idea. It was definitely just the passion that made it into what it is now.
Amie: So, what advice would you give to any solo preneur who's on the fence.
Casleah: Yeah. I think kind of what I mentioned, like being open for opportunities, right. Um, just putting yourself out there, being comfortable with being uncomfortable. Like a lot of times, there's these things happening and you're like, oh, I don't know if I should do that. Just do it, just do it. Like it's [00:20:00] worth it.
And worst case is like, you, you go and walk away from, you're like, Ooh, that wasn't great. It's not the end of the world, right. Since being open for opportunities, being comfortable, being uncomfortable, and then being kind, being your word, be being integrous right as key. And, um, because that'll always follow you forever.
Like if you're cutting corners or you're scheming or doing things, it will catch up and it won't turn into a long-term. Successful thing. Right. And then just meeting people, being out, putting yourself out there, join a networking group. Like The Advance has been incredible. If you're a woman, entrepreneur, absolutely highly recommended, but just put yourself out there and meet people because that is really just how things connect together.
Amie: I could not agree more. That just take, just take that leap. I know it's frightening to step into the unknown and starting a business always feels more unknown than just getting a job somewhere. But, um, I really think that having that [00:21:00] control over your own working environment and having that control over your own career is, is worth so much more than. Uh, job and it's more secure. There's more security there. Everything you learn and everything that, um, you know, that, that you get to learn to know how to do along the way helps you. And really like you, you might, your business might fail, but if you do bring that integrity and you take all the skills that you learned, you'll be able to start another business.
Casleah: Yeah. And the passion, like if. Think about something all the time. And it's so important to you and it's on the top of your mind all the time, then like the money will follow. Right. But you have to be passionate about them, right? Like enthusiasm is one of the principles of being prosperous, right? Like you need to be passionate about what you're doing or else you'll never be able to sell it.
Amie: No, you won't and you won't be able to sustain a business either. [00:22:00] You just will lose momentum and you will lose, uh, the fun in it. And you will just do anything else to get out of it. If that passion isn't there in the first place.
Amie: So, um, we're coming to the end of the episode, but I like to end by giving you a chance to demonstrate what it's like to work with. You.
Casleah: oh, amazing. Okay, cool. So when I do my virtual tastings, I usually do something. I call how to sip like a sommelier and I teach kind of the proper way to sip wine because it really enhances the whole wine tasting experience and it really helps you appreciate the whole, um, tasting experience. So there's seven steps and they all start with the letter S and usually I go into like a, uh, in-depth kind of description about each step, which I won't do on here.
Cause I wouldn't take my hour tasting, but um, I'll kind of teach you the seven Ss so the first one is sight and you actually look at the color of the wine, because it really tells us a lot about the wine, whether it's a white wine or red [00:23:00] wine, how di how in depth the color is, is it light, medium or dark, and also the reflections, right?
Are they green or the yellow? Are they magenta? All of this looking at the color. Then after we sight, we swirl and of course we swirl the wine to open it up aerate at the aromas, get it kind of going. And then our next S would be smell. And this is a really important step that a lot of people skip, they usually go straight to sipping, but smelling the wine is where we get the bouquet and the expression of the wine.
And we're looking for, you know, fruits and herbs and vegetables and oak notes and floral notes and earthy notes. There's so many things that can come from the nose of the wine. And then after we smell, we sip and then we also swish the wine. So this is another important step. And of course you've seen soms that like swish, like aggressively, it doesn't need to be all of that, but just getting it to coat your pallet and getting the whole mouth filled with the wine, the tongue, the roof of the mouth.
Right. Getting in around, because we're not only tasting for all of those flavors, but then the [00:24:00] texture of the wine and how it makes your mouth feel. And then of course, swallow or spit if you want. And then the last S is savoring the wine and how it finishes after you've swallowed. And this is where we actually test the quality of a wine.
And so there's an imbalance. How long does the flavor last in your mouth after you've swallowed? How complex is it? How intense is it and all of that. So that's how to sip like a sommelier. The seven S's of tasting wine.
Amie: Thank you so much for sharing that with us. Casleah
So useful. I'm going to use that the next time I'm having a glass of wine and actually appreciate the wine that's in front of
Casleah: I love that. You're welcome. Thank you.
Amie: Thank you. Please tell us what do you have coming up and how can people find
Casleah: absolutely. So, the next exciting thing is I'm hosting a gallon times day event, which is a virtual women's event and it's going to be so much fun. I'm so excited. Um, way bigger and better than last year. We have tons of women speakers coming on, who a lot of them who I've met through this [00:25:00] networking group, but we're going to have fashion tips and health tips and confidence tips and wine tasting and cocktail classes and tons of like amazing things, but also tons of giveaway prizes.
Everyone's going to walk away with a prize. It's going to be so much fun. So you can get the tickets it's on event bright. If you search like virtual Galentine's day, you'd probably might find it. Or if you search my name casts, Leah. I pop up easily on Google and I'm the only one in the world.
Amie: I will include a link to it.
And we'll get the link. And then yeah, so that's my big event coming up, but people can find me. My Instagram is by the stem. Like you hold your wine glass by the stem and that's also my blog. I have a lot of really amazing, helpful resources on my blog. I have a free wine and food pairing guide. I have a free ebook on blind tasting.
I have lots of blog posts, a hundred wines I would buy for under $20. 10 things you should know before you go to California wine country, lots of helpful resources on there. That's the best way to find me.
Amie: Perfect. Thank you. Once again, so much for being here. This [00:26:00] was such a great conversation and learning not only about wine, but about business.
Casleah: you so much.
Amie: All right. We will see you next time on three questions for solopreneurs.