A certified sommelier, journalist and wine educator, Erin literally drinks and throws parties for a living. Having earned her designation from the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers in 2008, she worked for some of Toronto’s leading venues, including Canoe and the Badminton and Racquet Club of Toronto, before opening The Wine Sisters. A regular guest wine and drinks expert on CTV’s The Social, Erin’s wine writing has also been featured in the Huffington Post, Maclean's, theloop.ca, and Canadian Meetings and Events magazine. She also wrote a tour guide to visiting Niagara and Prince Edward County wine country called Lake Ontario Uncorked. In 2017, she opened her second business, Drink Toronto, which offers immersive wine, beer and cocktail tours to Toronto’s coolest restaurants and bars.
Hello and thank you so much for listening to episode 5 of steal from the best, a podcast to help listeners succeed in both business and life by stealing invaluable ideas and experiences from the best in class. We aren’t talking to the Richard Bransons or the Jeff Bezos’s which are the one in a millions…we’re talking with guests who are awesome people, and have a more relatable, raw story of business and life who share their experiences that have got them to where they are. I’m Brad Semotiuk, and along with Andrew Hodd, we’ll be talking to Erin Henderson, a certified sommelier, journalist and wine educator, Erin literally drinks and throws parties for a living. We talk about treating people the way that you’d want to be treated yourself and making them feel important to help build loyalty. She touches on building her personal brand and how she’s been successful with it. Erin talks about living life on your own terms and staying focussed to work toward your goals no matter how long that journey may take. Thanks again for listening and hope you enjoy and continue to listen to and steal ideas from the experience of our amazing lineup of guests.
Andrew Hodd from Vintage venues for another episode of Steal from the Best. A little different today we have a glass of wine in front of us. We're lucky enough to have Aaron Henderson, Torontosommelier and Toronto socialite.
Aaron you know, we’re going to jump right into you're not a shy person. Presenting certainly comes naturally to you and what are the earliest jobs was as a news broadcaster with 680. Tell us a bit about that experience and how prepared you for life as a famous, somewhat famous in sommelier?
I wouldn't say, my famous sommelier. I think it's really quite flattering that you do so. Thanks very much for having me on. I really appreciate it. But yeah, so quick snippet of my life:
So basically my first career when I was really young, like from 0 to 20, I was in acting. I even went to university for drama. All of that kind of stuff.
And eventually, I realized I didn't have enough love for acting and drama to be able to sustain that career forever and just always is a waitress. And there's nothing wrong with being a waitress. I've been one for many years, but I didn't want to do that for the rest of my life. So I thought I would go the much more secure route of being a journalist. Because you know, obviously far more secure.
So after I dropped out of university and I moved to Brampton with $300 in my pocket, which was my parent's proudest moment, I worked in Brampton for a little bit, came back, worked at a Red Lobster and was like, hey, what am I going to do if I'm not quite like I'm doing exactly what I said I don't want to do. And I went into broadcasting. So I went to journalism school, worked really hard, got a fantastic internship at what was CFRB, but now it's just called Newstalk. and that started a career of almost a decade in broadcasting.
So I was a broadcaster for CTV 680, as you mentioned. I wrote for a little bit for the Canadian Press and, Yeah after that started that tenure, year after it started, the shine started to dull. I left broadcasting and I became a Somali. I ended up working for other people. I worked in Toronto for a couple of the top venues and then eventually left and became an entrepreneur.
So, I mean, that's a huge career shift already.
You started off in broadcasting and then got into kind of the hospitality side of things. What let you make that shift?
Well, commitment's not really my thing. So, look I'm not really a committed individual.
No, you know, what would happen is I always wanted to be an entrepreneur and I didn't realize I wanted to be an entrepreneur.
But when I was really young, You know, I remember one of my earliest memories is not telling my parents, but taking some toys that I no longer needed and having an Adhoc garage sale with some of my other girlfriends down the street. And I mean, I was looking like five or six years old or whatever and relight like that day we made 50 bucks. 50 bucks when you're five is pretty good dough. So I always love doing stuff like that. I was a journalist. I really am attracted to the arts. I'm really attracted to creativity. I'm really attracted to things that make me have to stretch a little bit that they're not going to be the same thing every day.
And journalism was perfect for that. For the time I went, I wasn't journalism, though.
I was doing a lot of like heavy news, a lot of politics, a lot of crime. I covered the Queen's Park budget. Those are not typically things that come naturally to me and those are not right. Like those are not typically things that work out well for me. I covered the SARS case like, really? That's just not my job. So I always loved food and wine. When I was really little, my dad was involved in wine and so it was always part of our table. And in the 80s in Canada, the wine was not kind of a thing. But my parents would pour milk and wine glasses. So while they had a glass of wine, we would be drinking milk, wine glasses and then we were able to.That was always part of my thing. I love throwing parties.
I love that kind of stuff. So when I left journalism, my sister was already a sommelier having much more fun than I was. So I became a sommelier too.
Andrew Hodd :
Oh, very cool.
So tell us about taking the leap. Like you said, you wanted to do that. Do you want to have your own venture? You had built some experiences somewhere. Tell us about that leap into your own venture?
Yeah. That's what people ask me the most. Right. It is like, how do you actually do that? How do you get the bravado? How do you get the courage to take something that nukes?
When I left being a journalist, I was I had a mortgage. I had a life. I had responsibilities, fiscal responsibility, things that were serious. You didn't pay your mortgage or whatever. I had contributions, all of those things. And when I left to start my own company, you know, within a matter of years of leaving journalism like I to liquidate my RSP, I remortgaged my house. I had to live off a line of credit a while. I did everything that people, smart people don't want to do.
So how did I make the leap and why did I take the leap? It actually wasn't such a serious transition as you think. Earlier you asked me, Andrew, and then I ignored you, but earlier you asked me about what were the skills in journalism that you can apply to be a Somalia or being an entrepreneur. And they're actually very similar and there are similar skills to just simply being a good person. So even when I was preparing for this podcast, you know, I always want to deliver something that's a value to people. So whether I'm on this podcast or whether I'm running wine school or whether back in the day I was on the radio trying to tell somebody about something important happening in their community. I always want to deliver practical insights and true value and I always go by that. So whenever we put out a blog, whenever we put out a social media post, whenever we do a wine school, whenever I do a wine tasting, I don't want to just do it because I want the clickbait and I want the glory. That's not going to get you very far.
And so I think that when you take that leap, it wasn't so difficult. Because I had already had those fundamental things I already had. Yes, There's gonna be a sense of great bravery. Yes, There's gonna be a sense of, ads like I got to make it happen. But, a lot of those tools were actually very good, and I could take those tools because when I started the Wine Sisters almost 10 years ago, I had zero budget. And so I just looked on what my skills already were, and I did things like I wrote three types three columns a week for The Huffington Post. Obviously, the Huffington Post doesn't pay, but it does have great exposure. I wrote a free column for I wrote a column for Toronto magazine, which I'm not even sure it exists anymore. But that was for free. So I knew what I could do was I could rely on my journalism skills to basically shamelessly self-promote in a way that also then delivered value.
And I know it's not only the wine sisters where you've also got to drink Toronto. Can you tell us a bit about drink Toronto?
OK, I started in Toronto three years ago and it was really cool. And the wine sisters' specializes in customized jurors to wine country and wine tastings and that kind of thing. And I still do a lot of writing, as I said. So we were invited by we - I mean, my sister and I, we were invited to something called a fem tour, and that would be to Rio, which is in Spain, to go visit a couple of wineries there. Before we left for Rio. I had never been to Madrid, so we tacked on our own three or four days in Madrid. And my sister, I don't even know how she did it. She just stumbled upon a food tour. Because being a former journalist and just the type of travel I like, I don't wanna end up in like Dundas Square, Madrid. You know, nothing against not a square. But I want to go where the locals are. I want to discover the place. I want to get to the heartbeat of that particular place.
So we ended up on this fabulous food tour. Gave us a sense of direction, showed us places we'd want to revisit all of those things.
And Courtney, that's my sister. Courtney said to me, this is great. Like Toronto doesn't have anything like this. You need to. You need to start this in Toronto. But obviously, being Smalley's, we'll do with drinks instead of food like this needs to happen is fantastic. Like we'll get that started when we get home. I said, no. no.. not for me. I'm not into it like I'm done like the wine sisters, was it? She owns half the wine sisters. but is not necessarily somebody who loves entrepreneurship. So even though she still owns half of the wine sister, she's gone back to work for four companies and is still like a great sounding board in all of those things. But not loving entrepreneurship says. OK, well, this is a great idea. How am I going to? I don't do it alone. Doing things alone is lonely. So, on that same fem tour, familiarization tours, what it means. There was a really good colleague of mine. I'm not even sure how to. His name is Dick Snyder. Prolific food and wine journalist in in Toronto. And I had already known him for a few years on a very like being at the same events. And after spending a week with him and some other people, I said, you're a great guy. You really know a lot about food, wine, all that kind of stuff. Would you be interested? And I thought about it for a few weeks after this. And then eventually I saw it another event, as you know. Let's talk I think you might be a great partner for this. So he partnered up with me on that, and that was three years ago. And so now I run the Wine Sisters, which does, like I said, the tastings and then with Drink Toronto. It's cool because is wine, beer and cocktail tours to China's most interesting restaurants, which people find really tasty and really interesting. And then combine the two of them, drink Toronto and the Wine Sisters. We partnered for lots of reasons to do creative things like events like Patio Party, which we've partnered with vintage venues for. Similarly, another partnership with Andrew venues would be our wine school. So it's all like a big love him.
Yeah. I was looking at Drink Toronto and I notice that you actually have 4.9 out of 5 stars on your Google rating. That's pretty incredible because usually, you get the ad you should see the ad. Usually the people that are going online and rate these are oh I would give it 0 serves if I could but I'm only giving it one. You get the upset customers that bring those ratings down. But yours is way up there. I mean, what do you feel that you're doing differently than anybody else? That keeps everybody super satisfied and I guess motivates people to write that positive review.
Isn't that the million-dollar question? Like, I don't know.And you can have a team of marketers. You're gonna sit around and do pie charts and data analytics and customer consumer insights, all that stuff.
We're not those people. It's me. And it's a deck for a Drink Toronto. And we're just sort of Cheers. We're just sort of like taking a flyer at it. Where I think the differentiation is, is that we actually, Walk the talk, and what I mean by that is we always want to over-deliver. And whether it's on our tour or whether it's on our in school, whether it's on our Birthday party. There is no way you can pay for a ticket and say that it wasn't worth it.
Like we swept those details because we don't we're not you know, we're not Coca-Cola, we're not Walmart. We don't have these great big budgets where we can do whatever they do. We've got to like we just gotta be honest and we've got to be real. And we've got to.
So people love what we do because we go above and beyond, so your ticket price for our most expensive tour, they're not inexpensive. I think the most expensive to wear we have is something like 289 for a five-stop tour. But when you leave, there you go. That was bloody fun. That was a great time. That will stick with me for the rest of my life. I'm glad I did my bachelorette with them or my client team, but whatever it might be.
And we really, truly accept those details to make sure that when you're leaving, things are awesome. If, for example, if something with we're even all of our tour guides, they have the instruction and they have the freedom that should we should you feel like something wasn't awesome? You make it awesome if you buy them another round, if you get in or by the get an order, something, whatever you need to do, do it to make them say it was great.
: Yes. So you empower your employees?
So any way you can do it, in my opinion. If you're going to be that micro-mini and I hated being micromanaged when I was working for other people, I just found it really insulting and frustrating. Why would I have them working for me if I can't trust what they're going to do?
That to me, that just seems ridiculous.
You're talking about before you were broken. From the beginning, it always worked to provide value and engage people on the level. And we can’t live in this weird world of ghosting. And people just not returning emails and whatnot.
And it's really not that hard to provide great customer service. You know, it takes a lot of work to provide excellent customer service. But sometimes it's like we're just living in a world where people just want a callback.
Well. And at the end of the day, I'm not perfect. Right. Like I'm no angel. Customer service is hard. And that means if I need to take a beat, if I get like if I'm dealing with somebody who's really challenging and I need to take, you know, a 10-minute walk around the block before I respond to them, then I do like I'm not saying that I'm just some sort of altruistic angel. I'm the only one drinking, though. Maybe that's why I do it so well. Maybe that's why I have my 4.9 I'm already. So you drink.
Write your review on the last.
Yeah, That's it. Tell us now. Tell us now. Which is the secret? Yeah. But you're 100% right. Like it's like when somebody is feeling frustrated, no matter if they're calling a call center because their phone isn't working properly or they just want to make sure that they have the right hotel room because they're going on some special trip somewhere or whatever the case might be.
They deserve to have somebody make them feel better about that purchase. Because once you start becoming really arrogant and we start seeing this a lot of the time with, you know, like when you start seeing these really big companies where you get not called that tree, you can't get through to anybody.
You're not inspiring loyalty at all. And all I've got is a small business. All I've got is a small business is to make sure that I get back to people. And you'd be surprised how many people I get back to them. I'm on my phone all the time. It drives some people crazy. But the people who know me really well. They know that this is just the way my life is gonna be for the next little while. We get back to them within an hour. If you call me at 3:00 in the morning, okay, maybe not. But like we get back to them within an hour and even if I'm out at another event and I'm the one who picks up the email, then I'll be. I got this. I've heard from you. I'm gonna get back to you. People just need to be heard. And that's it. And that's where we get people who like what we do.
Where did you learn that from? Or was I kind of self-taught?
It's self-taught. And I think it just comes down to the do and others. Right. Like do and others. And I know that I want to feel like somebody I did read a great book and your listeners might be really interested in this. It's by Danny Meyer. And Danny Meyer is a
We've already talked about Danny Meyer. The first podcast, actually.
Well, he's fantastic. So I wanted to put up on my LinkedIn and then it happened over the Christmas holidays. So I didn't get to do it. But I read this great book by Danny Meyer called setting the Table. And he puts a great phrase to it, which is everybody's got to sign around their neck that says make me feel important. Some glow- super- super loud, some glow- Not so much, but make everyone feel important. And so we try to do that. We try to be conscious of that.
He just put out a there was a tweet that came through or somebody tweeted at him. something along the lines. Hey, I'm trying to get through to one 11 Madison Park or whatever that restaurant was. I can't do it. It's been eight times now. I'm hearing my gift certificate at work. I got this gift certificate for my wedding.
Did it? He wrote he tweeted outback. I'm really bummed to hear that we haven't owned that restaurant in seven years. But I'll tell you what, bring your gift certificate to any one of these restaurants that we do own and we will honor that.
That's amazing. Yeah. Who would actually do that? No one.
Everyone says they'll do that. No one actually does that. And I just think that's fantastic. That's a great story now.
That's a great story now. Now you're a great storyteller.
Yeah, absolutely. Can you tell us a story about when you've really had something specific where you've had a really difficult time and how you persevered? With one, sisters are doing it.
It all started 9 years ago.
So I think one of the things that I've learned from being an entrepreneur is you do need to have those tough conversations. And I do really pride myself on having a lot of good communication. And I do really pride myself now on even making sure I give credit where credit's due. The email I sent, we got a great couple of the last few days. We've got a great some really, really great, great feedback about Kyle, who's the executive chef here at Vantage.
And, you know, I wanted to make sure that I sent that on. Because you could keep it and sit on it, but it's not gonna help anybody. And I think Kyle was over noon about it and really quite a few give about those compliments.
I think one of the things that I found the most difficult over. This time and I have a different story than, let's say some of your other guests that have been on this show or will be on this show that I've literally bootstrapped, everything I and even to the point where I'm a single person.
So I don't even have a partner that if who if money's not coming in this month, I can. My partner will pick up the slack and pay the mortgage. That's not happening. So I think some of the things that have really been difficult have just boiled down to the knots. I think that what everybody experiences simple cash flow. Right. We do a lot of work with a lot of big companies and a lot of those big companies have 90-day payout terms or whatever the case might be. I know they're going to pay it. I know they're gonna be great for it. But until they do, I'm eating rice, you know, So those are the things. And I think the only way that you're going to keep going is to be able to keep going. And you need to have that plan.
And I remember very clearly when I opened up the wine sisters and I had like a little wine and cheese with some of my closest girlfriends. I mean, it was a summertime was sitting on my balcony and I was like, you know what, guys? I know there's gonna be some tough times ahead. I know that. I also know that I don't know how tough it's going to get. And there are some times where, you know, that thing where you hear about people who run businesses having sleepless nights. Yeah, I got 20 bucks on my bank account. And I'm not exactly sure where I'm going to be able. I've had to go to people and it's not like I've had to go to my dad and say, Hey dad, can you spot me a couple of grand? Because there's like I know I'm a grown adult. And at one point in time, I was on the media.
But now I need some money or, you know like you just need those little things to get you through. Those are not exactly prideful moments. Those are actually quite humiliating moments.
But if you love it enough and if you've got enough of a vision. If it does get better and it will get better. So I know that wasn't exactly what you're looking for, where, hey you know, this happened in the Bentley. I don't have one of those exact black and white moments, but I have nine years of.
Exactly. You know, it's a great story. Is itthe grind?
It is the grind. And you've got to know why you're doing it.
Yeah, that's what motivates.
You know, you talk about cash flow being one of the challenges at some point. What are some of the other challenges that you face Drink Toronto in the White Sisters?
Well, again, like if we could have a marketing board, sometimes I actually think that's probably going to as a bit of a detriment to people.
Some of the biggest challenges in addition to cash flow, I think marketing and just getting people to know who you are.
And I'm lucky in the sense that I've been around for 9 years.
But we'll do business. As I said, we do a lot of business with big corporate groups. So could be a KPMG, could be a Deloitte, could be a bank, could be whatever. And we might do five or six, five or six events with one of these firms a year. And every time I'll say, How did you hear about us? And I'm hoping that somewhere there's some sort of internal find or something. Thank you, Andrew. There's some sort of thinks there's some sort of internal find where they're like, oh, well, Mary from accounting recommended or whatever. Now we just Googled you. And so on one hand. We're getting Google and you're finding us and our websites doing its job because we're looking like we should.
But on the other hand, I'm like, well, how come you bloody people aren't talking to each other so that you can know who we are? So that's a bit of a challenge. Marketing will always be a challenge. How do we rise above the fray?
I think one of the frustrating pirate parts that I'm experiencing lately. And I don't know if there's an answer to it. Perhaps you guys do is two things. 1: I find that there's now a lot of copycats and everyone says, Hey flattery is the best form of the imitation is a form of flattery. It's not. It's absolutely not. It's the most frustrating thing that I've, like, had to grind out. And then somebody copies what we do. That's annoying. Yeah. But then another frustrating part, and I was debating whether I should put this on my LinkedIn and crowdsource it and get some ideas.
But we do bowstring Toronto and the Wine Sisters.
I get really excited when I get to make proposals for people because we do really creative, really inventive experiences and I have no problem sharing everything I know on my social media channels on my blog. I will share everything on a podcast.
But there's probably about 30% of our prospects or 30% of our inquiries will end up going another direction. And a lot of the time it's because I've given or I feel like it's because I've given these awesome ideas. And now all of a sudden, oh, we've gone actually with somebody, a competitor who's actually cheaper can do it cheaper. They just fit better with our budget. Or, you know, we've just decided to go a different direction or oh, we've decided to do something. And I'm like, are you kidding me? It just happened to me the other day. And I probably spent about a month between emailing and phone calls and coming up with great ideas, connecting them with awesome people at different venues or who can do really cool stuff. And now you've decided that, oh, you know what, we're can to scale back a bit because of the budget. So I'm trying to decide right now. Currently, my current challenge is how much do I give away? Because I'm legitimately somebody who loves to share these ideas. Because I and also, you know, also that's just how you win proposals. How much do I give away and how much do I hold back until you say, here's the deposit?
And I don't know. I don't know what the answer is to that.
Yeah, that's kind of a fine line.
So that's those are some of the challenges that we face a lot of the time.
So I guess kind of to follow up on that, you talk a lot about copycats litter that are coming out. You're starting to see a lot of competition from when you first started both of these ventures to now.
Yeah. And then a lot of ways I like competition. Competition keeps the best people on their toes. Right. And so I always say this. I go to Niagara Wine Country all the time.
And could you, Matt and White Knight or wine countries? Matt majestic. And it's energetic and it's fun and it's great.
And they get I don't know, I'm going to say probably easily hundreds of thousands, if not millions of his probably millions. I would bet that they get millions and millions of visitors every year.
Why? Because there are 80 some odd wineries throughout the whole Niagara Peninsula.
Would they still get that? Would they still enjoy that same ten of millions of visitors if there was only one winery there?
I guess these 80 some odd wineries have to, you know, divvy up the pie of tens of millions of visitors. But look at they're all doing really spectacularly well to some to some level.
Plus the spin-offs of restaurants and hotels and so on and so forth.
So competition is a good thing. I really do like competition because if I'm not pulling my way, well, then I don't deserve to have your business.
But I think when people are blatantly taking your things. I've people copy my social media posts like, Come on dude, don't do that. Like, that's not cool. That's not cool at all. Don't do that.
And you know, you can't really call them out on it. It's just a little bit too coincidental. Okay. I mean, I again. Is there an answer to that? I'm not sure if I was a big company, could I sort of do a cease and desist? I guess. But those just live as a little guy, I guess.
One thing that doesn't seem to be a challenge for you is the way that you brand yourself. You've done a great job with your branding of Aaron Henderson. You found yourself a great gig as a regular guest on the social. How have you done so well? Is there a secret sauce, too do this, the way you've been able to brand yourself?
I don't know. Like, these are the worst thing is that I just don't know. I think that might.
So this is to get a little airy-fairy, so stick with me. But I really believe that the universe pushes you in the direction you're supposed to go. I know this is the little bit I know.
But I think that if I look at my whole life being in acting for the first 20 years of my life, being a journalist for the next 10 years working for other people as a sommelier and then really scraping by at the beginning and trying to figure out my way, like literally trying to be like, I don't know what I'm doing at all.
And Andrew suffers through a lot of my conversations. I'm like, I actually have zero ideasabout what I'm doing.
I think the branding comes in from being as authentic as you possibly can. And that sounds kind of like.
So that's kind alike to say be your authentic self is kind of a B.S. line. Like it's not like what does that even mean?
And for example, as I developed my YouTube channel, I've been crowdsourcing and Andrews getting some emails or I'm like, why do you think this tagline and what do you think of this picture and what do you think? And really like really, really sweating out one word and sweating it. Okay Should I say. So you can't say to somebody if you're Ricky Gervais, be as authentic as you want, because whatever you are who you are.
But when you're somebody like me and doing the branding that you do, I think you have to realize and I actually took this is a good story about a mistake that I made about branding. I took on a client that I shouldn't have taken on. And they weren't happy because we just weren't aligned. And I did exactly what I do. Exactly what makes the wine sisters still in business a decade later. That still has Drink Toronto going 3 or 4 years later when we all know that small businesses can go belly up at any time.
That makes the wine all of the things that I've done like so the exact personality that you see at wine school or wherever I'm doing my thing or on the social or whatever.
They were a little bit too blue suit, and I didn't realize that they were so buttoned-up blue suit and they weren't exactly delighted by what we do. Like we're a little bit laid back. Cheeky and that's very intentional because that's who we are. And to brand myself, I think now I've learned that I really need to be very clear with clients when they come to us.
Hopefully our website. You will get that first impression on our website. Hopefully, you'll have had a chance to come through a little bit of our social media.
So you get that impression as well. But let's say for whatever reason, you haven't bothered to look at take a deep dive in the Web site or even a shallow dive into the Web site. It's very important to me now to say to clients, you understand, we totally know our stuff. Like we have certified staff.
I've traveled to a lot of North America, Europe. I am qualified for what I do, but I am not going to be that buttoned up person. And if you're looking for that buttoned up person, you need to go somewhere else. And I didn't do that. That was that was a couple years ago. I was really about five or six years ago. And it's always stayed with me where they were actually quite disappointed and what we were able to bring to the table. Because they really needed that buttoned up person, which we're just we just can't be.
Now that you've got I mean, you've got two businesses going. Both are I guess you could say I mean, three years that's established 10 years established. What's the future look like for both of the sisters and Drink Toronto?
Well, let me get on my shades. Pretty brave.
So it's good. It's really good. I'm really excited about the directions of where I'm headed. Talking about personal branding. And I'm really excited about where the businesses are going. And so can anything happen at anytime? Obviously. Like recessions happen, whatever things happen. But I feel really solid about both of them. I feel really secure with both of them. I'm not sure if that's also just the benefit of being older and the benefit of being sort of on your own for 10 years or so. But I think that with the wine sisters, definitely, we're going to start getting more into a lot more than educational component. So couple of projects in the works, so annoying, if you like. But I can't talk about it yet. Super annoying to come on these things and then only like drop that.
I hate that, but we've got some great educational components going on in terms of I'll be starting as I said, what I hope will be one of those really useful practical insights, really helpful YouTube channels that will help you understand a little bit more about how to drink like a boss. but not look like a jerk.
Similarly, we've got, I think, the wine school that we've got, which is that compilation between Vantage and Drink Toronto and I mean, we just need more people on the boat like there's Drink Toronto, there are wine sisters, there's vintage. We've got like things are looking fantastic. So things are looking really good.
And I'm glad that they're looking really good because 10 years is a long time to grind at something and have it still suck.
So, you know. No, but seriously, like. And at 3 years and 6 years, things were sucking.
Things are sucking hard and they're not sucking anymore, which is great. But I also learned from those mistakes. So, you know I remember when I first started these companies and it's largely because I had a company. So I had really no idea what I was doing. And I'm glad that I've really been into it enough and intuitive enough and reflective enough to look at OK, These are the things that I did in the past. And so I just them moving forward and moving forward with intention.
So then how would you define success? What does success look like to you?
So for me, I think that success is living life on your own terms. And there's a lot of people and I said, in comparison is the thief of joy and I'm not trying to compare myself against anyone or make myself sound better than them or less than them.
But I live a pretty true life. Like I'm absolutely delighted with where I am and I'm super excited about where I'm going. And I lived reasonably authentically to me.
So for me, success is I'm living my life on my own terms, which includes personally, professionally. And that's a success for me, that I can go home at night.
I can look myself in the mirror. I can put my head on the pillow and say, I'm not being a jerk about it. But I'm also not making an unhappy compromise. just because I feel like I need to fit in the mold of what society dictates for me.
Yeah, a lot along your career journey that you've had. Mean starting in broadcasting to being an entrepreneur, I'm sure there are a lot of mentors out there, a lot of people you looked up to, a lot of things you've read and studied. What were some of the best tips that you received and I guess what have you? What did you steal from the best?
So I have a few of them. I'll tell you one of the earlier ones. So when I was working at the private club in Toronto, it's called a badminton racket club. And I worked my way up from starting there as a sommelier. And then I don't know if you're ever in the private club scene.
Why were you Somalia at like a tennis club? That's so weird. If you're not part of that kind of situation or that kind of scene within private clubs. This particular club had three restaurants plus catering and events, division. So I worked my way up to being a food and beverage manager and or director or whatever. And so I had to report to both what or in many cases way over my head. Like I had to do budgets. I had to report to aboard. And I said, can we just have a drink, for God's sakes? Anyway, one of my GM, the general manager of that club. Her name is Kathy. And she was really just a lovely human being. So I was probably about 32, maybe 33, maybe 34. I forget years blend together. I drink for a living.
But when I was she said I was having a really hard time. Like I was just I was managing a huge team and private clubs are kind of like Fawlty Towers like it's just crazy. So she sat me down and she said, you know, Erin and she was at the time and she was probably around 58, maybe 60. And she sat me down and said, you know, Erin, like you can see we can tell you like you're going crazy. Things are all over the place. And she said the beauty about getting older is that things soften. And she said, I'm not talking about your eyesight and your waistline, but I'm talking about like just your emotions. Like you're no longer up and down on a roller coaster. You've been to this rodeo before and you know how to handle it. So always remember. That you will come through this. And it seems like the end of the world or it seems so like things are on fire. They're not. Don't worry. Everything's cool. Don't freak out about it. And so I thought that was really good. And back when I was doing the news, I remember if things got really tense, I was trying to get the source or is trying to get the story done. And then eventually, every once in awhile, I'd make a positive like. Six o'clock comes, six o'clock goes either my stories on or it's not. And they'll figure out a way to fill it if it's not. It always made it on. But I think knowing that we get so caught up in the tornado of our own life, especially when things are not going well, that.
That sort of stayed with me, that even when I'm like, Oh- My God, How am I going to get through this? I might write it out because it's going to be fine. That was sort of the thing that stayed with me.
Yeah, True. We're not saving lives here all the time.
You know, I also think that some of the things I've learned and a lot of the times you make those you learn these things because you've made mistakes and hopefully you're being reflective enough to make those mistakes, like learn from those mistakes and be reflective of it. But to surround me with really good people who are much smarter than me. And it's always worked out when I have done that and it's not really worked out when I haven't done that.
And so I look around to sort of my circle of colleagues and friends, and I'm really like these people.
Like I don't have idiots in my circle. I have people that I really respect and admire and respect and admire. Because their strengths complement my weaknesses and vice versa. So I think that there is there's a lot to be said for that.
Erin, I know you spend a lot of time, regimented time dedicated to consuming content that you think can help you with your business and your personal life and whatnot. What's give us the best? Give us your top one, top two, top three. Give us something that you've been able to use really well.
OK. So when you say regimented, that's one of the best ones that I've had. And I was actually just listening to a podcast today and it was with him. He's a personal development coach, personal assistant coach to billionaires, to all these sons. The name is Brendon Burchard. Probably if people are listening to this podcast, they're probably least reasonably familiar with this guy.
And he reiterated something that's been a constant theme in sort of professional development, personal development, learning development world, which is live your life with intention.
I'm gonna mess up the quote. I'm gonna bugger it up. But the code is like high performers don't leave their lives to chance. And if you are just sort of going through Oh, that's what it was? it was going through the motions is the death of high performance. So if you're just going through the motions, the alarm goes off. I get in my car, I drive to work. I punch the clock. I do my thing. Twelve o'clock, I go for whatever. If you'd care to be a high performer, that is not going to get you very far. So even if you're somebody who's become a success for one reason or another, think about how much more successful you could be.
So live your life with intention, living your life with. Because before you know it, you wake up 10 years later and you've lived the same bloody life over and over again. And I'm not saying that everyday needs to be climbing Mount Everest. Clearly, that's not going to work for everybody. And clearly, that's just not something anybody's going to have a bad day. Things are going to go wrong. Things are gonna explode, whatever.
But, I want to live my life with intention. I want to live my life with clear, defined objectives and goals. Because I want, as I said earlier, I'm quite grateful for where I am. You know, if you're living in this country, you're in. What the top 3% of the world or whatever. I'm. I'm doing fine. I'm doing great. But I'm super excited about where I'm going. And to just sort of go through the motions and not push again and push again.
Look, we've got a wine school that starts tonight and we're oversold. For all of the classes. And we have sponsors who are knocking on our doors saying, Can I do this? That and the other thing that didn't come by accident, that came because just like the 4.9 ratings, we over-delivered.
And I'm talking about my performance and my company's performance. I'm talking about the vintage venue, bringing the heat that they needed to bring and the various teams from service to back house in the kitchen like that didn't come by accident.
That came because we were very intentional about what we wanted to bring. And even though we didn't even necessarily sit down and carve it out in stone and say or objective in our, you know, our mission statement and our vision. We didn't do that. No.
But what we all knew and why we all worked really well together is to say we want to provide people with the best possible experience that they can have so that when they leave here, they say that was great.
So when I'm got those snippets, I think the biggest snippet is to get up with intention, whether that means being a great dad, whether that means being a great husband, whether that means being a great leader, whether that means, you know, who met, whatever that role means to you, to do it with intention and to do it with integrity and to do it with a focus where you want to go.
You won't have a great relationship with your kids when they're older. Great. You said it before. You know you want to make sure you set those standards in those foundations now. Similarly, for my company or small, I'm not going to like the look or smell, whatever, but we're chipping away at it. And I haven't lost my hope yet. So great.
But everything I do this with an intention. Do I succeed every time? No, of course. Or swings and misses for sure.
But 4.9? I don't know. You're good at math, Andrew. 4.9 on a four batting average. That's pretty good. That's almost batting a thousand. I like pretty darn good.
So that's what we. That was my intention. I want people to leave and say my life was just better. I did that.
So my almost answer this question. But tell me maybe something more specific. What are you most proud of?
In my whole life?
Yeah. Go ahead. Ever. History of Erin Henderson.
It doesn't have to be one thing. You can brag.
While learning to walk was definitely like a top like a top-five for sure. That was challenging. Well. I do. You do it well. Have you seen these shoes? So. I have to actually say what I'm most proud of. Is setting my goals and grinding at them until I get them. And I remember when I was like 20 and struggling at university, remembering each you just like you're so broke in a meeting like I'm stocking up on Kraft dinner because it's on sale for 50 cents a box. I went to school in the dark ages like and it really was on sale for 50 cents a box. And I really did stock up. And my mom came over and opened the cupboard and saw 18 boxes of Kraft dinner and cried. Anyway, that's a story for another day.
But, To be I remember when I was in my early twenties having these visions of living in a big city, Toronto. And having a great place to live, which I do. And having a fabulous circle of friends, which I do, and setting these goals and achieving them. And so when I left media and I started my entrepreneurial company as I said. I haven't lost. There's been times I've flown close to the sun, like there is no skin left on my teeth, like there have been some who there have been some amazing moments. But, you know, I wanted to return to media and now I am back on the media.
And I think having that dedication and that focus and that intention. Those are some of the things I'm most proud of, that I generally achieve what I want to achieve. It might take me a few years, but I generally achieve what I want to achieve. And I think anybody can do it. But I think what you need to do is from me and in my opinion, you know, you write it down. You revisit it. You visualize it. And you keep working towards it and you realize that, OK, it may not happen by Friday, but it might happen by 2021 or whatever the case might be.
Yeah, that's awesome. I mean, we live in a world grows lots of entrepreneurs out there that raise some capital and they don't go through that same grind that you just described. So it's pretty unique. It's pretty awesome.
I had stopped. I had to stop listening. Like I used to be addicted to the Forbes and success list. You know, like the 15 things that successful people do and the 5 things that unsuccessful people do in the 10 things that I like, that it added up and I was like, I can't do this anymore. I can't listen to this anymore, because all it does is make me feel like a loser that I haven't. No. Surely it makes me feel like a loser like you. Listen to. Woke up on a morning, decided he was gonna start it up, and by the end of the day, raised for Brazilian dollars and round it into like what? I'm not a unicorn and I want to be a unicorn, but I'm not a unicorn. And now I feel like I'm doing a mass. Like, I just it just hurt my psyche. And I have to stop. And I don't I can't listen to those things anymore.
After our talk today, I can see exactly why Drink Toronto has that 4.9 ratings. It's true.
And thank you so much for joining us today.
Thank you for having me
Thank you for sharing your experiences and your insight. It really is an awesome story. And the knowledge that you've been able to share with everybody has been impeccable. So that's so kind of you. Thank you very much
Oh, thank you. Thank you very much. Was a delight was really a delight
Lots of fun, for sure. Thanks Erin.