Cellar Angels is an amazing website that teams up with one small, family-run winery per week to offer one small-production wine selection for purchase, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting one of Cellar Angels’ multiple charity partners. Cellar Angels is a private membership program, and you must request an invitation to join or be referred by a current member, though there are no purchase commitments attached to membership.
I’ve known Martin Cody for several years now, and I’ve always been impressed by his dedication to his business. Rather than simply offering wine for purchase, he provides a ton of content to help his customers connect and learn about the wine being offered, including videos, recipes, and info on the winery, vineyard and vintage. He expanded on his retail foothold in the beverage industry and brought an innovative and inspired vision to life in a grand way, and is a prime example of what’s possible in the modern beverage industry, particularly with digital and online technology.
When did you launch Cellar Angels, and where did the inspiration come from?
We founded Cellar Angels in February, 2010 at the height of the recession because we emphatically believe within every catastrophe or hardship resides a commensurate opportunity for greatness—you just have to force yourself to look.
What were you doing prior to launching Cellar Angels? Did you have any prior beverage industry experience?
Prior to launching Cellar Angels I was co-owner of a retail wine store and VP of a medical software company. I still do both as the software company is a full-time job. My wife and I have no kids so we’re able to dedicate the necessary hours to all the businesses seven days a week.
What is your favorite aspect of working in the beverage industry?
Short answer: the people. The passion of the winery workers, or owners, especially the small family run wineries we tend to feature on Cellar Angels is awe-inspiring. Long answer: the people, places and experiences. We deal with one vertical in the beverage industry, wine, and it tends to bring people together, usually over food where terrific conversation ensues and collectively we connect. It forces us to slow down and get a bit more grounded. I truly love the experiences of meeting these great people and “breaking bread” with them while sharing great wine.
What is your favorite aspect of working with Cellar Angels?
Ultimately my favorite aspect is what we’re all able to accomplish for our charity partners. Giving the consumer an opportunity to purchase incredible wine, wine they’d never find or normally have access to, and giving them the ability to select a charity which may help a family coping with cancer, or help a child gain access to clean water, or save an animal or provide a child access to healthcare for the first time, is overwhelming. We’re making positive changes just through the love of wine. On the commercial aspect, we also really love the feedback from our Angels when they realize the quality of the wines they’re gaining access to. Most of these wines will never be in a retail setting as the production is just too small, and yet this small production is precisely what makes them so desired and special. We love bringing them to the consumers and introducing the wineries. The consumers also really like getting wine shipped to their door directly from the winery.
What advice would you give college students with an interest in getting into the wine industry?
Read. Learn how to give value to your prospective employer. Know their business and come up with ways to make it more profitable. I would encourage them to remember “success” only comes before “work” in the dictionary. Be humble, kind, gracious and thankful. Work your behind off. I would tell them the reason you don’t hear about overnight successes is because there aren’t any. I would remind them that you don’t “make money”, you earn it. The economy, society and universe have an uncanny way of paying you commensurate to the value of the goods or services you’re producing. If you want to earn more, provide more value. Work on your skills, self-improvement, invest your time wisely and become the person you dream of becoming. The only thing you truly can control is your effort. If you get knocked down, get up. Expose yourself to the great stories of phenomenal successes who experienced massive rejections, (Hemmingway, Edison, Ford, Famous Amos, KFC, etc.). I would advise them there are no shortcuts to success. However, through small steps and effort, repeated consistently, they will absolutely marvel at all they can accomplish.