Doria Wines, LLC, Cristina & Marco Doria
SCORE was with us from the start. Under SCORE's mentorship, we've applied and received our LLC designation, ordered and received two shipments of wine which is now being carried at almost 40 (and growing) retail locations and restaurants in Maryland and Washington, DC, and working our way to profitability. Personally, the success of our business venture has helped us to reconnect as a family, having lived on two different continents for the last 30 years.
Doria Wines is an importer of artisan Italian wines made by small production wineries and only with Italy's native grape varieties. Our winemakers practice careful viticulture, sustainable and responsible farming, and minimal intervention in the vineyards and in the cellar.
Cristina had lived in the United States for more than 30 years and was working at T. Rowe Price. Meanwhile, Marco lived in Italy and worked as a trader for a bank’s proprietary desk. In December 2019, while on a family vacation in France, Marco announced he would quit the corporate world and do something with wine and food. Then the pandemic hit and Italy was in lockdown. So Marco used his time to study for and obtain the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) certification which provides globally recognized education and qualifications for wine professionals. He would pursue exporting small-production Italian wines to the US. Meanwhile, Cristina was also in lockdown at a California B&B, working remotely, looking for something else to do "when she grew up," when she hit on an idea; she wanted to work with Marco. With Marco's thumbs up, Cristina quit her job at T. Rowe Price and joined him on his business venture, starting from scratch.
We are a brother-sister team, born and raised in Italy. Even though we grew up in Piemonte, amongst the world's finest wine regions and the land of the King of Italian wine, Barolo, we knew nothing about wine, and probably could not afford most bottles in our younger years. But wine was a part of our daily lives - at dinner when friends dropped in. Food and wine on the table came to signify happiness and laughter regardless of the occasion.
We import wine from micro wineries in Italy, not what you typically find on shelves in the United States. Italy has countless excellent wines, but a lot fewer that fit all the criteria we set out to follow: native grape varieties, sustainable and responsible farming, small-scale production, and minimum intervention. We also look for winemakers who are personally involved in all aspects of the process: from working in the vineyards to harvesting, handling all cellar operations, marketing, and distributing the final product interacting directly with end customers. They are passionate about their work and are committed to making wines that reflect the terroir.
After working in the financial world all our adult lives, we figured entrepreneurship, especially in the wine business, was going to be a relief and so much fun! Pretty much right away, though, reality sank in and it became clear we had a lot to learn and do before we could even get to taste any wines. We had to get our business licensed and realized that we had no idea where to start or what to do. We found SCORE, requested a mentor, and within two hours, SCORE mentor Carson Zake called us back.
Cristina: I have worked for several big companies during my career but I had no idea how to start one. What do we need to do? How much does it cost? Having Carson or another mentor to consult without being on the clock makes a huge difference for a small business. Mentor Barry Blake brought first-hand experience in importing wines and setting up a distributor network. Mentor Jay Mulford has been (and still is) assisting us with system strategies and designs as we contemplate how to scale our business. Mentor Chris Taylor provided guidance on insurance. Carson, in addition to all the start-up business basics, advised us on the small business lending scene and remains available when I have questions or need a sounding board.
The alcohol industry is very different. Carson took the time to understand our business needs and give us advice. If he didn't know something, he was honest about it and found other mentors with specific expertise. The professionalism and deep experience that Carson and other mentors offered was incredible...and it was all free.
Love what you do. Do it with passion.
Starting a business can be overwhelming so get yourself a SCORE mentor. Finding the right people makes the process less scary, and less daunting.
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