An entrepreneur is a person who operates their own business that comes from their own idea and generally takes on risk to do it. Someone who reads this blog introduced me to Christy Frank. Christy is an entrepreneur who figured out what she really wanted to do which is owning and running her own wine store, Frankly Wines. I love that she figured it out and is doing it successfully. In many ways, Christy is the type of entrepreneur that keeps our economy going.
Christy grew up in Tiffin Ohio which is basically an hour and a half away from any airport. She was surrounded by cornfields. Her parents were both teachers. Her father taught music at the local junior high and high school. Her mom taught developmentally disabled children. Neither of her parents were from that area but had gone to college there and never left. Everyone knew them.
After graduating high school, Christy made her way to Cornell University where she majored in Government, Economics and International relationships. She didn’t have this burning desire to leave Ohio but she got into Cornell and off she went. She even spent the majority of her summers in Ithaca working for the safety department dispatch for library and escort services on campus.
At Cornell Christy took some of the classes at their hotel school. There is one wine class that everyone must take as a junior if you are in the hotel school. When you turn 21 you can take the class even if you aren’t part of the hotel school. The class has roughly 500-800 people in it depending on which semester you take it. It was an incredible class and Christy loved it. She found that she loved talking about wine.
After graduating Cornell she went to a 9 month masters program at the London School of Economics because she always assumed she would do something in finance and economics. She returned to Boston when the program ended landing a job at Fidelity where she worked on security and data for trading systems. She was working with all the desks on compliance. She didn’t love it but the money allowed her to buy wine.
She began to think about how do I continue to be drink and learn about wine without paying for it. Boston has a wine expo and Christy would go every year. Every night she would walk home from work she would pass a wine store that she loved. One day she passed it and saw there was a job sign in the window. She wound up taking a job there and working on Sundays. Sundays turned into Saturdays and Sundays and then turned into Wednesday nights too. They told her if she could be there at 5pm during the week she could talk with the distributors and help them decide what to buy.
Around this time her husband (who she had met at Cornell and was in Boston too) and Christy decided to apply to go to business school. They both got into Columbia and made the move. Christy was thinking that wine was just a hobby. She needed to figure out a career that would make her happy. She knew finance and consulting but she did not know marketing so that is what she would learn in graduate school.
She got sucked in her first year and worked for Knoll the summer between her two year program. Also to note there was a huge wine club at school she became part of but still nobody thought of that as a career. At Knoll she loved the chairs and forgot about wine. Christy graduated biz school in 2000 which was the beginnings of selling everything on the Internet. After the two years were coming to a close she still had no idea what she wanted to do. There was an interview on campus with LVMH and although she had zero interest in fashion it was her experience in wine and Knoll that interested them.
At LVMH Christy worked in the futura program which no longer exists today. They hired a bunch of MBA students to rotate through different parts of the organization so they could understand and learn each one eventually falling into the one that made the most sense. Christy ended up in the wine and spirits group working on a variety of things including cognac and a new rum launch. Then she had a child.
After having a kid it was really hard to go back. Work was intense and the hours were long. She knew that first year back after having a kid was going to be an insane amount of travel and decided to take a step back. They asked her not to leave as a lot of changes were happening in the organization. They had taken three different divisions in spirits and merged them all into one. They had a serious wine portfolio. She realized it was that wine background that landed her the job at LVMH in the first place so she put herself up as a candidate for this new division. She did that for three years and learned everything she could about wine inside a large luxury corporation. There was no other jobs she wanted there. She always loved retail. She gave the company three months while thinking about opening up her own place.
She was going to take time to do market research, look for a space and plan accordingly. The first week being on her own she walks by a store in her Tribeca neighborhood that has a for lease sign in the window. Within two weeks she has signed the lease without any business plan, no thoughts on best practice. She just did it.
Frankly Wines has now been open for 7 years. The walk in and buy a bottle is the core of her business. When she opened she wanted to keep it small and make sure it was located in a good foot travel location. 2008 was tough but she was new, small and organically growing. She has yet to have down year. Christy carries small vintners, quirky wines and also classics. She is going to start doing more on the web and working with wine classes. She also has three kids and her youngest is 6 1/2. You do the math.
Christy owns her own life on her own terms. That is what I call a great woman entrepreneur.