“I am a logistics man not a wine man,” says Joe Waechter, President & CEO of WineDirect. Joe is one of those people that you immediately like. Meeting over Zoom for our interview it becomes clear very quickly how much Joe loves numbers and loves what he does.
Joe grew up in San Francisco and started his career with DHL when it was a start up. “It was just a couple of guys in a parking lot….this was even before Fedex. The company grew and with it, so did I.” Joe held most positions within DHL and was the last “home grown President” of the company. After leaving DHL Joe moved to Micronesia to run an airline and then returned to the United States and worked in the Venture Capital business.
After the economic crash of 2008 Joe was planning his next move when he got a call from a friend who wanted to know if he knew someone who would be interested in taking on a struggling business in Napa Valley. He took the job at WineDirect thinking he would stay for a couple years. That was ten years ago.
WineDirect has one core goal: to help wineries sell directly to consumers (DTC) in the way that works best for them. WineDirect focuses on helping wineries to reach more customers and make more money. The only online end-to-end DTC sales company WineDirect helps wineries, big and small, be as successful as possible. WineDirect focuses on every aspect of the consumer’s journey online. They offer solutions in wine club, point of sale, ecommerce, marketplace distribution, and fulfillment. They also offer educational opportunities with best practices to make sure wineries are staying up to date on all consumer trends. Helping wineries to have a successful online presence is more important now than ever.
Before the COVID-19 Pandemic hit only 13% of wine was sold online and most wineries didn’t have sufficient online stores. WineDirect has been piviotle in helping wineries continue to make money and stay relevant during COVID. We might not be able to go out and taste wine but we are still drinking! In 2020, WineDirect saw $1.7 BILLION in wine sold through DTC. That is over a 50% increase from 2019. They also saw 11 million DTC orders, 350,000 new wine club sign ups and 29% increase in order value.
When Joe joined WineDirect, the company was bringing in around $3.5 Million in revenue. Now, ten years later, their revenue is up to over $100 Million. Joe contributes many things to the success of WineDirect, but one of the biggest things is their commitment to diversity and equality in hiring. “It might be easier to sit in a room with people who look and act like me but it is not going to create any type of growth.” An early adopter of diversity hiring practices, Joe firmly believes that to have the best team you have to have people with diverse backgrounds and experiences in the room. “That is the only way to reach your broadest audience. 70% of wine sales this year were to women. You better hope you have a woman at the table if you want to reach those buyers.”
In addition to being a lifeline for wineries, WineDirect also takes pride in investing back into the community and world. For the last four years WineDirect has donated to wildfire relief in both Australia and Napa Valley. For five years they have supported Worldreader, an organization committed to solving the problem of illiteracy around the world. And since 2018 WineDirect has invested in Black Vines, an organization elevating Black-owned wineries. They also offset 100% of their carbon emissions and in 2021 they will be launching foam-free packaging to cut back on waste.
“We see our customers as partners”, says Joe, “that is the most successful way to run a business.” When WineDirects customers are successful so is WineDirect. It is that type of thinking that drew them to the Yountville Chamber. The Yountville Chamber is dedicated to helping our members be successful, just like WineDirect is dedicated to the success of their customers. “Both of us work with luxury brands but that doesn’t mean they haven’t been affected by COVID and we are happy to be part of the solution.”