A local wine company is going global; sofa + cork buys company in France | Local News
BENNINGTON – “I have to be honest, I have no business experience. I do everything by the seat of my pants, ”says Bennington’s Nancy Koziol.
But the self-deprecating Koziol has a caveat: “I know wine, though. The wine tells a story, from the weather of that year to the terroir and the family who run the vineyard. There is so much you can say from just a glass of wine. Being able to dive in and decode this for others is just amazing. “
Koziol is the owner of couch + cork, an educational wine tasting company specializing in virtual and in-person tastings and experiences for businesses and individuals here and abroad. Her latest and big business move: she recently bought Corporate Virtual Wine Tastings, a wine education company in France with connections across Europe.
Now global, Koziol’s couch + cork is a business that started off simply from its dining table in the old downtown Drysdale building, hosting small-scale tastings with four to six people in the south of the Vermont.
“When it all started, it was a wine tasting at home. Friends came over, you would tell me which wines you want to know more about, I would tell you where to find those wines, what snacks to prepare, and then I would come to your house and teach you and your guests about wine. , “she said.” It was about decoding what people needed to know to better appreciate wine. I thought about what people need to know to have a great wine experience, how to read a map wines, how to choose a bottle, how to know how much to spend.
No formal tasting clubs in the mountains
In 2019, Koziol was studying for a tasting exam in New York City, tasting up to 32 different wines in one session. She remembers her instructor telling her, “You have to do this every two weekends, a month, weekends, where you eat from Friday to Sunday. “
“I asked him, ‘How do you do that?’ She said, “With your tasting club, of course,” ”Koziol said.
But at her home in rural Vermont, she didn’t know of any wine tasting club. Instead, Koziol returned home and posted online about planning a meetup in the Bennington area to get together and taste some wine.
“A lot of people responded. I started doing these tastings and realized that I was learning more by teaching people about wine than by taking classes and reading books. I realized that I love teaching people and that I love wine. It became the business, ”says Koziol.
Koziol says it’s empowering to give people, once shy about wine, the skill and confidence to broaden their view of the substance known for its intricacies and expense.
“It feels good to give someone a tool they can use, teach people to be confident when ordering a bottle of wine, whether they should spend $ 65 for a bottle of Boudreaux, or [if it] should it be $ 45.
The business started small, just weekends here and there. It quickly developed through word of mouth. “People heard about it and I started getting more and more calls,” she says. “People were asking about other types of parties and possibly corporate events. The growth has been so rapid.
The pandemic pivot
Then the pandemic struck.
“I was like, you have to be kidding me. I had terminated all my freelance contracts and I wasn’t offering any posts. What do I do? I had the idea to do it on Zoom. I was one of the first people to do virtual wine tastings through Zoom. It quickly became a full time gig.
Since starting out with half a dozen attendees, it quickly grew to 40, 80, 100 people on a single Zoom event.
“That’s when I started hiring people because I couldn’t handle everything on my own without losing the quality of the presentations,” she said.
At this point, she says she is “about 75 percent corporate”. She returned to hosting live events, including a few at the Bennington Museum, two at the Historic Governor’s Mansion in Park-McCullough, and one planned at the Green Mountain Academy for Lifelong Learning.
And the recent acquisition by his company has elevated couch + cork to global stature. In December, she will participate in an event in Switzerland featuring eight other countries.
“Everything from that dining room table here in Bennington,” she said with a chuckle. “I never saw it coming. I am so excited.
Room for expansion
Later, Koziol is eager to expand, perhaps in the Midwest or Atlanta.
“I would like to see all of this. Right now we’re only three people, so we can’t schedule more than three tastings at a time, ”she says. “I just inherited three more with the purchase of the French company, people based in South America, Canada and France, so my focus is many more events around the world.”
The now international entrepreneur still considers herself the head of a craft business – “even though I know that is no longer true”.
She advises other people who are considering going into business to do so, stepping forward.
“That we do it, and that you can do it too,” Koziol said. “Business doesn’t have to be the way it always has been. If you have an idea, and it’s an idea not many people have had, if you can solve a problem, you can do it all.
Contact sofa + cork via its website couchandcork.com or by e-mail at [email protected]