Tuesday, August 23, 2011

PLPT GEMS: Meet Janelle

PLPT GEMS Presents
Janelle Carter ~ The Cork Chronicler
Entrepreneur. Attorney. Sommelier.

Your passion is wine, and you created an outlet for it in The Cork Chronicles--a blog designed to help others "enhance (their) drinking experience and appreciation of wine." When and why did you decide to start this blog?

I started The Cork Chronicles while I was still a practicing attorney. The first couple years of legal practice were difficult for me because I was constantly working and stressed out. I didn’t have much time for friends, family, other interests, or even myself. So, one of my very good friends and I made a pact that we would pick up a hobby in order to have a release from the strain of constant work and stress we experienced in our professional lives. Wine became one of my chosen hobbies: I went to wine tastings, read books and magazines about wine, explored lots of new and different wine varietals, and became quite knowledgeable about wine. My fascination with the world of wine grew more intense, and what started as a hobby turned into a passion.

At the wine tastings I attended, I was often the youngest and only person of color in the room. I realized that there is a whole segment of young people and those of color who purchase wine but are not being educated about wine or reached by the wine industry and its marketers. In an effort to fill that void, I launched The Cork Chronicles. By sharing what I have learned about wine with my peers, I hope to enhance their experiences with and appreciation for wine.

What opportunities have been presented to you as a result of sharing your wisdom about wine?

The greatest opportunity I have had is to engage with people around my passion for wine, professionally. As The Cork Chronicles’ community grows—people continue to read the blog, connect with me on social media platforms, come to my events, and seek out my advice on wine-related issues—my professional opportunities continue to grow. What started as a blog chronicling my personal wine tasting experiences grew into producing wine entertainment events which led to wine consulting opportunities. In April, I left my (now former) law firm to devote my full attention to building an enterprise around my passion for wine.

I began hosting wine entertainment events in April when I launched The Cork Chronicles’ monthly happy hour. Now on summer hiatus, the happy hours will return to DC this Fall. In the meantime, I have had the opportunity to do several private wine tasting events. Last Sunday, I hosted a wine tasting at the inaugural StreetFood Artistry festival in Chicago. You can also find me at Whole Foods in Naperville, IL on Friday afternoons where I pour wine and answer wine questions. Stay tuned for some exciting collaborations with people in art, music, and cooking/food that I will be announcing soon.

You've left the "security" of a full time job, and are now flexing your entrepreneurial muscle by building a wine entertainment and consulting company. How did you prepare yourself to make this leap?

Prayer—lots of it—and getting the support of my family and friends were essential to making the leap. Without faith and a strong support system, I could not have made the leap nor would I be able to maintain perspective and sanity through the challenges of entrepreneurship. In addition to faith and support, thorough planning is the key to preparation. Creating a sound business and personal financial plan eased the transition for me. You cannot prepare for or foresee everything: my business plan is constantly changing and many unexpected expenditures have required me to adjust my personal financial plan. However, I am in a better position to work through challenges with the roadmaps I created at the outset.

What does a typical day in the life of the Cork Chronicler look like? What is your favorite part of the day?

Wow…I wish there was a typical day in the life of the Cork Chronicler. Right now, I am back and forth between Chicago and DC in addition to travel to several other cities, so it has been difficult establishing a regular schedule. Nevertheless, my day typically begins or ends with quiet time for prayer and reflection which may include a walk or journaling or reading a devotional. In between, my days are quickly exhausted with drafting event proposals or pitches; conference calls or meetings with vendors, sponsors, collaborators, and venues; writing blog posts; engaging with people on social media platforms; and, strategic planning. Additionally, I devote a couple hours per day to studying for my upcoming sommelier certification exam. Last, I moonlight as a diversity consultant and employment attorney, so I often have assignments to complete for those clients. My favorite part of the day is the time I spend “researching” wine whether drinking a bottle of wine over dinner; attending wine tastings, festivals and conferences; or hosting a wine tasting party with a group of friends.

Who is your support system and how do they contribute to your ability to build your dream company?

My parents have been my rock throughout my life and in this process, specifically. They provide encouragement, a sounding board, assistance, and a place to stay when I am in the Chicago area. I also am incredibly grateful for the countless number of friends and family members for their late night pep talks, words of encouragement, giving me a place to stay, showing up to my events, commenting on my blog, connecting me with other people in the wine industry, and helping me do wine “research.”

Do you ever experience moments of fear, regret or self-doubt? How do you overcome this negative thinking?

I have faith that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing and have never looked back. Although I do not experience any feelings of regret, I am not immune to moments of fear and self-doubt. I embrace fear. It is a natural emotion to feel when you do something that you have never done before. The key is not to eliminate fear, but to act in the face of fear. Acting in spite of fear requires confidence. Thus, moments of self-doubt can be paralyzing for a new entrepreneur. I rely on my faith and my support system to overcome those moments. If you don’t believe in yourself and your vision, no one else will.

What advice would you offer to others who are searching for their purpose, or are afraid to take the first step towards their own dreams?

On purpose, pray for vision and guidance and just let it come to you. In some cases, you will have to create mental space for it to come to you. I had to get away from the stress and bustle of my former life to make space for new ideas and perspective. My vision didn’t begin to formulate until I took a couple weeks of vacation time at my former firm. It wasn’t until the second week of vacation that the stress dissipated to such a point that I had the clarity to know what I was supposed to do next. After I left the firm, it was amazing how much my perspective changed—my vision became clearer, my thinking became more creative, and my perspective became much broader. Clearing out the clutter that my former job position created in my mental space was like cleaning off a filthy window, all of a sudden I could see crystal clear.

If you know your purpose but are afraid to jump out there and realize your purpose—whether or not it is to be an entrepreneur—have faith and seek counseling. I had the faith and support to walk in my purpose. Yet, I got cold feet at the last minute. Just a few sessions with a counselor gave me the mental tools I needed to push through the fear and do it anyway.

How can our readers connect with you?

Please check out The Cork Chronicles at http://www.corkchronicles.com/. Stay posted on upcoming events and the latest updates by joining the email list with the link in the right column of the blog or “like” The Cork Chronicles on Facebook, www.facebook.com/CorkChronicles.com. You can connect with me on Twitter, www.twitter.com/corkchronicler, or via email, Janelle@corkchronicles.com.


fabdogooder said...

wonderful interview! :)

Deanna Singh said...

Great interview! Your courage is inspiring!

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