Lauren Ackerman at Napa’s Ackerman Family Vineyards wins North Bay Women in Business award
Lauren Ackerman went from tech to philanthrophy to wine. She is a 2020 North Bay Business Journal Women in Business Awards winner.
Professional background: I was in the information technology industry in the early part of my career; moved into philanthropy in the mid-90’s until the present day, started my winery officially in 2003 after starting to make wine in 1995 and then started renovations on my 1888 Queen Anne Victorian which is now used as a special wine & food event space for local and out of town visitors.
Education: Bachelor of Arts degree in public relations, University of Southern California; MBA in strategic marketing and entrepreneurship, Pepperdine University; The Rockefeller Foundation TPW Program (The Philanthropic Workshop) on global strategic philanthropy; Summer Program at Oxford University, Victorian History
Tell us about yourself and your company:
Ackerman Family Vineyards is a small producer of super premium wines located in the Coombsville AVA of Napa Valley.
We produce around 1,000 cases annually and currently have six varietals that we produce. Since 1995, it has been a labor of love to build and grow our wine brand over the years into the unique organization that it is today.
I personally have learned so much in this process and am still learning, which keeps me on my toes! After purchasing the Victorian in downtown Napa in 2010, I embarked on a five-year journey that involved completely renovating a dilapidated historic house and dealing with an earthquake prior to completion. All the ups and downs of this process taught me so much and was well worth the effort. Today, both the winery and the Victorian are working hand-in-hand to give our visitors a truly unique experience.
Is there a major accomplishment in the past year or so that you would like to share?
I am so proud that The Ackerman Heritage House won the California Preservation Foundation Award for best Historic Preservation last year. This was such a huge honor to receive and made me realize that all my hard work was definitely worth it.
What is the achievement you are most proud of?
Taking on an historic renovation project that I had no idea how to do but persevering with it over five years.
There were definitely days I thought about quitting, but I had to dig down deep within myself to keep moving forward, always wondering if people would actually like it enough to visit.
Since opening in the fall of 2015, we’ve had almost 10,000 people through its doors and I am very proud of the fact that my dream to do a project like this actually came to fruition because it certainly wasn’t an easy journey. I learned patience, courage, faith and a sense of humor are often needed the most when taking on a challenging task.
What is your biggest challenge today?
My biggest challenge today is making sure both my winery and the Victorian remain viable and sustainable businesses, especially considering the effects of COVID-19 on small businesses throughout the Bay Area.
My team and I have done all we can to be creative, innovative, practical and resilient in the face of this interesting time. I didn’t work this hard for almost 25 years to quit now! Now that we have re-opened, we are excited about discovering new opportunities to build our businesses and evolve in new ways that we didn’t recognize last year.
Words that best describe you: Courageous, strategic, entrepreneur, fun-loving, generous, thoughtful, supportive of others, community-minded, kind yet strong.
In what ways have the pandemic and the shelter-in-place orders changed who you are as a person that will be a part of you long after the pandemic has passed?
Actually, I’m not sure the pandemic has changed me much except for perhaps being more resilient, more determined and less critical of myself. It has also made me even more grateful for the life I have and the people I have as friends.
Also, what ways do you think it will change the way you go about your career and your business?
It definitely has changed how we will conduct our businesses going forward in terms of continuing to look for creative opportunities that help us build our brand via virtual tastings and events, to create new and engaging private events that appeal to locals and visitors alike in a post-COVID environment, to always be striving to be innovative and unique while challenging ourselves to dig deeper, think bigger and, most of all, have fun doing what we do!
As for my career, I think it will just make me more determined to continue on the road to success which, in my case, is always under construction!
And when it comes to the COVID-19 issue, what are some the lessons learned for the business community?