Ops chief of Healdsburg's Rack and Riddle Custom Wine Services wins North Bay Latino business leadership award
Learning the language was among his greatest challenges, says Agustin Ponce of Rack and Riddle Custom Wine Services, a 2020 winner of the Business Journal’s Latino Business Leadership Awards.
Education: College (Mexico)
Tell us your story and that of your organization: I started with the company in Aug.t 10 of 2010 as cellar master in Hopland CA. When I started with the company, I did not know much about the sparkling wine process all my experience was with still wine. Nevertheless, I accepted the challenge and 10 years later I am still here learning everyday more about sparkling wine.
Is there a major accomplishment in the past year or so that you would like to share?
This was not recent but, our biggest accomplishment was when we moved from Hopland to Healdsburg. We went from having a practically empty warehouse with no tanks and no bottling equipment to getting our company back up and running better than when we were in Hopland. We able to start from nothing and build ourselves up again to the successful company that we are now.
What is the achievement you are most proud of?
My biggest achievement is being able to support and take care of my family and parents. I have been able to do this with my hard work and perseverance. I am proud of my work ethic and the success that it has brought me.
What is your biggest challenge today?
The only challenge that I would say I have is my English and not being able to fully express myself at times.
What are you most proud of regarding the achievements of the area Latino business community and what are the greatest challenges faced by that community?
The biggest challenge in the Latino community is being able to new open doors for opportunities. We need to prove ourselves more than others and work harder. But once we are given the chance it amazes me at how far and how much we can accomplish.
Words that best describe you: I am a very honest person, I always voice my opinion. I take my job very seriously, I am responsible and reliable. I am family oriented and a man of faith. I think it is important to help others and teach others to grow and learn, both inside and out of work.
As a successful professional, what were the biggest obstacles you faced and how did you overcome them?
My biggest obstacle was to learn the language and learn how to express myself with others. I took night classes at the local junior college to learn English until eventually I felt comfortable enough with the language.
How do you think your profession will change in the next five years?
Rack & Riddle is my home. I do not see myself anywhere else but here growing and adapting with the company.
Who was your most important mentor?
My parents were the first people who taught and instilled the importance of hard work.
But my first mentor in the wine business was Raymond Landa. He was my first cellar master. Ray taught me everything I needed to know about the processes of wine and cellar techniques. He also taught me how to be a good leader.
Tell us about your community involvement: My family and I are very involved with our local church and community. We help with event planning and fundraisers. My wife and I along with other couples from our community give classes for marital and premarital counseling. I believe it is important to help my community in any way that I can and try to help keep families together.
What advice would you give to a young person today?
To work hard and keep aiming big. No dream is too big or unattainable if you work smart and work harder.
It’s a challenging time for all but the COVID-19 virus has been especially tough on the Latino community. Tell us your experience either personally or with the group or company you work with in dealing with the economic impact of the virus.
We are fortunate enough that our company has been able to keep running during the pandemic. By following local regulations and taking the necessary precautions we have been able to continue business as normal.
What are the lessons of this difficult year – including the COVID-19 virus, the economic downturn and the fires – for you and how has it changed your outlook for the future?
This year has had its challenges for everyone but for me personally it has made me more aware and prepared. It has showed me the importance of being present with me family and being grateful for each other and what we have.
Most admired businessperson outside your organization: My most admired businessperson is Carlos Slim. I find it fascinating how from such an early age he was able to build himself to the successful businessperson he is today.