Drea Helfer-Lagourgue of DH Wine Compliance wins Women in Business Award

Drea Helfer-Lagourgue

President and founder

DH Wine Compliance

5570 Skylane Blvd., Suite C, Santa Rosa



Notable Quote: “I am most proud of being a woman business owner and mom who leads a successful company with amazing employees who execute premium work in a work culture that puts the employees before profit.”

Professional background: I rode and trained horses until 2002. After my semi-retirement, I worked for a wine import/wholesale company for three months before taking a compliance class. Compliance sounded interesting so I asked the instructor for a job. I cried the first three days because it was so confusing and overwhelming. I worked for the instructor for three years and then moved to another compliance firm where I worked for four years. I started DH Wine Compliance in January of 2010 with the goal of creating a consulting firm that focused on premium customer service and expertise.

Education: Left formal high school after my freshman year and did independent study for one year and then stopped after starting classes at College of Marin. I attended College of Marin for three years taking pre-recs and multiple English-Lit classes. I re-took many English-lit classes because I enjoyed them so much. I left COM when I moved out of state. Received my GED in 2003 after returning to California and finally finished my BA from SRJC in 2016.

Staff: 17

Tell us about yourself and your company: DHWC is a full service alcohol compliance company serving micro, small, medium and large organizations located throughout the U.S. We assist our clients to obtain and then maintain the permits and registrations needed to produce, import, wholesale and retail their products. We provide services and consulting in all aspects of state and federal compliance regulations.

Is there a major accomplishment in the past year or so that you would like to share?

We have been awarded NBBJ's best places to work for three (hopefully four) years. The work culture and environment is so important to me. Receiving the award is a reminder and confirmation that the staff is happy, which makes me happy too.

Any community involvement?

I feel fortunate enough to have a circle of phenomenal women friends who also own their businesses. As a group we attend many Sonoma County events (YWCA, Council on Aging, Healthcare Foundation, Catwalk for a Cure) where we support the organizations through donations and the purchase of live and silent auction items.

Throughout the year DHWC encourages employees to volunteer their time at the Redwood Empire Food Bank and other organization. The employees volunteer on paid company time. We have also arranged donations for various local causes and make annual monetary contributions.

DHWC also sponsors local children's sports teams.

In 2016 I started “Sonoma County Backpack Project” which provides backpacks and school supplies to Sonoma County school children in under privileged areas. This year I hope to partner up with fellow entrepreneurs and business owners to extend the reach to additional children and areas for the 2017-2018 school year. www.socobackpackproject.com

What is the achievement you are most proud of?

I am most proud of being a woman business owner and mom who leads a successful company with amazing employees who execute premium work in a work culture that puts the employees before profit.

What is your biggest challenge today?

My biggest challenge is trying to balance it all and not tear all my hair out or pickle my liver.

Words that best describe you: Determined. Motivated. Disciplined. Authentic. Empathetic.

As a successful female professional, what were the biggest obstacles you faced and how did you overcome them?

My biggest obstacle that I have faced and continue to face every day is the volume of what needs to be accomplished on a daily basis. Being a parent is hard.

Running a business is hard.

As a mother, my children are always my priority but DHWC is a large machine that takes a lot of my energy so I constantly adjust my strategy to get it all done in 24 hours. My days are never calm: dropping the kids at school, riding my horse, work, kids sports, laundry, dinner, shopping…it just never ends. I am thankful for what I have and even more thankful for what I am able to provide to my family and my staff at DHWC. I wouldn't have it any other way.

How do you think your profession will change in the next five years?

I do think the wine/alcohol industry will change in the next five years. The cannabis industry will make a big impact on multiple facets. I believe that the impact will be positive for all. The “W” in DHWC is for wine but maybe it can also be for “Weed” ?

Who was your most important mentor? And tell us a little bit about that person:

I met Sidley Payne when I was 12 years old. She was my horseback riding instructor. She took me under her wing during a very difficult time in my childhood. She made sure I was in school, had a job, clothes and food. She encouraged me to be curious, creative, kind and intuitive. She put me in the position to discover who I was, build confidence and perserver. She pushed me to be the best I can be.

What advice would you give to a young woman entering your profession or the work world today?

Family always comes first.

If you are an owner, honor value that for your staff. Encourage them to take time off work to attend the kid's field trip, singing performances or family events. One doesn't get that time back. Build your company around respect.

If you are an employee, do something you enjoy. Life is too short to hate your work.

Most admired businessperson outside your organization: My dear friend Renee Mengali, president of Mengali Accountancy. If I had to describe her in one word it would be “genuine.” She is 100% genuine to who she is, what she believes and who she loves. She exudes confidence and integrity. She's also a great dancing partner.

Typical day at the office: HA! Those don't exist in compliance.

Best place to work outside of your office: I enjoy working in small coffee shops but I often get distracted from watching people and end up writing fictional stories about their lives.

Current reading: I am a bit of a hoarding book nerd. I always have a stack by my bed and a list on my kindle. My current jam is “The Big Life” by Ann Shoket. I've been reading and then re-reading each chapter. Something about the book speaks to me.

Most want to meet: I adore singer/songwriter Brandi Carlile. I enjoy her music at any and all times of the day. I admire her activism and determination to make the world a better place for our children.

Social media you most use: Facebook and Instagram

Stress relievers: Spending time with my amazing girlfriends. It feels like the only time I truly relax, pause and smell the roses.

Favorite hobbies: Riding and hanging out with my horse, reading, writing and drinking wine.

Drea Helfer-Lagourgue

President and founder

DH Wine Compliance

5570 Skylane Blvd., Suite C, Santa Rosa



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