Sales & Marketing Director from Sonoma's Ceja Vineyards wins North Bay Latino business leadership award
The future for the family-owned Sonoma Carneros winery looks bright but comes with hard work, said Dalia Ceja Swedelson of Ceja Vineyards, a 2020 winner of the Business Journal’s Latino Business Leadership Awards.
Professional background: Working with my family’s winery for 11-plus years to build international brand recognition, while driving demand for selling wine products and growing influential brand recognition in the U.S and Latino markets through social media channels.
Education: Bachelor of Arts degree in marketing and communications from San Francisco State University and eMBA in Wine Business from Sonoma State University
Tell us your story and that of your organization: I am the daughter of immigrant parents from Mexico, and I am fourth-generation Mexican-American.
I identify myself as being both Mexican and American and I speak English, Spanish and Spanglish. My family first hand overcame challenges, broke barriers and beat the odds to go from vineyard workers, farmworkers picking the grapes during harvest time, to vineyard owners, to eventually winery owners within less than 50 years. This is my definition of the American Dream.
I am proud to be part of one of the pioneering Mexican-American families to launch a winery in Napa and Sonoma Valley.
As a Latina millennial, I want to use my voice as a platform to inspire other women from all over the world. I’ve been able to create a life that is meaningful by hard work, having an education and surrounding myself with inspiring and passionate people, businesses and communities.
Is there a major accomplishment in the past year or so that you would like to share?
On June 10, 2020, my husband, Chase Swedelson, and I welcomed our beautiful daughter, Luna Isabella Ceja Swedelson. She is a strong 4th generation Ceja Latina born during a global pandemic. Our family is blessed and now, at 4 months old, she is healthy and thriving!
What is the achievement you are most proud of?
My daughter Luna Isabella and being part of one of the pioneering Mexican-American family-owned wineries in Napa and Sonoma Valley. Orgullo Latino!
What is your biggest challenge today?
As a new mom, balancing motherhood, life and work while still keeping my identity. Motherhood has been a beautiful, challenging and rewarding journey thus far. I learn something new as a parent and as a woman every day.
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?
This year marks the 10 year anniversary of MAVA (Mexican American Vintners Association). As a winery member and association, we celebrate wines produced by Latino vintners, providing educational scholarships to Latino youth, advocating quality standards for our members, and supporting the contributions of Latinos in the wine industry.
Since the pandemic began, each participating winery has faced their own challenges in their business. Most of the participating wineries are small-family owned wineries producing less than 1,000 cases and the shelter in place restrictions have had economic impacts for many.
Words that best describe you: Determined, passionate and adventurous.
As a successful professional, what were the biggest obstacles you faced and how did you overcome them?
It’s imperative to survive as a small valley owned business, especially being one of the “little guys” in the wine industry. Before SIP took effect we relied on heavy direct to consumer sales and foot traffic at both of our tasting rooms.
We also have limited distribution across the United States so we are now utilizing all of our social media channels and marketing platforms to get creative and promote online sales!
Over six months ago, my mom and I launched Ceja Vineyards Taco Tuesday, Vino y Más on Facebook Live, streaming every Tuesday at 7 p.m. PST. We aim to entertain, engage and educate viewers through our cooking, lifestyle and culture show.
We encourage participation from our nationwide fans and friends. We upload wine pairings and recipes every week! Viewers can participate in two ways: They can buy our wines directly from our website (www.cejavineyards.com) to have our wines shipped directly to their home or purchase through our Sonoma tasting room. We currently have offers on wine sales and shipping.
Lastly, viewers can participate by making the recipe and cook along with us every Tuesday! All our recipes and wine pairings are located on our website. Click on the “Recipe” tab and scroll down.
How do you think your profession will change in the next five years?
Next year marks Ceja Vineyards 20th anniversary and we plan to break ground to build our mission inspired winery in the near future. The next five years will be focused on building this family legacy and business. Our future as a family-owned business looks bright but with a lot of hard work ahead!
Who was your most important mentor?
My mom, Amelia Morán Ceja, president of Ceja Vineyards. I am proud to share that she was also elected to be the first Mexican-American woman to be president of a wine production company in the United States. I hope Luna inherits her passions of cooking and zest for life!
Tell us about your community involvement: I am involved with several associations including: NG: The Next Generation in Wine, MAVA (Mexican-American Vintners Association), The Napa Vintners and Sonoma Valley Grower’s to name a few.
Each association gives back to the community by raising funds for select nonprofits and organizations for education, farm workers and women’s health issues (to name a few). I am proud to be a part of all of these associations!
What advice would you give to a young person today?
Follow your passions.
If you love what you do and you work hard at it every day, you will never have to work a day in your life. Also, travel the world (once it’s safe).
After graduating from college I departed on a six month “Study Abroad” backpacking journey through South America, learning, exploring and enriching my career with real life experiences. We only have one life to live, make it count!
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?
Nothing in life is guaranteed or promised. 2020 has had devastating impacts on families, businesses and economies all over the world. I can only wish for a brighter, healthier and more positive future for my daughter. In the meantime, please do your part and VOTE!
Most admired business person outside your organization: Dolores Huerta. She is a champion for social justice and has lived her life fighting for campesinos rights. She’s an incredible woman and inspiration.