Josh Cellars founder Joseph Carr discovered a passion for wine at an early age. He started his career as a wine steward, working his way up to become a world-class sommelier and later, a wine executive. After years of hard work, he left it all behind to pursue his dream: starting his own wine company, making wines from California. In this Faces of Entrepreneurship profile, learn more about Joseph, the devastating impact of wildfires in Napa Valley, COVID’s affect on wine sales and the restaurant industry, and the good they are doing to help save both.
What does “entrepreneurship” mean to you?
Joseph Carr: An entrepreneur represents the American Dream and endless opportunities.
How did your company come to be?
JC: Josh was born out of gratitude in 2007. My “a-ha” moment was actually a series of missed moments with my family. I was unfulfilled as an executive in the wine industry because of time spent away from my family. But I loved wine and realized I could chart a new path as a winemaker, which would give me a more flexible schedule. Of course, it took a lot of tinkering to develop the right blend, which was reminiscent of my father’s tinkering all those late nights in his garage. This was the catalyst for launching the brand as a tribute to my father: growing up I watched my father work tirelessly for his family and it inspired me to do the same for mine.
How has your business changed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic?
JC: Wine sales have been increasing year over year for Josh, and that has continued throughout the pandemic. We have been fortunate but recognize that other industries have not fared as well. The restaurant industry, in particular has suffered incredibly. To help support those who have been affected, we donated $100K to the Restaurant Workers Community Foundation (RWCF). Since my career started at a restaurant, it’s an industry that means a lot to me.
With the devastating wildfires occurring across California and, in particular wine country, please tell us a little about how this has affected your business and your outlook for the future?
JC: I spent many years in California, and the community is very dear to me. My heart breaks to see the wildfire devastation. While some vineyards in our area have been affected by the smoke from the wildfires, the vast majority we use for Josh Cellars are not directly in the fire zone and have not been impacted at all. We of course continue to be proactive and are monitoring the situation as best we can. Our goal is to always put the highest quality wine in the bottle and we will never let smoke taint compromise that. However, many have not been as fortunate and so many homes and businesses have been lost. As a California-based brand, we’re committed to aiding in the area’s recovery and donated $100K to the California Fire Foundation, an organization working tirelessly to help all those affected by the disaster.
What is your proudest moment so far?
JC: Honestly, I don’t have one singular moment. Every time I look at our social media channels and see our consumers enjoying a glass of Josh, I’m incredibly proud. Whether it’s a casual moment with a loved one or a special occasion, I’m always so grateful that they chose Josh to be a part of it.
How is your company changing the landscape?
JC: The wine industry is competitive. While there are many options to choose from, we want Josh to be a wine for everyone. We also want to use our platform for good. We take pride in our partnerships with nonprofit organizations like Operation Gratitude that aid brave individuals in need.
What do you wish you knew when you started? Is there anything you would do differently?
JC: I was never a numbers guy. Starting a business was a completely new venture and I wish I had a better understanding from a financial perspective as it relates to starting a business. I was so passionate about launching the brand in honor of my father. In hindsight, I would have taken the time to better educate myself on the business development side. Joining the Deutsch Family gave me an opportunity to truly scale the brand and strike the proper balance between distribution, sales and overall growth.
What advice/credo do you live by as you grow the business / what is your professional and personal mission statement?
JC: Patrick Doyle recites, “To Thine Own Self Be True.” This could not be more aligned with my personal mission as I aim to always stay true to the Josh mission, find joy in the work, and demonstrate courage and conviction in all that I do.
Where do you find inspiration when faced with challenges?
JC: I turn to my family for inspiration. Each day, I think about my late wife and my daughter whom I never want to disappoint. This keeps me motivated through times that may seem overwhelming.
What does “success” look like for you? What do you think will help you achieve it?
JC: As an entrepreneur, I’m not sure I’ll ever truly be satisfied or feel as if I have achieved everything I can. I’m always thinking about what the next day’s success or achievement is, how can I keep pushing the Josh brand forward with new innovations, how do we continue to use the brand platform for good. I come from a hardworking family, so I never rest on my laurels.
Has personal or professional “success” changed for you since the COVID-19 pandemic?
JC: Over the past few years, I was traveling not only for business but also for personal discovery and exploration. Since I haven’t been able to travel in the pandemic, I’ve continued my personal exploration by expanding my study of theater and art while quarantining at home. And like most people, I’ve successfully learned how to use zoom, teams, hangouts, etc., which of course are all now essential to conducting business.
What’s it like to work alone or with your partners? What advice do you have for fellow entrepreneurs about building and leading teams?
JC: I like to surround myself with a well-equipped team. I would advise fellow entrepreneurs to surround themselves with the best people they can afford. Listen to what employees have to say, communicate your main business message clearly, and be sure they buy into it. If your team isn’t unified under one common goal, it will be difficult to achieve success.
Many entrepreneurs continue to perfect their daily routines to support their work and greater vision; would you mind sharing your morning routine or a regular ritual that grounds your work each day? How has it changed in recent months?
JC: Each morning starts with a greeting from my dog, Molly. Next, I head downstairs for a glass of water followed by a brief yoga and exercise session. This helps clear my mind and prepare for the day ahead. I always make my daily to-do lists the night before. This list includes top tasks I need to accomplish for the day.
What keeps you motivated during this time?
JC: During this time, it is easy to reflect on all of the negative conversations happening and the detrimental nature of the pandemic. I try to stay motivated by exploring the positive and reminding myself that life is still full of good. Josh as a company is good, I am good, and we are on a simple mission to serve up new memories over a bottle of wine.
What kind of an entrepreneur do you want to be known as, as in, what do you want your legacy to be?
JC: I want to have the same legacy as my father. I want to be remembered as a dedicated worker, who truly earned my successes, but also used my platform to show gratitude for those who serve their community and to help those in need.
What is a quote or some words of wisdom that help get you through the tough days?
JC: A poet comes to mind by the name of Dylan Thomas. He says, “Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” This quote resonated with me in college, and it represents both hardship and darkness in comparison to a sunny bright day. It reminds me of my father as the poem is set while a son is reflecting on his father’s life, and the impact and importance of his legacy.
Who are the people who have mentored or influenced you in your life or career? How has their influence changed the trajectory of your entrepreneurial journey?
JC: There are many people in my life who have impacted my journey. First and foremost is my father. He instilled in me the importance of hard work, which made me the man that I am. For that I am eternally grateful, and it is why I launched Josh as a tribute to him. I also was highly influenced by my twin sister, ballet professor and high school wrestling coach. These three individuals challenged me in different ways, but all taught me the importance of confidence and balance in your life.
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