Ever wondered what it’s like to start your own import/distribution business? Luke Wohlers started a distribution and import business called Walden Selections that’s dedicated to natural wines in Seattle, Washington.
This interview with Luke Wohlers is part of a collection of interviews with people who’ve dedicated their lives to working in wine:
Did you know this is what you were going to do when you started?
Starting a distribution/import business wasn’t on my radar when I started working in wine in 1999. At the time, I was enthusiastic about working in restaurants and on the retail wine side. And I wouldn’t have been successful at it back in those days. I knew I needed a lot of experience working in wine before moving over to distribution.
What got you to commit?
My partner and I had discussed starting a business in 2014 so the timing was right. Neither of us had spent any time in wine distribution/import but I was interested in learning more about it. I’d interviewed for a number of supplier/distribution positions but was unsuccessful getting hired on account of my lack of experience “on the street.” But I had spent a fair amount of time starting and growing businesses for other people so I wasn’t worried about the business side. What got me to commit was a feeling that I could take on a new challenge and rise to the occasion.
How did it feel?
Starting a business is difficult but also rewarding. Our goal at Walden Selections has always been to think about the relationships we create as one line, from the producer all the way to the consumer. We try to be as active as possible with our importers and wineries and make sure that they are well-represented to buyers and consumers in our region. It’s extremely rewarding to see our buyers and wineries interacting.
Did you have any failures so far? How did you deal?
We’ve had some challenges and disappointments so far but no failures. We’re growing the business in a purposeful way and have kept conservative, realistic growth expectations. If we do find failures in the future, we’ll treat them as learning experiences, which will only help to refine our business.
Absolutely none. I do miss restaurant and retail work. But with distribution, I’m connected to our clients’ restaurants and retail shops. In that sense, I still feel connected.
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give someone trying to become a distributor?
Be natural at creating and strengthening relationships.
What it’s like to work in wine
Ever thought about working in the wine trade? The wine industry is powered passionate individuals and there’s always room for talented people. Here 5 stories of people who’ve broken tradition and have pursued a career in wine.