Under the Influence of spirited women
- written by Diane Chimboza (MD Under the Influence Kenya)
They say “Men shape the road but women lead the way”.
Simone Musgrave says it best “As women we need to stop allowing these “spaces” to be owned and simply be confident that we can move into anything we put our minds to.”
These two statements are so true especially for us women who work in the wine and spirits industry. It’s been a long 6 year journey for me in this industry and I write this ode to the women I have met in this industry and beyond that have helped me carve and shape who I am and who I want to be. I came into this industry being more of a wine drinker than a wine educator or wine seller. One of the first things I felt was so important to me to do was to educate myself. So, I enrolled for the WSET courses and I passed my level 2 and 3 courses (still contemplating that diploma). What inspired me to do this were two amazing women I met in my wine journey in Kenya– Victoria Munyokwi the official wine guru and pioneer of wine in Kenya and Wanjiru Mureithi, a wine educator pioneer in Kenya. They taught me that me that as a black women in this industry – I CAN.
My second biggest influence was the legendary Cathy Marston who runs WSET courses in SA. During both courses, I felt consistently in awe of her knowledge and found myself drinking up as much of her wit as I could. Wine can be daunting, there is so much that goes on behind the bottle and her way of teaching helped shape the way I educate staff during trainings.
The gains in the South African wine industry have been nothing short of transformational. The very first black women winemaker I ever met was Malmsey Rangaka from M’hudi wines. Her story, her passion, her vision has been such a guiding light for me, it keeps reminding me - "yes, I can". And it’s not just the women making the wine who are an inspiration, it’s the women behind the labels, the ladies who are in charge of vineyard management, it’s the ladies who are in charge of sales , it’s the export managers. All of you, I salute you.
And then to these two spirited women Simone Musgrave (Musgrave Spirits) and Jess Heinrich (A MARI Gin), I would never have started drinking or selling Gin if I haven’t had a perfect serve of these amazing products. Spirits, more than wine, are heavily male dominated and these two women have successfully carved an amazing niche for themselves with their quality gin.
I was honoured to find myself at Segera at the Roar Africa Women’s Retreat, earlier this year. I reflected on my journey and how proud I was of myself. As I listened to these women from all walks of life and ages share their journeys to success, the highs and the lows, the constant balls we have to juggle, I realised how much more I still have to learn and give back to other women who are coming up in this space. My hope is that one day my story and my journey will inspire others to reach for the stars.
And to the two men who shaped that road for me; my father and my CEO– thank you.