Considering she’s been running Toronto’s coolest place to learn about wine, as well as having travelled the world over in search of the perfect sip, Angela Aiello is one of Canada’s top authorities when it comes to all things vino.
From her first job in a restaurant to starting the iYellow wine agency, Angela’s love of wine has been a major part of her career and ultimately, her success. We sat with her to chat about how she got her start, how she stays motivated, and you guessed it, WINE!
How did you get to where you are in your career at such a young age?
You know, being an entrepreneur is filled with a lot of hard work and long hours. In order to persevere you need to be laser focused on your goal, be extremely passionate about your industry, and ultimately believe that what you are doing makes the world a better place. My philosophy on the work that I do is around what I like to call “The Democratization of Wine”. I felt like wine needed to target and reach a younger demographic. The industry and the city were lacking in places for budding wine enthusiasts to connect and taste together without the snobbery. At the beginning of the blogger boom in 2006, iYellow became a community of people who came together to taste and learn about wine through a blog I called the iYellow Wine Club. Over a decade later we are a strong community of members, followers and fans who love to learn about and taste wine. Building a community and running over 150 tasting events per year definitely takes a talented team. Throughout the last few years, the ladies that run the show at iYellow have coined the nickname “The Wine Angels”, and our jobs have been to help educate and teach people about wine in a fun and approachable manner. Our wine school classes, our events and all that we do are aimed around bringing millennials into the world of wine – right down to our nicknames ( mine is @SuperWineGirl ). Being educated about wine both academically and through travel and experiences gives you the gift to tell stories and be a teacher, and that is how I became Super Wine Girl – by building a community of wine lovers, teaching them with passion, connecting with them to build trust, and seizing business opportunities. Like Richard Branson always says, say YES and figure out how to do it after. That is exactly what helped build my career.
What advice would you give young women starting out in their own careers?
I always say, find one of your talents and match it with an industry. What do you love to do every day all day long? For me, business (and wine) are the most impressive types of art forms, and I found a way to integrate them together by analyzing the market, seeing an opportunity, and surrounding myself with other passionate people and mentors who could help me reach my goal.
What would you say is your greatest accomplishment?
Other than building a whole business from scratch, I would say that my largest accomplishment has been travelling the world to learn about wine.
What’s the best networking tip you’ve ever received?
When it comes to networking, I always have a glass of wine in hand! I definitely have been to my fair share of networking events, and I always start the conversation off talking about the nitty gritty or fun side of wine. The best tip I’ve received was to always follow-up after a conversation – whether that is a personal email or through Linkedin. Many people forget that the majority of business is done between people who like each other, so having good people skills and building strong relationships is a big part of the business. Someone also told me to make sure to ask for a Linkedin reference after you have completed work.
What’s your favourite way to market yourself and your work?
My favourite way to market myself is with wine! You can’t help but love a girl who fills up your glass with something delicious and can talk you into liking it! That is definitely my favourite way to throw myself into a conversation and get people excited about wine.
Who has been an important mentor to you and why?
I have some amazing mentors who have helped me along my entrepreneurial journey. Stephen Tapp who was the CEO of XM Radio has been like a big “business” brother to me, guiding me through all of the ups and downs of running a business, leading people, trailblazing through an industry, and navigating the world of media. I worked as his assistant for a few years and he taught me almost everything I know about leadership in a small business and how to really work with people.
I have also been fortunate to have many female mentors in the wine business who have guided my career. Some of them have even been my clients for over a decade – to name a few, I would say, Paula Oreskovich, Laurel Keenan and Angela Lyons have truly been guiding lights and supportive females in the business of wine.
I always think that wine chose me. I began my career at age 16 at Vineland Estates Winery Restaurant. I was a busser, a server and a hostess for 5 years, and also worked another 5 years at Peller Estates in the restaurant as well. Both of these were 4 diamond restaurants and are staples in the Ontario wine country landscape for excellence in the hospitality and food service business.
I moved to Toronto after making my way through a four-year business degree at Brock University and realized Toronto needed a “Social Community” of wine. That is when the iYellow Wine Club really came to fruition. It all started with home wine parties to meet new people, wine tours back to Niagara when I was homesick, and writing about wine on my blog – iYellow Wine Club. I founded the club with a university friend of mine and together for the first few years we DIY’d our own videos on YouTube, threw fun wine tastings, and started to build the first real wine community in Toronto. Anyone in the wine business will tell you that it’s a hard one to leave – the people, the places, the wines and food are all so amazing. If you’re passionate and a hard worker, who also likes to play hard, this is a really great business to be in. I’m even more excited to be bringing wine to a wider audience with my new partnership with Notable Life. I had a foreground career in media before taking iYellow into full-time ownership about 8 years ago. With all of the opportunity in wine and talking to a younger demographic in an approachable voice, I was able to trailblaze during the blogger boom and it was and is so much fun to be an entrepreneur in this space.
How do you unwind?
Honestly, I love to cook and entertain. I like all of the Italian things – gnocchi, pasta, pizza; and it’s not a full night of relaxation without an awesome bottle of wine. I might be partial to drinking Italian, but I really love wines from all over the world. My pride and joy is my wine collection – it comes in all shapes and sizes of bottles. I love opening up something really delicious with people I love and watching the sunset.
To hang with Ange and sip some amazing summer wines sign up for iYellow’s 6th annual Summer Wine Jam – don’t forget to use the promo code NOTABLEWINEJAM50 for 50% off the ticketed price.