Diverse skill set prepares Carrie Wright to push Naked brand into new U.S. markets
Carrie Wright and fiance Andrew Coffin.
Think, for a second, about the relay race that delivered that bottle of Naked wine to the tailgate of your pickup outside Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
It begins with the wine, of course, but beyond Hood River, Ore., and the bottling line, getting that bottle of Naked to Oklahoma passes through a long chain of handoffs.
You can thank Carrie Wright.
Naked's director of distribution (don't yawn … this is dramatic stuff), Wright draws on her background in design and architecture, ski instruction and long-distance travel to put Naked and Outdoor Vino bottles where your desire departs from dollars.
Recruited from her job at Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Resort by Emily Knutson, Wright started pouring Naked tastes in the spring of 2010.
She was commuting to Hood River from her home 60 miles west in Portland. She noticed that stores where she shopped lacked something significant – Naked Wine. So she asked company co-founder Dave Barringer “why isn't Naked here?”
He replied with a question of his own: “Why aren't you working in outside sales?”
Sales got her curious about the company's distribution chain. Jody Barringer had that pile on her plate, but it was spilling off the edges. Six months after joining Naked, Wright assumed the job of distribution manager.
“It means you're working with distributors, finding new distributors, building relationships, managing orders, helping the sales team learn about the winery, setting up connections to sell more wine for us,” Wright says in summary.
It means, also, that she found herself in Moore, Oklahoma, a week before the massive tornado that lay waste to the town a week after she had flown on to Tulsa.
It's all part of Naked's push into the heartland of the country. “Everything from Oklahoma and Kansas, Nebraska on over to Tennessee and Missouri,” Wright says.
Her most recent (May 2013) visit to the capital city of Oklahoma was … interesting.
“It was my third visit to that market,” she says. “I go once a year, although I'll probably not be returning in May again. I do not want to go through tornado season again.”
She dodged the worst of the massive twister that leveled the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore. She says she experienced massive thunderstorms when she was there, “but I never heard the sirens go off. My hotel was about a mile from the path.”
She says the Oklahoma market is growing a lot. “They love our Climax (red blend), Tease (riesling), Pinot Gris and Outdoor Vino (Wanderlust) white,” she says.
Wright and general manager Nicole Backus recently schlepped bottles of wine around downtown Seattle, during the company's first appearance at the massive Taste Washington wine event. Finding a distributor is always easier, Wright says, if you walk a few existing accounts through the door.
“We literally went on cold calls, took wines, introduced ourselves, offered samples,” she says. “We sold wine out of our car pretty much. And we got three accounts.”
As a result of those efforts, Backus says Naked wines are being featured this quarter at Teatro ZinZanni. As they continue the search for a Seattle distributor, they happily work with Big River Distributors in Vancouver and DJP Selections on the Olympic Peninsula.
Ground-pounding, door-knocking, cold-calling full-on frontal assault is the same way Wright first proved herself up to the distribution job – by finding General Distributors and sealing a distribution relationship for the Portland market.
Wright also has her sights set on the San Diego market. Initial contacts have been encouraging.
“One distributor we contacted had had accounts asking for Outdoor Vino, which is surprising, because we hadn't done that much down there,” she says. “Apparently some hotel wanted it for sale poolside.”
For an environment in which broken glass is not a good thing, plastic bottles – and good wine – clearly are a marriage made for the market.