Friday, June 15, 2018

ALWAYS BE POSITIVE: YOUR GLASS IS HALF FULL - OF WINE!

By always thinking of new ways to promote her wines, Natalie Waters loves to create events for the Suzhou expat community and bring people together.

nataliewaters


When I met Natalie at a cafe in Suzhou Center, I could tell she is a passionate woman from the way she greeted me. She looked at me with the bright eyes of people who wake up in the morning knowing they’ll do what they like to do. Yet, her story starts with a misfortune.

“My first passion in life was dance.” She told me “After university, I performed in various stage shows, musicals, and movies, but it all came to a sudden end when I suffered a painful spine injury. Doctors warned me not to dance anymore. It felt like my whole life had ended, I was devastated.”

Natalie had to find a new path. She explored different opportunities until she met a fellow actor who was a wine broker.

“As I love wine, I thought that could be something I would enjoy doing too. And I was right! I traveled a lot with the job, selling to clients in Australia, Hong Kong, and Singapore.”

It was her new job that led her to fall in love with her husband. 

“Brett was doing the marketing for Australia’s biggest wine icon, Penfolds. He tried to get my opinion on his companies designs for in-store displays, and I tried to sell him a wine portfolio. I succeeded. Within two years of us meeting each other, we were married, had our first son, and Brett set up his factory supply chain in China.”

Back then, her husband had to travel a lot back and forth to China. Natalie was alone, as her family was living in another part of Australia. When their son was nine months old, they decided they would all move to Shanghai.

“We thought moving would be the better option for our family. We came to stay 6-12 months, and ended up staying 12 years so far!”

During the first two years in Shanghai, Natalie focused on her family. She had her second baby and happily enjoyed the opportunity to take care of her children as a full-time mother. 

“I did some casual work as a choreographer on a fil and as a fit model but didn’t actively look for a job. It was nice being a 100% mom."

When her children started school, however, she felt it was time for her to put herself on the line again. 

“China gave me the freedom to discover my passions more than home. Australia’s job market is saturated and if you want to be a dance teacher or a wine educator you’ll find fierce competition. In China this was different, and I had a lot more opportunities. When we moved to Suzhou I started to teach dance at SSIS school and the chance to work in the field of wines came very soon after my kids started school.

When they lived in Shanghai, Natalie and her husband were members of Wine Club 101 and got along well with the owner, Joe. 

“My passion was for Australian wine but Joe opened my eyes to a  hugely diverse range of International wine varieties I had never heard of before, let alone had the opportunity to taste.  Around the same time we moved to Suzhou, so did Joe and Wine Club 101. Very soon after both my kids started school, he offered me a job with him, to sell wine.”

Natalie was eager to start, but that kind of a job required spending evenings organizing dinners and events. She didn’t want to leave her children alone at night, so she came up with a brilliant idea: the wine lunches.

“It wasn’t so different from what I was already doing. I would often share the wine I bought from Joe with my friends when we got together for play dates. My friends enjoyed what I was introducing them to and asked me to buy for them, so in a way, I was already working for Joe without knowing it.”
                          
Joe said it would never work. Instead, ten years later she is still organizing wine lunches and they have always been a great success. 

wine101suzou

“Wine lunches became an opportunity for mothers to put some makeup on, dress up, feel elegant and enjoy their time together, tasting samples from the vast portfolio of international boutique wines selected by me”.

Natalie got off to a good start. But life is unpredictable, and another tragedy was around the corner. Joe suddenly died, leaving a wife and a son - not to mention all the family savings invested in container’s full of wines in Shanghai.

“When Joe passed away, I felt a lot of pressure on me. Joe’s wife wasn’t as passionate as him about the business, and she didn’t know which way to turn. I helped her sell all of the wine. Once we had sold all of it, I suggested we work with other importers, so we could ease the cashflow burden, and also increase the selection to include wines from many other countries. Our client base was so diverse, it made sense for our portfolio to reflect this. Our grief after Joe’s sad passing has now turned to a feeling of pride, that we have kept his legacy of selling boutique wines here in China at a high standard.” 

Natalie made the business flourish and became the General Manager of the company, while Joe’s widow, Cecilia, continued to support the business in the back office.

“Over the years, I came with more fun ways to promote our wines as well as add more fun community experiences for my fellow expats, such as the Suzhou White Party, and the annual music festival, Suzhou On That Beat. I like the way wine brings people together. I love my job, meeting people and networking. I like to have fun organizing events and always doing new things. I want to enjoy my time here!”

suzhouwitheparty

Natalie’s story is indeed a story of passion and success. I asked her what suggestions she has for other expat women in China.

“I was lucky because I was a dancer and a wine educator, and this you can easily take with you if you move. But other jobs are not so adaptable, so I’ve seen a lot of talented women, who had high-level professional careers at home, feeling useless here, with nothing to give, empty.

My suggestion is to get involved, embrace the culture, engage with people. Do something you wouldn’t usually do, something unique. This is a place that can make or break you. Life in China always challenges me, and it’s like an emotional rollercoaster. You are not going to be happy all the time. You have to find your own happiness here. Always try to find the positive in what you meet! 

As for me, I am an eternal optimist who always sees the glass as half full. I have big dreams and love to help champion other people’s ideas.

You can see all the events and contact Natalie by  joining the WeChat group ID: SZWineClub101  or visit their Wine Club 101 Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/wineclub101/











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