By V. Sheree Williams
Every brand has a great story to tell and luxury Champagne producer Krug is no different. For the second time, I had the honor of meeting the company’s CEO, Maggie Henriquez, who I can only describe as inspiring. When you hear her story that begins in her native country of Venezuela with stops in the U.S., Mexico and Argentina before heading to France, you will soon see why she is one of the most revered leaders today.
Hosted by the San Francisco Wine School and Women of the Vine and Spirit, Champagne was flowing upon arrival with glasses filled with the 163rd edition of Krug’s Grand Cuvee. Shortly after, Henriquez joined us to socialize like she was just one of the girls enjoying the afternoon while sipping on Champagne and eating small bites. That is what makes her so approachable and endearing. Characteristics that Krug embraces as well.
Henriquez started her career as a system engineer for a cosmetic division in Venezuela. She eventually got into the world of wine and spirits but later in her career took a detour when she was recruited by Nabisco Food Mexico. After turning the company around, she left Nabisco and took a little time off before accepting an offer to lead the Moet-Hennessy house in Argentina. Soon after, she got the call from Krug to lead their Champagne operation and well, rest is part of history as she is the first Hispanic woman to hold such a position as President and CEO in the industry.
Throughout her career, Henriquez has built a solid reputation for leading companies out of a crisis, a word she used multiple times during her afternoon talk. Putting systems in place and leading teams to get company profits and market share out of the red has earned her respect around the world. Part of Henriquez’s legacy at Krug is implementing a six-digit number system on the back of each bottle. The system not only helps the brand identify the vintages but also helps consumers get to know the story behind each bottle when they download the Krug app from the Apple store or Google. They can learn the history as well as listen to music that has been paired with each selection of Champagne.
Her storytelling is filled with beliefs that have guided her life, both personally and professionally. There were six that really resonated with me as nuggets of wisdom my own journey:
- Believe in yourself and your projects
- Be thankful for the life you have
- Give generously
- When the message you are trying to communicate doesn’t go through, don’t give up. Find another way to deliver it successfully
- Do not mistake your values – Know what matters to you and don’t comprise
- Empathy is important in leadership
When Henriquez arrived at Krug, she shared that it was more challenging than she thought and instead of increasing the company’s market share, it continued to decline. From there, she went back to the beginning to truly understand the company that founded in 1843 by Joseph Krug. She points out that you have to know the vision of the one who created the brand you are working for. Her tenure at Krug is also responsible for the communications and operations strategies that have successfully positioned the brand as one of the top Champagne houses in the world as well as a brand that is approachable and enjoyable by everyone at any time, hence removing the snobbery and the perception that it is only for people of affluence.
She’ll share her story once again this weekend in London at the Women of the Vine & Spirit International Summit to inspire more women who are currently leading the way. Whether in the states or Europe, if you have a chance to meet and speak with Henriquez, I highly suggest that you do.
As for the San Francisco Wine School, be sure to look for more great events as well as at their classes if you are looking to advance your skills and knowledge in the wine industry. If you are looking for to build your network, be sure to check out Women of the Vine & Spirits.