From Budgets to Bordeaux: Entrepreneur Shares Journey from Finance Professional to Vineyard Owner
Andre Mack talks to MMS students at the Fuqua School of Business
May 05, 2014
Andre Mack knows something about taking risks. He left a successful job at Citicorp Investment Services to follow his passion for wine. At 30, he was the first African American awarded the title of Best Young Sommelier in America. But he wasn't content to just serve wine. He wanted to make it. And so, in 2007, his own label, Mouton Noir, came to life. In the first year, Mack produced 378 cases. In 2012, he was up to almost 20,000 cases serving 17 markets.
What advice would you give people about finding and pursuing their true passion?
I think everybody knows what it is. Everybody at this moment knows exactly what they'd much rather be doing, or what they'd love to do. I went about it the wrong way. I did it for money. I said, "I'll go into finance because I can make money and I'll be happy." I think what happens is you get there, and you start to figure out, "Wow, this is not what I thought it was." So you aren't happy. So the idea of being able to make money just kind of disappeared. I feel like if you do what you love, you can make money. Don't do something because you want to make money.
Pursuing your passion is a big risk. How do you minimize that?
You just have to be smart about it. I didn't say, "You know what? I hate this. I want to do something else so I'm just going to quit." You still have to be practical, and at that time I didn't have a family, so it was a little easier for me.
For me, I utilize the hours between 10 p.m. and 4 in the morning. And I'm a freak like that. You have to be willing to give that commitment. I think a lot of people aren't. They say that they are but they're not. My biggest thing is to get started. Do it. Don't talk about it. Do it. Think about it. Convince yourself and do it.
How can people develop the courage necessary to take these risks?
At some point you have to not care what people think. You have to be courageous and step outside of yourself to be great. And I don't think greatness is this elusive thing that most people can't attain. I think greatness is in everybody. It's just about rising to the occasion and being prepared. I do believe in luck. But I believe you create your own luck. And how do you do that? You do that by being prepared. So that when those opportunities do come, you can take advantage of them.
How do you cultivate the leadership skills necessary to achieve your dream?
I think there is what we call natural born leaders. Those are people we would associate with having talent versus people who have skills. But skill and talent, to me it's almost the same thing. Talent is something you're born with and skill is something you acquire through hard work. So just because you're not a natural born leader doesn't mean you can't become a natural born leader. Those are things that you have to constantly work at.
People settle for mediocrity. You really only live once. So you've convinced yourself that the life you're living is good enough for you. And maybe it is. But there are other things that you aspire to do and want to do and you should make those things happen.
You stress that it's important for a business to give back. Why?
I feel like if you're not giving back, then what's the point? I was in finance. I was making good money, but every day I hated going to work. I wasn't being fulfilled. You're not doing anything with your time on this earth if you're not giving back and helping other people.