97: Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You, Meredith Meyer Grelli

by | Jun 26, 2022

Succession
Stories
Podcast

97: Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You, Meredith Meyer Grelli

by | Jun 26, 2022

Meredith Meyer Grelli is the co-founder of the Wigle Whiskey Distillery. In 2010, Meredith and her family decided to open a distillery in the City of Pittsburgh as the first one since Prohibition. Naming their whiskey after the leader of the 1794 Whiskey Rebellion, Phillip Wigle, they needed Pennsylvania’s laws to change before opening their doors. Over the past 12 years, their patience and innovation paid off. Wigle has been the most awarded craft whiskey distillery for five consecutive years. Meredith joins host Laurie Barkman for a conversation on innovation – from creating a robust product development process for growth, innovating from a people perspective, and setting up the organization for sustainable success. 

Listen in to learn more about:

  • How to foster innovation
  • Building a culture of customer empathy
  • Achieving higher employee retention
  • Optimizing performance management
  • Shifting from a hands on role and empowering the next generation of leaders
  • Hiring to your strengths

Show Links:

wiglewhiskey.com

threadbarecider.com

linkedin.com/in/mmgrelli

https://www.cmu.edu/swartz-center-for-entrepreneurship/

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Transcript

Laurie Barkman:

Welcome to Succession Stories! I’m Laurie Barkman. As an exit value planning and M&A advisor, I call myself The Business Transition Sherpa. This podcast guides entrepreneurs from transition to transaction- from building value in your business to letting go. 

What do I do when I’m not hosting a podcast? I work with owners to maximize business value with my firm, SmallDotBig. And as a Certified Mergers and Acquisitions Advisor with Stony Hill, I guide you through the complex process of selling your company.

Tune-in to Succession Stories for weekly insights to reward your hard work and avoid succession regrets. Hit subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts, and sign-up for our newsletter at successionstories.com. Here’s to your success!

Is this the year to sell your company? Don’t leave your exit to chance. Stony Hill Advisors works with entrepreneurs like you to get ready for what may be the biggest transaction of your life. Learn what your business is worth by visiting stonyhilladvisors.com/podcast.

Intro:

Meredith Meyer Grelli is the co-founder of the Wigle Whiskey Distillery. In 2010, Meredith and her family decided to open a distillery in the City of Pittsburgh as the first one since Prohibition. Naming their whiskey after the leader of the 1794 Whiskey Rebellion, Phillip Wigle, they needed Pennsylvania’s laws to change before opening their doors. Over the past 12 years, their patience and innovation paid off. Wigle has been the most awarded craft whiskey distillery for five consecutive years. 

There are many things I loved about my conversation with Meredith. Thematically we talked alot about innovation – from creating a robust product development process for growth, to innovating from a people perspective to manage a very challenging labor dynamic. I appreciate how Meredith hired team members that play to her strengths, and over time be less involved day-to-day. This has enabled Meredith to become a faculty member at Carnegie Mellon University and explore community connections through family business. Enjoy my conversation about creating a business that can thrive without you with Meredith Meyer Grelli.

Laurie Barkman:

Meredith Meyer Grelli, it is an honor to have you on Succession Stories. We’ve known each other for some time now, because we are in some of the same entrepreneurial circles in Pittsburgh, and also with Carnegie Mellon University, as faculty, and it is a pleasure to have you on the show. Welcome.

Meredith Meyer Grelli:

Oh, I’m so thrilled to be here. There’s nowhere else I’d rather be this morning. Thanks for having me, Laurie.

Laurie Barkman:

Great. I want to start by talking about you and your entrepreneurial journey. Tell me what motivated you to start your business as a co-founder with your husband, to start your company Wigle whiskey?

Meredith Meyer Grelli:

Yeah, well, we are both lovers of food and drink and we really wanted to bring back this regional heritage back to Pittsburgh, so western Pennsylvania, where it’s the birthplace of American whiskey, and we understood that that heritage had really been lost from our region so we wanted to smash that back, and really build out this amazing story, which is really the part one of American history that revolves around whiskey in this part of the country and so we wanted to build that back. We are also both very fascinated by food and drink and flavor. In fact, that’s really what bonded us from our first date onwards and so we wanted to do a shared venture, and it was natural for it to be around flavor.

Laurie Barkman:

This was not an easy thing, you don’t just launch a distillery and you don’t just launch a distillery in the middle of Pittsburgh when the laws on the books prevented you from doing so. There’s a little bit of a history lesson here that maybe we just need to share, because your journey started with a little bit of a government battle, right, you had to get new legislation to even open your business as opposed to, “Hey, I’m gonna open a Shopify store,” and pushed a couple of buttons on the internet, you had to go to go to the state capitol.

Meredith Meyer Grelli:

Yeah, there were some regulatory hurdles that we had to climb, so we really wanted to create a distillery that was built around education, storytelling experience, where we could help consumers understand how our spirits were made, and then sell directly to them, which was a pretty different model than the traditional distributor model that existed in liquor, really prior to 2012. We started working in 2010 to get this bill enacted that would allow distillers like us, small craft distillers, that would enable us to sell directly to consumers and we were doing this lobbying effort while we were also building out the distillery, we were having a still built outside of Munich for us, and at the same time, pushing for this bill and that bill came into effect, actually, on my husband’s birthday, two years into our lobbying effort and we opened the distillery after a public comment period in March of 2012.

Laurie Barkman:

This was during the time when craft beers were really on the rise and you were inspired. I think I’ve heard some of your interviews where you talked about, you would walk down the aisle of a liquor store and just feel like none of those products were targeting you. Is that a fair summary?

Meredith Meyer Grelli:

Yeah, we I mean, we really thought that the traditional whiskey brands in this space had really been focused for decades on a very particular audience, and in our consumer focus groups we are starting up and we had two years to talk to people because we were waiting for this law to change. We would ask people, “What do you think of when you think of whiskey?” And they would almost invariably say something along the lines of, “An older gentleman sitting on a leather couch, smoking a cigar,” and we thought ‘holy smokes’, there is this whole segment of the population or segments of the population that the whiskey industry is just ignoring right now and so we worked hard to bring those consumers to the table to engage them in learning and fun and what we think of as edutainment to bring them into this fold and to welcome them in and grow our consumer segment and really appeal to a new audience.

Laurie Barkman:

Is this a family business? Did you bootstrap it with the help of family and friends? Who are the investors?

Meredith Meyer Grelli:

This is entirely a family business, we actually have no outside investment so it’s just my immediate family that are owners. We actually started the company sort of uniquely when you think of family business, you often think of generational family businesses, where parents or grandparents started, and then hopefully pass it down to the next generation to the next. For us, we actually posed this idea, after we had – both my husband and I both were in professional careers after graduate school and we posed it to my parents who were just retired, and said, “Do you want to do this with us?” And they jumped in wholeheartedly, with so much support in every which way, including being our full time volunteers for many years.One of the questions I often get asked is, “How do you work with your husband every day?” That, to us, is actually one of the great gifts of this business, we both had sort of more traditional corporate jobs prior to this and we were just amazed by how much time we spent with people other than our family and so that’s been one of the real positives to starting a company together not to say that there aren’t.

Laurie Barkman:

I noticed on your website there’s a few Meyers and there’s a few Grellis, and so it’s your mother, your father, and the others from your side of the family or your husband’s side of the family.

Meredith Meyer Grelli:

Yes, so my mom and my dad, and then I have two brothers, one who was involved, more involved in the day to day for the first number of years of sort of startup phase, and then his wife got a great job in Santa Barbara, and they ended up moving about seven years ago or so out to California, and then I have another brother, who’s a librarian in Iowa, at a university there and he certainly helped in the early days as well, but has his own thing.

Laurie Barkman:

Well, history is definitely part of the storytelling for the brand and you have a brand development background, which if people want to go to wiglewhiskey.com, and really try to understand the brand, you’ve also written a couple of books, which tell the story, and we won’t have time today to go into all of the history, but I do encourage people to, to learn more about this fascinating story, because it goes back to George Washington, right? He was a distiller and there was a taxation issue. There was violence. I mean, this should be… there’s probably already a movie about it. Alexander Hamilton is part of it and there was an uprising, and people said, “We don’t want to be taxed anymore. We want to drink our whiskey without the interference of our new government.” Is that a fair summary?

Meredith Meyer Grelli:

That’s absolutely right. The Whiskey Rebellion, which started in Pittsburgh was the first test of federal power, this incredible, quirky story that we lay claim to and then we have another couple 100 years after that a really interesting alcohol history, which encapsulates many of the robber barons, and a number of really pivotal points in early American life, so alcohol, it’s a great mechanism to get some history done, some education.

Laurie Barkman:

It really is but I’m spending time on this with you because it’s illustrative of how your brand, you’ve created a brand, literally from scratch, right from creating this from back to having to get the the laws changed to doing customer research and understanding who your tag your segmentation is and what will make a product appealing to them, which is really what I want to shift into now, talking about growth and differentiation. Talk about the product development side, talk about the experience branding, how that’s helped your business grow, and maybe just give us a sense of your pre-pandemic size. I will talk about the pandemic in a moment. How big did the company get at its largest point?

Meredith Meyer Grelli:

Yeah, well, the company actually continues to grow. It grew throughout the pandemic. We’ve become more efficient in terms of headcount, in large part because of necessity because of the changing labor force but the company has grown and I should say, companies because we have a sister site or company that hauled threadbare Seder and meat as well. Both are really built on this, like you said, Laurie, this storytelling. When we thought about the brands and the companies, before we started, we knew we needed a few components to really create the rich, nuanced, robust companies that had deep roots that would flourish throughout the years and so we wanted a regional reason to be, why should we make whiskey or cider here in Pittsburgh? We wanted an agricultural system that would support our production and so for whiskey, that’s rye, corn, wheat, and even some barley for cider, that’s apples, and for mead, that’s honey. 

We needed the real estate, which turned out to be one of the more challenging pieces of putting these businesses together. Of course, we needed consumer interest and so with both of those companies, we felt that at the start of it, we had all four of those pieces to move forward and when we had all of those pieces, we felt confident we could create these really enriching experiences for guests that are built largely around history, storytelling, product learning, and interactive experiences, that creates these long lasting relationships with our customers and we’re able to do that, hopefully in a more impactful way, then the 15 seconds on shelf, or two seconds on shelf you get with consumers when they’re perusing a liquor store aisle. That’s allowed us to really focus on innovation. 

I think like you’ve hinted at Laurie, we focus about 10% of our production capacity to new products every year, which means that we have a really unwieldy portfolio, we are always pushing on the edges of our production, to find new areas of interest to feed our production teams interests, and also to explore areas that consumers have reported to us that they want us to explore so that’s resulted in some really beautiful products that we think is really sort of our responsibility as a craft distiller to produce. One of those products, for instance, was a saffron Amaro, which we produced for the first time, a few years ago and the story with that product was we heard of this farmer in eastern Pennsylvania, in Lancaster, who was bringing back this tradition of growing saffron from crocus flowers, which the Pennsylvania Dutch use to grow in a significant amount to use in things like pot pies, right and so we wanted to celebrate that piece of storytelling and agricultural history in Pennsylvania and so we produced this beautiful amaro with saffron, which is a very expensive ingredient but really produces a very unique flavor and I should say, it was one of our distillers, Michael Foglia, who came up with and developed that product, and it brought home our National Innovation Award from our industry so it’s those kinds of products that it would be harder for a large distillery to dedicate resources to bringing to life but which we feel is really our role in the industry to continue to dream up and produce that kind of product.

Laurie Barkman:

I love that. You said you have 10% of your budget dedicated to innovation. Do you have someone on staff whose role it is to lead your innovation processes?

Meredith Meyer Grelli:

It’s now bread in the bone throughout the team so we use a pretty robust innovation step process where we develop our new products and we have are constantly training cross functional team members in that process, so that we have a bi-weekly innovation get together where we look at all the products in the pipeline and continue pushing forward on ones that are working and talk about customer discovery on those that are in process and kill projects that don’t make sense anymore. But really, we have one leader on the production team who is really the project manager for both companies for innovation and then we have cross functional team members from across the company participate in the customer discovery work for new products, because we think it’s important that front-of-house team members, sales team members, marketing team members, sit with customers on a regular basis and listen to what they are saying and telling us and really hone in on that empathy that we try to maintain throughout the organization.

Laurie Barkman:

Listening is a really powerful tool. Asking the right questions and really listening doesn’t cost a lot to do that. It’s really the cost of time and organizing it but so powerful so it’s exciting that you have such a robust process and I should have had you talk about the size of the company, maybe some of the locations just to give a… I’m in Pittsburgh and I’m a customer of yours. I’ve been to your first building and the distillery in the Strip District, which is really – is it fair to say that’s the flagship location?

Meredith Meyer Grelli:

Yeah, absolutely. We have a few locations for Wigle Whiskey, and then we have two locations for Threadbare Cider in western Pennsylvania so our locations are in the Strip District, where our distillery is where we produce all of our spirits and we truck them across the 16th Street Bridge to our barrel houses on the northside of Pittsburgh. That’s the neighborhood of PNC Park, where the Pirates play and the Andy Warhol Museum. That’s also where our Cider House threadbare cider and Mead sits and then we have bottle shops in our region’s sort of luxury mall called Ross Park Mall and we believe we’re the first craft distillery or cider house in the country to locate in one of those, in a mall like that. Simon is the property holder there. We have a Wigle location at the Allegheny County International Airport and we’re looking at additional sites now for potential future additional locations and then outside of what within Pennsylvania we’re distributed in about 300 stores so if you’re near a fine wine and good spirits store, you can find our spirits there or a Giant Eagle you can find our cider there and then beyond Pennsylvania, we are distributed in about a dozen states.

Laurie Barkman:

That’s amazing! Happy anniversary. This is your 10th year as a business, is it nine?

Meredith Meyer Grelli:

It is, yes.

Laurie Barkman:

It’s a long journey.

Meredith Meyer Grelli:

The same age as my daughter.

Laurie Barkman:

Oh, so you were launching a lot of things at the same time?

Meredith Meyer Grelli:

Yes, it wasn’t planned that way but that’s how it happened.

Laurie Barkman:

So it’s family business and business of the family. I got you. That’s awesome. Let’s talk about the pandemic. Lots of companies had to go through some changes and I’ve been recording this show pretty much since the beginning of the pandemic and it wasn’t always a focus of the show. but somehow we talked about it and it was always really around the theme of resilience. How are we getting through this tough time? It feels now here we are recording this and about 100 conversations almost into this theme of how do we continue forward? How do we grow? How do we transition? How do we innovate with the benefit of the rearview mirror? Now, when you look back on the last couple of years, and the changes that you may have had to make in the business, whether they continued on or they were temporary. Maybe you could talk a little bit about that, of the company’s experience and your experience as a leader during the height of the pandemic.

Meredith Meyer Grelli:

The pandemic for us was…there were challenges and there were gifts. At the start of it, we had just renovated our main location, the distillery, a three and a half million dollar expansion to include a new restaurant, bars, new tasting room, bottle shop, and we opened on Friday, March 13. Two days later, the governor shut it down so we’re open for 48 hours or so before the first shutdown. And at the time that felt devastating. Shortly thereafter, Governor Wolf announced the closure of our state owned liquor stores here in Pennsylvania and so all of a sudden that happened one evening and we went to bed, not thinking much of it and then in the morning we woke up to an entirely new world because we had worked about five or six years before that, to change another law that would allow us to ship our spirits directly to consumers in Pennsylvania, and also by right to folks in Washington, DC. We were successful in changing that law but we were very unsuccessful in the marketing of that change so we were just never able to…you’re not big enough, our marketing wasn’t strong enough to convince consumers that they could or should buy their spirits online. The pandemic, of course, changed all of that, once. Governor Wolf shut down PLCB stores, consumers across the state found our website, and overnight, that segment of the business, which was fairly nominal up to that point, became a really significant piece of the business. We knew our time was limited, we didn’t know what the length of time would be that the state stores would be shut down, but we knew it wasn’t going to be forever and so we really took full advantage of it, we invested a significant amount of money into online marketing during that period. That has held since the pandemic, we’ve been able to hold on to really that consumer behavior and we had over the years cultivated a significant following through our newsletter through social media, but never felt fully able to activate on that because of this consumer reluctance to shift spirits.

Again, the pandemic really did the consumer education work for us so that was a great gift. I think every business owner, probably something that’s more relatable to those outside of our industry than the e-commerce world, which is, newly opening up to spirits. Something more universally relatable is probably the labor issue, which I’m sure every business owner is contending with, in some way or another. We had really, we had started a pilot program aimed at retaining, particularly our production team members, pre-pandemic, where we, instead of doing a traditional annual review and raise every holiday season, that kind of thing, we started putting together growth plans that were metered out every three months with raises and many promotions on a much more frequent basis and we found that that aided retention significantly. So, throughout the pandemic it was only natural that we started to deploy that over a variety of other groups across the company and that’s helped us certainly to actually grow retention over this period, which is a strange thing to say and we’ve also been able to really consolidate roles that once we relied on a lot of part time labor. We’ve found that we’ve really had to shift that model so that now we’re really built on far more full time roles to remain competitive in the labor market and I don’t see that piece shifting too soon.

Laurie Barkman:

Was the shift, I think I saw numbers wise you were 100? Or it was over 100 employees at some point, and I don’t want to get the number wrong? 168 I think I saw? 

Meredith Meyer Grelli:

Yeah, that’s right.

Laurie Barkman:

Then what would you say today after all that optimization and shifting of roles and strategy?

Meredith Meyer Grelli:

I think we’re gonna say somewhere just below 100.

Laurie Barkman:

Wow so that’s pretty significant. As with anything, there’s trade offs, so you shifted the labor cost dynamic, but then you also had increases because you’ve been implementing your performance management system and implementing raises so that’s an amazing story because of the lessons learned around retention and you figured that out early on. Was that something from an intuition standpoint as managers and leaders that you knew that you were sensing that could be something of interest to your people, or did it come more organically from them?

Meredith Meyer Grelli:

We had been trying to get our heads around this for some time because we felt…I’m an elder Millennial. As such, I sort of ascribe to probably not the true heart and soul millennial mindset we have a wide ranging staff in terms of demographics, but truly folks who tend to be, who tend to find us for jobs tend to be in that 25 to 35 year old age band and what we’ve found with those staff members was that they had, even pre-pandemic, very different expectations around what career trajectories should look like. My husband and I both were at these corporate jobs where he was a corporate lawyer, and it was, you do this associate thing for seven years, and then become a partner, and hopefully get a few good jobs in between and some bonuses, but that’s the deal. I had a similar seven years; marketing director with incremental raises, but bi annually, like two years and that just didn’t fly. It just didn’t fly and so we probably spent the first couple of years saying, “Oh, why are these kids’ expectations so wildly out of whack?” And then we said, “You know what, we got to stop sounding like that, we have to figure out how to meet the needs of our team members and this model that we have been operating under just does not and we’re not going to accomplish anything, if we keep asking, ‘Why doesn’t it?’” So we just committed to rethinking everything, and being very open to what their needs and asks were as much as the business could, of course support and we’ve found that it’s been far more successful this way. We’ve also gotten rid of the annual performance review. Now we’re just focused on growth plans and we have a team member who has been with us for eight years and when we did that, she said, “Thank goodness, I just never felt good after a performance review, even if it was a good performance review, I just never felt good, but I feel good every time I talk to a team member about their growth plan.”

Laurie Barkman:

That’s amazing. What a difference. 

Meredith Meyer Grelli:

Yeah.

Laurie Barkman:

Congratulations on that. Now, we’re going to talk about you and your transition as a leader, because as the founder, co-founder, you’re there day to day, the blood, sweat and tears. This is not an easy ride as an entrepreneur, we all know that, and here you are, at this point, we’re recording during the day, you’re not at the office, you’re in a different place, and you’re recording with me. Also, you’re a faculty member at Carnegie Mellon so there was a time shift there for you over some period of time and I want to talk about that. I want to explore that. When did you start to think about stepping away from the day to day and how did you make that happen? How did you become replaceable? Right? If someone else was helping lead your role on more of an active basis in the operations or in marketing, whatever role you played the most, spent the most time, can you share a little bit about your experience there?

Meredith Meyer Grelli:

Yeah, this happened for us in stair steps in sort of realization, stair steps and action stair steps so it wasn’t a revelation all at once, or a belief. I think for a long time, we felt like we shouldn’t be doing the things that we’re doing, “The level of detail at which we’re operating is not good for the business,” but we still couldn’t figure out quite how to extricate ourselves from some of them. What I found is that you just have two extra people who will fill in, they rip off the band aid. The first step, really, for us, was, pre-pandemic, we started developing these growth plans for leaders and saying, here’s where we want you to be over the next two years. Really, we created those in part by parceling off things that we really felt we shouldn’t be active in. We said, “We’re going to be patient about this. We’re looking at it from a two to three year view,” and then the pandemic happened and all of that accelerated because we’re a hospitality business, a part of it. We’re also a manufacturer, there’s a lot of cases for business, but part of it is hospitality and so when our hospitality operations shut down over the pandemic, we had all these team members, we didn’t let any full time team members go so we had people that we could really focus on their development. We became much more active in that leadership development, feedback, and actively managing people’s growth plans. 

Then, for me personally, Carnegie Mellon, a year ago, approached me about a full time role. I had been an adjunct gig, as you know, in the entrepreneurship courses at Tepper for a couple years, and they said, “This full time role has opened, would you be interested?” And I said, “Well, now we’ve got four months to really get everybody. Make sure everybody’s okay and then I’m going to do it, and that’ll be the test,” so we doubled down on the growth plans from spring through summer, last year and we attached financial incentives to the growth to each individual leader and lo and behold, they all met the growth targets and in the fall, I really, truly stepped away, because I just had to have, because of this new other obligation, and I will tell you, the business is running now better than it did when I was trying to micromanage everything, which is a terrible tactic, and one that I employed far too much. Everyone, everyone, including all of our team members, my family, everyone is much happier this way.

Laurie Barkman:

That’s a great illustration of what I talk about a lot on this show . It’s somewhat counterintuitive to say to a business owner your business will run better, you’ll be happier, and it’ll be more valuable, if you can step away and your business can thrive without you. You are now a case study. Congratulations. Now, that’s great and I think I heard you say in an interview that you did, when you talked about surrounding yourself with the right people, some people do Strengthsfinder, and they figure out, “Oh, I’m really good at these things. I’m not so good at these things. Let me hire people around me, that can really boost up the areas that I’m not so strong.” I heard you say that you hired to your strengths. Tell me a little bit about that.

Meredith Meyer Grelli:

I don’t know if this is the right strategy, Laurie. Definitely, in terms of replacing myself, the things that Wigle the brand, and the company and Threadbare, the brand, and the company are built on our quality, innovation, storytelling, experiential marketing, all of that, we’ve really built an internal team that is very proficient at, and those are all the things that I love and have been able to train team members in and have also just been able to attract like-minded people too who wanted to grow a company in that way. Because they see it in the company and so they’re attracted to that as well because like attracts like in that way. I think the areas that are less interesting to me are areas that we’re probably less developed in, and I don’t think that’s ideal, but that’s how the company has developed and I think there’s opportunity to grow the company in those other ways with some outside talent that’s already baked a little bit because, as a small company, our capacity to train and grow and develop is limited. I would have a hard time training and growing team members in areas that I was not proficient in and so hiring outside experts in those areas, I think, is a wise move, but we’ve generally focused on growing internal talent, and the focus has been on our internal strengths and so the plus side to that, there’s pros and cons to developing internally versus, hiring from the outside and, of course, it’s not mutually exclusive, but we’ve always emphasized the internal growth and now we have a set of directors who have been with the company, a 10 year old company for between six and eight years and can really, not only can they run the company, they’ve built the company with us and so that’s the benefit.

Laurie Barkman:

That’s incredible, you should be really proud, and I know Pittsburgh is proud of you. This is a city that really admires what you and your family have done. Let’s switch gears a little bit as we wind down this conversation. What’s next for you, maybe with some work you’re doing at Carnegie Mellon? Some things you and I have started to talk about specifically there with family business and some work that you’re doing. How are you fostering innovation and entrepreneurship and family business, and what’s the role that you see Carnegie Mellon playing in that potentially?

Meredith Meyer Grelli:

Yeah, well, I am really excited that Carnegie Mellon asked me to think about community connections, when they hired me and the way I thought about it is really through family business, because 80% of the global economy is represented by family business and family business has these interesting assets to it that make it pretty distinct from other forms of business. For instance, family businesses are more likely to be run by women, by immigrants. and it’s a way that, family business is a way that communities across the country have built wealth for their residents, and really built community identity so for all of those reasons, I was very excited to propose a family business course to Tepper, which is the first time in recent history that Carnegie Mellon has offered any curriculum around family business. We ran that in the fall and it was wonderfully rewarding to teach it and we were able to develop really significant relationships with students who come from family businesses, and prove to the university that this is an area of great interest to our community so I will be continuing with that family business work this coming year, we’ll be bringing in speakers specific to family business at Carnegie Mellon, that will be open to the community. Hopefully, Laurie will be a speaker in our family business series and we will continue on with this course. We will also be offering to both our students and the general western Pennsylvania community a peer support group model, where we will have six or seven family business owners in a group that will be facilitated by Carnegie Mellon faculty members or alum and we hope that…we were excited to facilitate these groups, but we believe that these groups will flourish and exist beyond the Tepper campus as well as the members get to know each other on pretty significant levels. Beyond that, we’re excited to continue to grow the family business programming at Tepper and meet this need of our students and of our community that we think right now is there and waiting for us to attend to.

Laurie Barkman:

That’s awesome, and you have such a strong community building background, we didn’t even touch on all of that but as our audience learns more about you, and they read about you and your company, they’ll certainly see that. Why don’t we ask that now? I mean, there’s two last things. One is how to find more information about you, Meredith, and Wigle Whiskey and Threadbare, and if people want to connect with you, what’s a great way to do that?

Meredith Meyer Grelli:

Yeah, so you can head to wiglewhiskey.com or threadbarecider.com for information about the companies, and then I’m happy to connect with anyone on LinkedIn. I’m listed under Meredith Meyer Grelli on LinkedIn.

Laurie Barkman:

Perfect. I know you’re a very inspiring person, are there any quotes that inspire you that you would like to share?

Meredith Meyer Grelli:

Well, I think so I often share with my students this TS Eliot poem, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, because I think it’s actually a little bit about entrepreneurship, among other things, so I have some lines from that, but I’d be happy to share and I’m paraphrasing here, so not exact, “…and indeed, there will be time, there will be time, there will be time. Time for all the works in days of hands that lift and drop a question on your plate. Time for you and a time for me and time yet for 100 indecisions and for 100 visions and revisions before the taking of a toast and tea,” so I know entrepreneurship can feel relentless at times but that’s to allow yourself some patience. Give yourself some grace as you move through your own entrepreneurial venture.

Laurie Barkman:

It’s a beautiful, beautiful quote. Meredith, thank you so much for coming on Succession Stories and sharing your story about growth, innovation and transition in the company that you have built from scratch. 

Meredith Meyer Grelli:

Thanks, Larie. It’s been a pleasure. Thanks so much for having me.

Laurie Barkman:

Listeners, thank you so much for tuning in. You can always catch Succession Stories on any of your favorite podcast players or YouTube. Don’t forget to like and subscribe to the show! If you want to maximize the value of your business and plan for future transition, reach out to me for a complimentary assessment at meetlauriebarkman.com. Tune in next week for more insights from transition to transaction. Until then…here’s to your success.

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