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Breaking The Mold: Why I Became A Fitness Influencer At The Age of 49

People

I have never been very typical and have always been proud of that. I like being different in my opinions, ideas and outlook on life. It has allowed to continuously grow and enjoy experiences most people don't give themselves the opportunity to take advantage of. As a matter of fact, my teenage daughters will tell you my number one piece of parenting advice is to try and "not" fit in.


The less we worry about what others think, the more we can follow our heart and chase our dreams. So that is what I did at the age of 48 when I decided to do something totally outside the norm from what my female peers were doing. Instead of fighting the aging process, I decided to use my lifetime experiences in fitness, embrace my maturity and show others that age is just a number and we are only as old as we let ourselves feel. And so the journey to "One Million" social media followers begun.

Like every other challenge I have taken on, I approached this new venture with the same thoughtfulness. I can't count the number of times I have been asked this past year “How did you do it?" It's an anomaly for people to consider how it was possible to grow such a huge social media following in such a short amount of time. I think they believe there is some “magic trick' and want to hear my secret, but my answer is plain and simple. I did my homework and I remained true to myself. Every entrepreneur knows that success is the perfect combination of preparedness and good fortune. My success follows this same logic. I researched, read and asked questions of anyone who seemed to know about the world of social media. Not all of it was accurate and there were a lot of gray areas, still I took it all in and came to my own conclusions.

Then one cold February evening I took my first brave step, uploaded a video of me jumping rope and hit “post". I waited for something to happen. My nerves rattled a little as my very first comment came through. “Wow you are good!". Instant smile. Ok, good feedback. I will continue.

Photo courtesy of Janine Delaney

Feeling more confident than ever, I decided it was time to go all out and started to share more about my age and my life as a Psychologist, with a 20 year marriage and two teenage daughters.

As the days passed, I allowed myself to be vulnerable, sharing with whomever would welcome it, the world of fitness I had grown up with. A million doubts raced through my mind. What would people think? Would I get criticized for being too old? Still, I was determined and I knew if I did this right, I had the chance to impact so many people in such a positive way. I was not going to give up. I became more and more passionate about creating new and exciting content. I wanted to share everything I learned throughout my lifetime of fitness, from dancing professional ballet as a child, to teaching aerobic classes back in the 80's, to competing and placing in bodybuilding shows in my early forties. I had learned so much over the years and aside from being able to help my close friends, this was the first time I was getting the chance to share on a much broader level. It was amazing to see comments and questions from all over the globe. I felt connected and inspired in return. I was even given a nickname of the “Jump Rope Queen" because of my unique style of jump rope. I quickly became known for my energy and authenticity.

Not only did I focus on exercise, but as a Psychologist, the mind/body connection has always been a critical part of whom I am. I often spent hours writing content for my motivational posts.

I always told it like it was and people responded well to that. I made a point to network and reach out to others so we could find ways to support one another. Pretty soon, the sponsors started knocking, but I refrained to give in to temptation and focused instead on telling my story rather than looking to turn a buck for a product I didn't believe in. People could tell I was the real deal and came to me with questions on everything from diet to dealing with injuries. I always led them in the right direction if I did not know the answer and did not provide false information or try and take credit I wasn't worthy of. Building a community was first and foremost in my mind. I knew the business end would come down the road, but sometimes we need to hold off and be patient to reach our longer-term goals. This strategy worked for me and now I have a select group of brands I endorse because I have been a loyal consumer of theirs for years. That is refreshing in today's world of false advertising and it makes a valid point that there is still room for integrity.

Feeling more confident than ever, I decided it was time to go all out and started to share more about my age and my life as a Psychologist, with a 20 year marriage and two teenage daughters. Suddenly my momentum was on a fast and steady rise. I was encouraged to branch out to Facebook and YouTube and I partnered with a fitness app company to develop my very own training app that could be used by people all over the world for anywhere/anytime workouts. I hired a branding expert, a videographer and photographer. I even started doing live streams. I was really doing this! It was an amazing feeling to know that I represented every woman and helped them to feel good about themselves again, rather than getting discouraged over photoshopped images. I helped others see they didn't have to be in the field of fitness, or in their twenties to look and feel great, they just had to have the motivation and drive to make their well-being a priority.

I will say that despite the great reward and creativity my new venture has allowed, it is also quite a departure from my everyday life. I would be lying if I said it was easy. As my brand continues to grow, I need to find more and more ways to juggle my primary career and my family. A good friend of mine who is also an entrepreneur asked me how I was managing and what I felt I needed to give up. Then she laughed and said “sleep right?'. I still wonder how she knew. Like anything new, there are always sacrifices to be made, but in the end it is all worth it. What I love best is that I am showing my daughters through example what it means to be a strong independent woman and follow your dreams. I am also showing all women out there that it is never too late to reinvent yourself. If you can help others along the way, well that's really the icing on the cake. I am fortunate at this late stage in my life to create a new exciting adventure for myself, one that is continuing to grow on a daily basis. I wonder what the year ahead will bring. I also know that since I am doing something I feel so strongly about it will only get better and better!

I hope I have inspired you!

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Business

Kegs, Cans And Sustainability: How These Women Are Making Billions In The Wine Industry

Universally loved, and, (especially at this time of year) drunk merrily and in excess, wine is the answer to much if not all our prayers, on a regular basis.


The wine industry also happens to be home to some major female leaders, and it's become apparent, that the barriers to entry women face in almost every other industry don't apply here, as long as you've the work ethic and brains behind your operation.

"This is a people's business," says Delia Vader, CEO of Viader Wines, who's vehement about the gender neutrality of the wine industry, and hopeful for it's future, (even with the hefty factors of global warming, and recent wildfires, contending with the grape-producing vines).

Naturally, we were all too excited to sit down with five leaders in the industry working throughout the globe, that are innovating and shaping the future vintages from California to Italy and beyond. Below are five such women, ranging from vineyard to store owners, and one woman who's completely shifting the way we think about wine consumption.

Francesca Planeta

Francesca Planeta, Wine Director, Planeta Wines

Francesca Planeta has been a rising star on the Sicilian wine scene for the last few years. Planeta is devoted not only to promoting her own vineyard, but promoting all the wines of Italy's largest island, which is most famous for the wonderful, Nero D'Avola.

Sicily's wine scene veritably boomed around Planeta as she was growing up. So when she finally began working on the Planeta Wines vineyard in her early twenties, she quickly learned the nuances of the land and the grapes she would ultimately come to produce. “I had begun to help out at the winery, using a graphics studio to create the logo and the first labels, and then I returned to Sicily, during the time of that first harvest. (This) was the moment when I decided that I would take on the challenge of working with the business that bore our family name."

Given that the business was family owned, Planeta did not encounter any barriers to entry because of her gender, but instead made sure that women are integral to the process on the vineyard. “Women have a fundamental role in our business," says the winemaker. “They are entrusted with many responsible positions; from wine making to directing exports and from the hotels to the entire marketing and communications office."

A worrying factor for both Planeta and the women at the vineyard however is global warming, something which has plagued wineries across the globe in recent years. Given that the taste and production of wine depends heavily on its “terroir" (or, surroundings), changes in environment are immediately a factor for anyone in the industry to consider when its coming to harvest season. “It generally seems to us that global warming presents not only a problem of warming in itself," she comments. “But in extremes of weather phenomena, with heavier rainfall – when it occurs, and rather longer periods of drought. (However), living and working in the centre of the Mediterranean gives us better conditions and the last twenty years have shown greater climatic stability."

Selling upwards of 2.3M bottles of wine a year, her chief markets (apart from Italy), are the United States, Germany, England, and Russia, followed by Canada, Switzerland and Japan. And she recommends that for the chillier months, if you're drinking a Sicilian wine, to go for Merlot, Syrah, or Burdese.

Delia Viader, CEO, Viader Wines

Argentinian-born Delia Viader was in the midst of an M.I.T degree, with three children at home, when an opportunity arose to purchase a vineyard in Napa Valley. “The timing was perfect for relocating my very young family," she says, who quickly got to grips with their new surroundings as their mother began constructing a powerhouse wine team to launch Viader Wines.

It hasn't always been easy for Viader and her team however. Before the financial crash of 2008, Viader was sold in every state throughout the U.S, and exported to 24 countries abroad. Since the crash, and an arsonist fire at a warehouse of theirs containing the entire 2003 vintage, they've changed their business model drastically. Now, they sell 90 percent of their collections direct-to-consumer, with the remaining 10 percent sent abroad or to the bigger markets of New York, California and Texas.

She has also become naturally concerned by the Californian wildfires of late, and their threat to both the vines, and the warehouses where the barrels are kept. “The biggest impact on our vineyard has been the change of weather pattern we have been experiencing for the past 35 years that we can speak of," says the CEO. “We are learning a lot about how resilient affected vines can be, and how wine made from those grapes needs to be processed to perhaps reshape stylistic performance of the resulting wine. The winegrowers as an industry will be learning a lot from this."

Delia Viader

Learning and innovating are at the core of Viader's vineyards, where her son, Alan is championing new ways to irrigate their 92-acres of land, and fine tuning an understanding of “the exact optimal time to harvest at each vines' peak ripeness." And while she may be the CEO, she heavily depends on him for his expertise and blending capabilities. “I am the owner and CEO but I call myself the wine mother because I am the mother of the vines (I had them planted myself, my way); the mother of the wine (I 'created' our Cabernet-based wine to be highly influenced by the terroir with a high dose of Cab franc and remain, highly influential at the final assemblage-blend); and I am the mother of the winemaker, my son Alan Viader."

What is Viader most likely to be drinking at this moment? “I am very susceptible to a vibrant Pinot Noir from Burgundy most times," she says. “But my choice really depends on two variables: the food I am going to have and the company, the people I am going to share that bottle of wine with. I love harmony in the wine, the food pairing and the conviviality that springs from sharing a great wine."

Julia Jackson

Julia Jackson, Propietor, Jackson Family Wines

As one of the largest family-run wine groups in the U.S, The Jackson Family has garnered quite a name for itself. Leading the way within the group is Julia Jackson, daughter of mother Barbara Banke and Jess Jackson who built the group up from the ground, which is now worth an estimated $2.3 billion.

Today, their portfolio boasts wines from 52 wineries throughout the world, and integral to that is building relationships from within and amalgamating abroad. For Jackson, that means working in almost every facet of the business in order to cover all the projects she wishes to pursue. “I wear a few hats in my family business," she comments. “I'm spearheading my first acquisition project in another country, (and) I work with our international sales team to be one of the faces for Jackson Family Wines." On top of this, she's also involved with the group's environmental and philanthropic efforts, which, given the wildfire situation in California, will be work much needed in the years to come. “All my philanthropic efforts are focused around our environment and I created a charitable program that gives grants to women within the eco-space through our Santa Maria based winery Cambria."

Jackson's favorite wine at this time of the year? Gran Moraine from Willamette Valley Oregon.

Hortense Bernard, General Manager, Millesima Wines

Hortense Bernard was working with global industry leaders Moet Hennessy Diageo in Paris as a brand manager before she made her big move to the U.S. Now, she stands as one of the youngest female General Managers in the world of a large international firm, atop the Millesima USA group.

Millesima, a leading retailer in Europe, who branched into he U.S in 2006, owns upwards of 2.5M bottles of fine wine that are housed in the company's cellars in Bordeaux, France, (which is also the largest AOC vineyard in the country).

Bernard, who had her first glass of wine at eight years old, works primarily with direct-to-consumer retail and educating the U.S market about Bordeaux wines from their shop on the Upper East Side here in New York. "My goal is to educate as much as I can," she says. "In store, we speak about Bordeaux, and try to explain (because Bordeaux wine can be really complex), the wine."

"When I arrived here, I didn't know anything about American consumption," she laughs. "So it took me quite a bit to learn about it and understand how Americans see wines, and what they mean when the ask for a Chardonnay."

On top of chatting with customers, Bernard plays host to a lot of cultural events throughout the city, accompanying her wines whenever there might be a chance to express the history and significance of the wine for both France, and the industry at large.

So naturally, when asked what she'll be drinking on the celebratory occasions of December, it will be a big full-bodied Bordeaux " because that always takes me back (home)."

Hortense Bernard

Marian Leitner, Founder, Archer Roose

Once it dawned on Marian Leitner that Millennials were drinking more wine than beer, she saw an opportunity to modernise the way we purchase, consume and enjoy wine.

"In the U.S, you actually pay more for the shipping and the packaging than you do for the wine itself," says Leitner. "So I started to ask why and learn more about the alternative packaging market."

Branching away from bottles, Leitner looked to packaging wine in every way beer is packaged - from cans and kegs, and then also, in boxes.

"You have to separate consumers into two buckets - the super high-end collectors, who make up less than 1 percent of the population, and then you have people who are drinking, "value" wines. And then the rest of America are basically beer drinkers."

Upon the realization that Millennial wine drinkers are more than beer drinkers, she also came to understand that they're also very brand-loyal. Brands that represent qualities and values they share, are the ones they're consuming the most. "So we decided to leverage the alternative packaging movement (which is keg, can and box), to cut through all the noise of the bottles in the wine store, and really connect with consumers." In doing so, she launched the company, Archer Roose Wines.

This move means, that apart from the ultra-hip way the wine is presented, you're also economizing. One box of Archer Roose wine contains the equivalent of 4 regular bottles. And inevitably, the kegs contain a huge volume.

Wine kegger, anyone?