365WineTrade Technology Talks: Episode 7 with Ashley DuBois Leonard from InnoVint

365WineTrade by Western Computer

 

In episode #7 of 365WineTrade Technology Talks Tony Castellano and Jacklyn O'Brien are joined by Ashly DuBois Leonard of InnoVint. Ashley has been in the industry for over 20 years merging her technical experience with the socialization in wine making. InnoVint was designed with winemakers in mind to help manage their daily production operations.  

Learn more at www.365winetrade.com/podcast

 

Full Transcript:

Tony Castellano:

Hello, and welcome to another edition of 365WineTrade Technology Talks. I'm your host, Tony Castellano. In a few minutes, I'll be bringing on our guest for today, Ashley DuBois Leonard. But first, I wanted to introduce our co-host for the 365WineTrade Technology Talks, Jacklyn O'Brien. How you doing today, Jackie?

Jacklyn O'Brien:

Hey, Tony. Doing great. Thanks so much for having me.

Tony Castellano:

Absolutely. Great to get back together with you. I know we've had a couple of fantastic guests, but super excited about our guest for today, Ashley DuBois Leonard, CEO of InnoVint Technologies. Just a fascinating story she'll be telling us here shortly. But, of course, for those of you joining us for the first time, there are many podcasts out there about wine and the making of wine, but we wanted to focus on the business of wine and the technology moving the wine and spirits industry. Thus, we've created the 365WineTrade Technology Talks.

Tony Castellano:

For today, let's kick off our segment Through the Grapevine where we highlight relevant wine and spirits industry news from local and national writers. Jackie, I know you've been out there researching some articles. What caught your eye this week?

Jacklyn O'Brien:

One of the most interesting articles I was reading earlier was about the surprising trends in wine bottle designs and just the packaging in general, written by Jeff Quackenbush with the North Bay Business Journal. Talking about how, as things tend to evolve and the buyers and the generations are different, what is the wine industry doing to keep up with it? I think we've talked previously before about how there's such an emphasis right now on environmental goals, so what can we do that's going to be better for the environment? One of the newest trends are flattened bottles.

Tony Castellano:

Flattened, wow.

Jacklyn O'Brien:

Yeah, sounds kind of silly, but it's a lighter material. It's better for the environment. It's better for storage purposes. That was one of them. I think we're going to start seeing a lot of those. Of course, just the lighter glass bottles in general, which some of the older and more high end wine buyers are already giving some pushback to. I also think we're going to start to see some of the liter boxes of wine as well as aluminum cans really becoming mainstream.

Tony Castellano:

Yeah, the aluminum cans, I have seen a lot of that lately. I think it's all around consciousness of disposables, how much we're putting in the landfills, and it's really impacting the industry very quickly. Do you feel like it's because of the younger generation and maybe they're just drinking things a little bit differently and have different concerns?

Jacklyn O'Brien:

Oh, absolutely. I think the older generation who have been drinking wine for years, I don't think they care whether the wine bottle is heavy or light or trendy or not. They know what they know at this point. But to continue to get new customers, they have to keep up with what they want and that is the environmental friendly packaging.

Tony Castellano:

Yeah, no doubt. I've seen quite a bit of that in the stores lately, so it's already hitting the markets. Well, great pick there. For me, I've been seeing a lot of talk about direct to consumer and a lot of the legislation changes. So many different states are trying to put in legislation, whether it's to restrict those sales or whether to offer those sales, and then the complex web of lobbies that are trying to position themselves. Unfortunately, I don't have one article to point to, but there's been so many that are just talking about getting at that pie, right? That direct to consumer market. It's so much the wild, wild west with all the different regulations and how segmented they are.

Tony Castellano:

It is unfortunate. If they could all get together and just find a system that works, all we want to do is get the product in the consumer's hand without all that complexity. Very interesting to see what's happening at that level.

Tony Castellano:

With that, I'd like to introduce our guest for today, Ashley DuBois Leonard, the founder and CEO of InnoVint. Ashley, welcome to the show.

Ashley DuBois Leonard:

Thank you so much for having me. It's a pleasure to be here.

Tony Castellano:

Well, I got a chance to research you and your company InnoVint and what an amazing story. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey into creating your own wine technology company.

Ashley DuBois Leonard:

Sure. I got started in the industry at the ripe young age of 19, almost 20 years ago, aging myself. But I went to school and studied viticulture, which is grape growing, and enology, which is wine making, at UC Davis, and started working in the industry at the bottom of the ladder, lugging hoses around the cellar and doing manual punch downs and worked my way up over almost 10 years through operations and winery management and ended with having the opportunity to start and grow two wine businesses, which gave me exposure to the whole landscape of what it takes to start and run and grow a wine business.

Ashley DuBois Leonard:

In my mid 20s, I was working in the Santa Cruz mountains and I had exposure to Silicon Valley and high tech and a lot of the really exciting trends that were coming out of the Bay Area at that time. I thought, "How exciting is this space, the software space, this technology space? I want to see what that's all about." It called to me. I left wine making and winery operations at that time and worked for an IT consulting firm for a couple years, which really gave me exposure to a lot of the emerging enterprise technology trends that were up and coming. A lot of those really encompassed around allowing employees for a firm to get access to a lot of their work information from wherever they were.

Ashley DuBois Leonard:

They may be working from home more often. They may be out and about. I thought, "How amazing would that be for someone with a wine production background to build purpose-built software for winemakers that allows them to work wherever they are?" Because wine making is inherently distributed. You're in the vineyard. You're deep in a cellar. You're in the lab. Maybe you're in market, selling your products, and to have access to your production information felt invaluable to me. I started InnoVint and I partnered with a great modern software team and brought pretty cutting edge technology to the market about 10 years ago now.

Tony Castellano:

That was probably at a time where people weren't quite ready for that radical transition to have phones and people walking into the vineyards with that. Did you get a lot of funny looks at that time and what are you thinking about type of faces?

Ashley DuBois Leonard:

Absolutely. You are spot on. I was early to the game, let's say, back in 2013. Did have a lot of our power users today were the naysayers back then that says, "I'm not letting my vineyard staff or my cellar staff carry around mobile devices to conduct their work. That sounds crazy." Today, it's a lifesaver for them. It's really come full circle in those nine, 10 years.

Tony Castellano:

That is amazing. Being a winemaker earlier in your career and switching to technology, which one did you have a love for first? Did one blend into the other at some point?

Ashley DuBois Leonard:

I was always science geared, I was always technical, so I knew that I wanted to go into a technical profession, but I also had this social element to my personality, which is what led me to wine making specifically. I said, "What a beautiful marriage of someone that is technical and someone that is also social." I guess you could say the technical part started first, but wine making seemed to be the right fit to round me out as an individual.

Tony Castellano:

That's great. Your experience really starting on the ground floor, it seems like you've really done every aspect of the winery. In fact, I saw somewhere that you were a forklift operator. Are you a good forklift operator?

Ashley DuBois Leonard:

I would not jump on one of those today, absolutely not. I'm not well prepared for that anymore, but I was great back in the day. I could stack a lot of bins. I could roll a barrel across the cellar in a general straight line. I think those are all pretty important cellar management skills. But I also was running QuickBooks at a winery and was doing all the counting reconciliation. I got a lot of exposure to a lot of different facets outside of production really early on, which really has paved a nice path for InnoVint to really understand and build value there for some of the struggles that I had when I was in those positions.

Tony Castellano:

Getting a chance to look over your software, the fact that the functionality is so deep, but you're able to see these analysis really forecasting things ahead. As you've noted in some of your blogs, it's been a very tumultuous few years for planning, whether it was the fires or COVID. Tell us a little bit about what you're seeing your customers, how they're advancing their business with your solution?

Ashley DuBois Leonard:

Yeah, it's been a tough few seasons. You're right. It's a very seasonal industry. The grape harvest, at least in the northern hemisphere, is in the fall. It's obviously the opposite for the southern hemisphere. But a lot of those climactic events greatly impact the year or two or three or four years ahead in regards to what's available to sale and what's available to produce.

Ashley DuBois Leonard:

To sum up what InnoVint does, it's purpose built software that helps winemakers manage their daily production operations to increase quality, efficiency and profitability. It's really the single source of truth for all things wine making, from tracking the growing season in the vineyard, to processing the fruit, to managing the fermentations, managing the aging process, and then finally bottling that product and managing it in case goods form. All those daily activities that happen at a winery happen in InnoVint. We can integrate into other business essential software platforms to drive value such as ERPs and accounting software and sales and distribution platforms as well.

Ashley DuBois Leonard:

To answer your question, we're really trying to drive value back into InnoVint to help give wineries that insight to make better decisions based on what's happened in years past and what could happen in years going forward.

Tony Castellano:

Yeah, I agree. The nice part is you do have that financial background because the ability to tie that to a general ledger, whether it's 365WineTrade or another solution, is key because you really want a best of breed system, your system on the production side and then your accounting system on the back end.

Ashley DuBois Leonard:

Absolutely. We're a perfect compliment to an ERP like that, and we kind of sit on top of it, like you said, as a sub ledger. What wineries are asking for today is really the strongest IT ecosystem to help them run their business. Underlying all that, of course, is a strong ERP. And then, on top of that, are these three different segments as I view in the industry, which is the agricultural aspect, farming and sourcing fruit, the manufacturing process, which is from fruit to finished good. And then, the sales process, you have a lot of advancements in technology through the distribution channels.

Ashley DuBois Leonard:

All that really has to be super well integrated and the wine industry is so nuanced, especially that middle manufacturing part. You really need to have best in class software providers do each of those segments. It's really hard, if not impossible, to find someone that can truly capture that whole entire landscape in a single solution.

Tony Castellano:

Yeah, I would agree. The industry, as a whole, they don't adopt technology as much as they love to grow wine. You really have to make an effective solution that's very easy to use, and that's the key that I've seen be successful, so love what you guys are doing there.

Tony Castellano:

Stick around with us. We're just going to take a quick commercial break. We'll be back in just a moment.

Speaker 4:

This edition of 365WineTrade Technology Talks is brought to you by 365WineTrade by Western Computer. 365WineTrade is the ultimate cloud solution for wine and spirits distributors. Built specifically for your industry, it supports embedded multi-state compliance, inventory and 3PL management, a three tier compliant pricing engine, purchase consolidation, direct imports, and more, to help you run as smoothly as the wine you enjoy. 365WineTrade takes advantage of the Microsoft Cloud Azure environment so you can be assured your company's data is safe. To learn more about 365WineTrade, please visit www.365WineTrade.com/techtalks. That's T-E-C-H-T-A-L-K-S. Now back to you, Tony.

Tony Castellano:

Tony Castellano. 365WineTrade. I'm here here with Jackie O'Brien and our guest for today, Ashley DuBois Leonard, the founder and CEO of InnoVint. Ashley, as we've talked about, the industry has had to roll with the punches these last few years and we're hoping things get a little bit easier in the months ahead. But what are some of the things that you're seeing that might be trends that we're going to see in six to 12 months?

Ashley DuBois Leonard:

I think it's a fascinating time as the industry not only adapts to, but embraces technology for possibly the first time their professional lives. We've seen a lot of advancement in our personal lives lately with the introduction of more accessible, more intuitive, as you said, cloud based software. That's a really big deal. Now, we can log on anywhere and get whatever information we want. We've taken a step further. Now it's mobile driven so we can be on our phones and do all that. It's really an exciting time.

Ashley DuBois Leonard:

And so, wineries are asking for just more seamless experiences between software products. They're asking for more functionality. They want to holistically manage everything to help drive their business towards more growth and drive more business value. With the pandemic, I do think the tides have changed a bit in terms of the wholesale distribution channel from DTC and wholesale. I think DTC direct to consumer sales will forever be a major focus for all size wineries. Every winery wants to maximize profits. They want to get continued brand recognition in the market. They want to find new consumers. That's all been interesting to follow and reflect on.

Ashley DuBois Leonard:

Just in the last few years, too, we've seen more cross pollination across different beverage alcohol products. You have wine, beer, and spirits that, when I started InnoVint, were very separate channels. You would have a beer producer, a different company making wine, a different company making spirits, and now they're truly merging together. That's based on consumer trends and what the consumer's asking for. We find more producers than ever are making products that blur those lines. They're making hard seltzers. They're making RTDs. They're making aperitifs. I think we'll definitely see more of that happening here as the consumer requests continue to change and producers are trying to be respectful and try and accommodate for what the consumer's asking for.

Tony Castellano:

You're just spot on there, Ashley. Everything that I'm reading, the consumers are really driving this change and the competition is so tough. You have liquor on one side, as you said, the RTDs, everyone is trying to vye for that piece of the puzzle. Of course, now you have the millennials and the younger generation asking for zero carbon footprint and there's so many things to consider it.

Ashley DuBois Leonard:

For sure.

Tony Castellano:

It's very eclectic. It's fascinating to watch everything that's happening in the industry. Ashley, we've covered quite a few subjects, but I did want to ask you, as I read through your background, you being an entrepreneur, there's always something radical about entrepreneurs, right? They're trailblazers. Can you tell me, did you always feel that or was there a mentor or two that helped you along the way?

Ashley DuBois Leonard:

Interestingly, I was not sort of an entrepreneurial child. I didn't actually see myself starting and running a business. I think a lot of entrepreneurs did from day one. I didn't. It really took me identifying, solving a real problem for real people where I got that itch, that bug, where I can do this. I can solve this. I'm going to tackle it. I've always been competitive and I think that's helped as well. It's been a beautiful experience, really, starting a company, growing a company, working in an industry that I care so much about.

Tony Castellano:

That is fantastic. I had noticed that you're also up in Portland, Oregon. Got a lot of family up there so I was curious, what do you love to do with your free time up there?

Ashley DuBois Leonard:

I have the luxury of living about a mile and a half from the Willamette River, and my favorite pastime right now is taking my kayak or my paddle board down to the river and launching it first thing in the morning at the break of dawn and just paddling around and reflecting and getting in the right head space to tackle the day.

Tony Castellano:

Oh, that sounds amazing. I do enjoy doing that here at our local lake in Arizona. Of course, so much has been talked about that work-life balance through this pandemic. I really hope that people continue to have that. I know people are returning to work on premises coming back, but that balance is so key as we come out of this pandemic. Would you agree?

Ashley DuBois Leonard:

I would, absolutely. It's something that I take pride in at InnoVint, as a company, is we have a distributed model where we allow our team to work from where they're most comfortable. It's really something that we've embraced where we have a lot of flexibility within InnoVint to make sure that everyone has the right work-life balance. It's so important to not only be preaching that, but also practicing it as leadership and demonstrating why and how that's so important.

Tony Castellano:

Oh, I couldn't agree more. I was doing a little bit of research on your newest offerings and I love what you're doing here with the interactive 3D tanks and the mapping. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Ashley DuBois Leonard:

Yeah, sure. We actually just introduced some amazing technology in terms of mapping. Most wineries have one or several whiteboards that are sitting in the winery where they draw a bunch of circles and, especially during harvest, it gets a lot of use. They're marking up what tank's full and empty. They're marking up what the recent activities were, and it's this ever changing, ever revolving physical whiteboard. We're always trying to meet folks where they are. We're trying to meet them on the cellar floor. We're trying to provide true value, and we built these 3D interactive maps that illustrate exactly what the floor print, the footprint of, of each of our customers.

Ashley DuBois Leonard:

They can build them out themselves so they can add the types of tanks that they have. They can add different types of tanks. They can add bins, and we have all sorts of variety there. But then they can drive work through this map as well. When you're monitoring dozens, hundreds, of fermentations at a time, depending on how large the producer is, to have a single pane of glass, a single interface that visually shows you your winery and the state of your winery in real time, there's a lot of compelling value there.

Tony Castellano:

Yeah, absolutely. My son and a lot of his folks, they get into the drawings and it's so fascinating what you can do with your technology. I mean, you're really taking that information and very visual and, as you know, some people prefer to learn one way or the other. It really helps to give that visual impact of the data. Really like what you're doing there.

Ashley DuBois Leonard:

Thank you, and you're absolutely correct.

Tony Castellano:

As you forecast your business moving forward, trends in the marketplace we talked about, but where do you see InnoVint in a few years? Do you have a vision that you're trying to align to?

Ashley DuBois Leonard:

We do have a vision, yeah. We have a moonshot, we call it, which is by the year 2030, we want over half the world's wine production to have been managed by InnoVint. That's a lofty goal and we feel like it's absolutely achievable. We're really excited about our path to get there. In the last two years or so, we've really gone upmarket and have been adding value to a lot of the largest producers in the world to help them better streamline their operations, get better quality out of their product and see greater profitability. That's been really exciting for us.

Ashley DuBois Leonard:

Again, this cross pollination across different beverage alcohol types is exciting as well. We initially entered to just support wine. We're exploring, wow, we have a lot of wineries that are now also making spirits and they're also making hard seltzer, and they're also making some RTDs, and we should allow them to manage all of their production under a single software roof. We'll keep figuring out and listening and taking market signals and continuing to add value where we see value to be had.

Tony Castellano:

I think you have really the right footprint to do that. Your technology is just so sharp and, as you said, there's always opportunities in this business to continue to help customers. But I'll tell you, I am a goal setter. I love your goal. Go get it.

Ashley DuBois Leonard:

Thanks, Tony.

Tony Castellano:

Yeah, my pleasure. Is there any upcoming events or interesting features that you wanted to highlight in your Innovint solution?

Ashley DuBois Leonard:

We have a couple events coming up. We're here, it's right now, it's August 2022. The harvest in the northern hemisphere is right around the corner so we're conducting a lot of harvest trainings. We have an event at Trefethen coming up on August 11th, and we'll have more in market educational opportunities for wineries after the harvest season. Other than that, we are always delivering new features. You mentioned the tank mapping feature, which is really exciting, and we have some new modules coming out in the coming months around spirits management and some other new exciting things. Perhaps stay tuned for that online.

Tony Castellano:

Yeah, definitely want to hear about the spirits things. Of course, we're wine lovers by heart but, of course, a good spirit is great now and then. With that said, we've gotten to know you on a business level so give us a little personal, what restaurant would you recommend in Portland? Which one's your favorite?

Ashley DuBois Leonard:

It's almost an impossible question to answer because it's such a foodie town. There's so many options. I'm going to go polar ends here. For a good taco, Por Que No, I recommend the barbacoa. On the other side of things, for those that have dined in Portland, you probably know Le Pigeon. The chef there, Gabriel Rucker, I like him a lot. He has a sister restaurant called Canard, and they just opened in a town by me in Oregon City. He does fun experiments with really high end food. He'll do a foie gras burger, but then offer chicken fingers and fries for kids. As a parent of two young boys, it helps to find family friendly restaurants these days.

Tony Castellano:

Absolutely, and the chefs are getting smarter. They know the consumers too, right? Just like the wine industry.

Ashley DuBois Leonard:

Exactly. Yeah. They're opening up in more suburban spots to capitalize on that. Yep.

Tony Castellano:

Oh, that's very sharp. You're at your favorite restaurant. What are you having for a drink there? Do you have a specific wine or Appalachian that you enjoy?

Ashley DuBois Leonard:

Well, of course, it depends what I'm eating. But, generally speaking, if I'm going to go for a pure wine experience, it'll probably be a Washington Red these days. I find that I'm interested in wines that I don't have instant access to through my local providers. While Willamette pinot's amazing, I have been drawn to the heavier reds of the Walla Walla region and some central Washington regions as well.

Tony Castellano:

Yeah, that's so funny you say that because we were just talking to House of Smith last week up in Walla Walla and just some of the amazing brands that they've created up there. There seems to be a big influx in the Washington wines and their accreditations.

Ashley DuBois Leonard:

Definitely. I love what House of Smith is doing. They make some incredible wines. I'm just excited for Washington and Oregon in general. The whole northwest is really coming on the map and being recognized globally as quality producers. I'm proud to be a North Westerner.

Tony Castellano:

Absolutely. Yeah, I got to wear that badge of honor. Well, Ashley, I can just tell you, it has been a pleasure having you on this show. I love your story, love your technology, appreciate your time, and I'd love to invite you back maybe in six to eight months and see how you're doing. Would that be okay?

Ashley DuBois Leonard:

That sounds great. I'd love that.

Tony Castellano:

Great. Well, again, thanks for joining the 365WineTrade Technology podcast. This is Tony Castellano. Looking ahead, Jackie, the wine and spirits events seem to be heating up this year. Anything we should highlight for our audience today?

Jacklyn O'Brien:

Yeah, one I am definitely most excited for and am actually planning on attending would be the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America event. It's the 2022 Women's Leadership Council Conference, and that is going to take place November 3rd to the 4th in Washington DC.

Tony Castellano:

Wow, that sounds great. Of course, the WSWA looking out for those wholesalers and distributors from a legislation level and really keeping abreast of what's happening in those markets around those regulations. That sounds like a lot of fun. We know there's a lot of industry folks starting to put their heads down. They're either picking the grapes or they're now getting all the shelves filled. We'll be having a couple of extra guests here in the next period as they have some downtime. Some people have happily accepted our invitation to join us here on the podcast. Looking forward to our next session. Jackie, thanks for coming on today and we look forward to seeing you around the vineyard.

Jacklyn O'Brien:

Thanks for having me, Tony.

 

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