365WineTrade Technology Talks: Episode 4 Meet the Team

March 24, 2022 Katherine Turner-Lawrence

Host Tony Castellano, VP of Sales, is joined by Western Computer’s 365WineTrade team Jacklyn O’Brien and Linda Collins as they talk about upcoming trends in the wine & spirits industry and what they are looking forward to most in 2022. Jacklyn shares some strong insight into the types of features customers are looking for in a business management program, while Linda goes into the passion project that is 365WineTrade and how it truly hits home for her family. To learn more about 365WineTrade, visit us at www.365winetrade.com/podcast.

 

Full transcript: 

 

Tony Castellano:

Hello and welcome everybody to another episode of 365WineTrade Technology Talks powered by Western Computer. I'm your host, Tony Castellano. And it's been a long stretch of time since we had a chance to meet with you. Of course, the page has turned on 2021 and we've rushed in 2022. So, we're very excited to bring this episode to you today, where we introduce you to some of the 365WineTrade staff. So in just a moment, I'll be bringing on two guests today, Jacklyn O'Brien and Linda Collins. We wanted to thank you for joining our technology podcast. There's lots of podcasts out there about wine and making of wine. But what we wanted to do was put a little twist on it and talk about the technology that is driving the marketplace. Since our last episode, there's been a lot of changes around regulation, things of that nature. So, we'll definitely bring you guys up to speed on that and look forward to more content as we go into 2022 with that said, I'd like to introduce Jacklyn O'Brien, one of the 365WineTrade team. Jacquelyn, how are you doing today?

Jacklyn O'Brien:

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

Tony Castellano:

Yeah. Well, thanks for joining shared with us. You had heard a couple of the podcasts and had an interest in joining us, so we thought it'd be great to introduce you out there to the podcast world. Jacklyn, tell us a little bit about yourself and what you're doing with the 365WineTrade.

Jacklyn O'Brien:

Yeah, absolutely great to be on, and hello to everybody out there. So a little bit about me, I've been in the Microsoft ecosystem for about five years now. I'm in just at almost five months with Western Computer. One of the main things that attracted me to Western Computer was the 365WineTrade solution that they had built on top of Microsoft's Business Central. And it really just puts a fun twist on my everyday role, where I get to work with wineries and distilleries from all over and learn about their business, what's going on with them, and the pain points they have. And then I get to introduce a solution to them that is hopefully going to help eliminate some of those pain points and help them operate better.

Tony Castellano:

And it's such a great group. The industry as a whole, everyone is very passionate about what they do and what they create and what they produce. And of course, you're helping them optimize their system so that they can go enjoy that time. Tell me a little bit about some of the type of customers you're working with. Are they importers, distributors? Are you seeing a mix?

Jacklyn O'Brien:

It is absolutely a mix across the board. I would say within the last three weeks, I've had conversations with importers, producers, and distributors.

Tony Castellano:

Oh wow. And I had seen some of the addresses or definitely worldwide some in France, some in Italy. So it's nice to get that international flare as you're talking to these folks.

Jacklyn O'Brien:

Absolutely. Definitely, all over.

Tony Castellano:

Do you see a lot of similarities in the challenges that people are facing, whether they're in the US or across the border?

Jacklyn O'Brien:

I do. I think what's going on in the world right now. Everyone's feeling somewhat of a similar pain.

Tony Castellano:

No doubt. I know you got a chance to go to one of the bigger events in the industry, which hadn't actually happened for a couple years because of COVID. So tell me, how was your time at the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium?

Jacklyn O'Brien:

The time there was great. It was so nice just to be back at an in-person event first of all. I did hear a lot of chatter that the event wasn't as full as it normally was. And it was just a little bit different than it had been in previous years. So, this was actually my first time attending the event because we were still on the tail-end of COVID. It happened right after there was a huge Christmas winter outbreak. Things were just a little bit different, but I am excited to hopefully go back next year when things are completely normal.

Tony Castellano:

Yeah, that's right. It was a very interesting end of the year for everyone. I'm sure. But with that outbreak, I know it hit quite a few businesses and get a little bit different as you head into 2022. But as we've read the news, it seems to be getting better. People seem to be getting out more. So, looking forward to going to more of those events and getting to see people into industry again, because I believe that's what this industry was built on. People shaking hands and toasting a glass of wine together.

Jacklyn O'Brien:

Yeah, exactly. One thing that was most upsetting was they have this annual wine tasting and that's really how they wrap up the event every year. And unfortunately, they had to cancel it.

Tony Castellano:

Oh no. For some of the restrictions, I'm sure for that date was too bad.

Jacklyn O'Brien:

Exactly.

Tony Castellano:

Oh gosh. Well, Tony Castellano, 365WineTrade Technology Talks. I'm here with Jacklyn O'Brien, she works on the 365WineTrade team. So Jackie, as your talking... Can I call you Jackie?

Jacklyn O'Brien:

Yes, please do.

Tony Castellano:

Okay, great. So, Jackie, as you talk to some of these customers, what are some of the common threads or the features that you hear a lot about customers asking for?

Jacklyn O'Brien:

Great question. This is perfect. I just got off a call a couple hours ago and I was speaking with the president of a winery and they've been around for 30 years. And whether it's COVID or what have you, they've been going through some really impressive growth lately and that includes selling to other states. So, one thing we spent almost 30 minutes talking about was the compliance and the reportings specifically around different states because they're all so different and they all require different things. So figuring out how 365WineTrade would be able to automate that for him.

Tony Castellano:

Oh, absolutely. Yeah. Especially, if there are multiple states, the compliance gets quite heavy and I've heard a lot of people doing it in Excel spreadsheets, which is always difficult. So, I know the 365WineTrade hangs their hat on their compliance features. So, it sounds like we can meet a lot of those with some of the out-of-the box features. Is that right?

Jacklyn O'Brien:

Yeah, absolutely. They're currently selling in 30 states. So, we spent a lot of time talking about compliance and then reporting. Reporting is huge for almost every customer that I talk to.

Tony Castellano:

Yeah, no doubt. And I know it's a lot of the different compliance states and regions, they want the similar data but they always want it in a different format specific to their system or specific to their regulations. And I know that's a lot of manual work for people in that industry.

Jacklyn O'Brien:

Exactly. He said, "We're so busy, I cannot take the time to manually do all of this."

Tony Castellano:

Yeah. And that's that repetition of using that same data and having to put it into different formats. And that's one of the things I really like about the 365WineTrade is because it's a Microsoft product, you're able to use Power BI, Microsoft Excel, push data in, pull it. It's very cohesive and really benefits people because they can get away from some of those manual processes.

Jacklyn O'Brien:

Absolutely.

Tony Castellano:

Well, Jackie, as you're talking to more customers overseas and the US, what are some other things that you're seeing in the marketplace?

Jacklyn O'Brien:

I would say that there's a huge push right now for industries-specific solutions. For example 365WineTrade. And I think other companies are realizing that too that sometimes it's not a one-size-fits-all and we really need to figure out the features and the functionality that certain verticals are needing.

Tony Castellano:

I would agree with you. It's not too many times I got into a call and I'm talking about software and the term Appalachian comes up or a bill and hold they're very specific concepts and terms to the industry and you really got to know those to understand their pain, so I would agree with you there. So Jackie, you've been working with the wine industry and seeing what's happened, put on your crystal ball and what do you think we'll be talking about a year from now, some of the hotter trends we might see?

Jacklyn O'Brien:

I'm hoping in a year from now we're talking about the increase in just in-person learning, gatherings, conferences. I'm really hopeful that that's going to continue to increase. And I can say just from my personal experience, I'm seeing customers request on-site trainings, going on-site for demos. So, I'm hoping that's going to continue. And then I think the e-commerce and online presence is only going to continue to get stronger.

Tony Castellano:

Yeah, I would agree with you and it is so nice to see people getting out there. I know we've got a couple big events here coming up in the next 60 days. So looking forward to getting out there and breaking bread with people again. Jackie, I know you're down in Tampa, Florida, so it's a Friday late afternoon. What's one of your favorite drinks that you like to have on a weekend?

Jacklyn O'Brien:

Great question. I'm going to do two because this is our WineTrade technology talks. So my favorite wine would be red wine, which is challenging if you live in the state of Florida and it is normally always above 70 degrees, but a 2018 Caymus Cab would be my go-to red wine. And if I need something a little bit cooler and more refreshing, it's going to be a mojito.

Tony Castellano:

Oh, that's great. A little bit of both sounds excellent, Jackie. Well, hey, thanks so much for joining it. Would you like to stick around past the next break?

Jacklyn O'Brien:

Yeah, absolutely.

Tony Castellano:

Great. This was Jackie O'Brien with the 365WineTrade Technology Talks, we've been getting introduced to her today. We're going to take a short break and hear a word from our sponsor.

Speaker 3:

This addition 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, three-tier compliant pricing engine, purchase consolidation, and direct imports and more to help you run as smoothly as the wine you enjoy. 365WineTrade takes advantage of the Microsoft cloud as your environment so you can be assured your company's data is safe. To learn more about 365WineTrade, please visit us at www.365winetrade.com/techtalks. That's T-E-C-H talks or click the link in the description below.

Tony Castellano:

And we're back. 365WineTrade technology talks powered by Western Computer. I'm your host, Tony Castellano. And we just had a delightful conversation with Jackie O'Brien. One of the newer members of the 365WineTrade team as she's been talking to wineries and distributors and importers both in the US and across the world about their compliance issues and such. So, we did want to introduce our second guess for today. Linda Collins, who is the president of Western Computer and the 365WineTrade brand. Linda, how are you doing today?

Linda Collins:

I'm doing well. Thank you, Tony.

Tony Castellano:

Well, great. And thanks so much for joining us, Linda. I know you have a soft spot for wine and it's really because of your experience in the wine industry. So, can you give us a little bit of an idea about your role as the president of Western Computer and how you work with the 365WineTrade solution?

Linda Collins:

Sure. With our 365WineTrade solution, my role I've led the team through the launch of this great product and continue to lead the ongoing strategy of our 365WineTrade solution. We've combined our knowledge of the wine and spirits industry with 35 years of our deep distribution experience. And we have developed a single solution that meets the highly regulated and highly complex requirements of this industry, powered with the most advanced technologies by Microsoft. It's been wonderful to see the growth of our 365WineTrade solution.

Tony Castellano:

Absolutely. And it definitely is fun as we talk to folks in this industry, it makes selling software fun, that's for sure. And I know that you're really hands-on. You work on the R&D team, as you said the strategy team. I think you're also an executive sponsor on many accounts. Tell me about your experiences working with these customers and their specific needs and challenges.

Linda Collins:

Our wine and spirits customer base ranges from distributors, both large and small, importers, producers and going out to wineries. I would say that some of the biggest challenges they have are around obviously the unique requirements that are in the industry, taxation and allocations, that sort of thing. But the other area that I think that is a big challenge for a lot of our customers is reporting and the ability for Western to have a reporting mechanism to using Power BI, providing dashboards and reports for the customer to see their data real-time has been a big area of success for our customers.

Tony Castellano:

Yeah, I would have to agree to the flexibility of using the Power BI graphics. You're really able to change those metrics very quickly. When I hear some people with their current software, it takes days and weeks to make a change in a report where workable to do that on the screen with them because it's a very dynamic solution from Microsoft. Is that what you're also seeing?

Linda Collins:

Absolutely. I have personally grown to love Power BI even internally for our own reporting purposes, but to be able to take that data that the industry really requires and really boil it down into quick dashboards, executive-level dashboards, operation-level dashboards, it's just been a game-changer for the industry.

Tony Castellano:

And one of the things that was commented to me also was the ability to switch by segment. Maybe you're a wholesaler in some areas, maybe you're a distributor, maybe you're even doing some direct-to-consumer and the ability to change those values very quickly in our solution was very helpful to a lot of folks.

Linda Collins:

It has been. We've seen great feedback, learned a lot from our customers as far as their reporting needs. And we've taken all of that feedback and tried to build a more comprehensive report pack with 365WineTrade.

Tony Castellano:

Yeah. And new reports are getting added every day. So, we know you're a president of the company. We know you have a love of technology but tell us about your experience with wine. Sounds like you may have worked on a winery at some point.

Linda Collins:

Well, one of the reasons that 365WineTrade is so close to my heart is because my parents own a winery in the Central Coast of California in Paso Robles. It's a small boutique winery called Hidden Oak Winery. My folks retired and moved to Paso Robles area back in the early '90s and bought land that was planted with almond trees. And my parents both had long careers in the computer industry. So, they really didn't know that much about the wine industry back then. During that time, the Central Coast was really in its infancy growing grapes, much like Napa was back in the '70s. There were only a handful of wineries in the region at the time. And one day my folks got this crazy idea to grow wine grapes. So, they planted 22 acres of Merlot`. And for about 10 years, they enjoyed their retirement as farmers growing grapes and selling them to larger wineries in the area such as Wild Horse Winery, which is just down the road from them. On the side, my folks were making homemade wine for our family consumption and it was pretty dang good. They entered their wine into Mid-State Fair each year and kept coming home with the gold medal. So, one day they decided to start a label. Back in 2005, they produced their first vintage. And since then they've expanded their vineyard to include many different varietals, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, and Viognier. And year over year, they consistently win gold, silver, and bronze medals for their wines from various wine competitions. So much for retirement, huh?

Tony Castellano:

Yeah. That is just an amazing story. And I can tell you, I have tried the wine and I love the Encanto, that seems to be my favorite. Very deep and rich.

Linda Collins:

Yeah. That's a blend. It's a great wine. I think the thing about the experience around the whole running a winery, it's truly a family affair. We all work during harvest. We do our own bottling. My mom's creative direction helped me to design the label that they use on their bottles. My kids were toddlers back in the day when the vineyard was being planted and now 28 years later, they're barrel-tasting with us and helping us come up with the next blend. I'm very passionate about it obviously. And I know that's a little long-winded, but I do hope that explains my true passion for the industry and passion for 365WineTrade.

Tony Castellano:

No, that is from the heart. And we really appreciate that. And that's what we're trying to do here at this podcast. So, we appreciate that wholeheartedness. 365WineTrade Technology Talks, we're here with Linda Collins, the President of Western Computer. That is really great background. So is there one story in particular from some of those winery days, maybe you had to roll up your sleeves and actually stomp the grapes? Any stories you can share with us from that?

Linda Collins:

Harvest and bottling are my favorite times of the year. It's hard work but we're all together as family. We turn the music up loud and we work together and honestly, it's created some wonderful family memory for us.

Tony Castellano:

That's so great to hear. And of course, love having Hidden Oak. In fact, I think when I have my demo, I have most of the items in there, so great to see them get some love for all their hard work.

Linda Collins:

That's awesome.

Tony Castellano:

And as you start to work with some of the executives and some of the top leaders in the industry, what are some of the trends that you're seeing, Linda, that need to be addressed?

Linda Collins:

Well, for me, I'm coming from a different experience from that winery background that we do have. I always like to look at what's hot and what's not. Back in the '90s, Merlot was a hot grape. The prices for grapes were high. The sales were good. Then the movie Sideways came out and literally one line in the movie killed the Merlot industry for about 10 years. So fortunately, it's made a strong comeback and it's a great wine. But I do like following the trends of the different varietals and what people are going for and what they're drinking these days. A couple years ago, it was all about Rosé and it's just fun to watch the different trends.

Tony Castellano:

Yeah, no doubt. And it's funny because we had gotten three episodes in before there was a Sideways reference, but of course it's good and bad, it put wine on the map but hurts some specific brands, unfortunately.

Linda Collins:

It did.

Tony Castellano:

And I did want to ask you because we're going to be heading up to Paso Robles for a wine event. And could you just tell me a little bit about what you've seen in the growth of that area since your parents first went out there?

Linda Collins:

Oh my goodness. Yeah. Back in the '90s, there were just literally a handful of wineries. And since that time, it's grown exponentially. I think the last count there were well over 400 wineries where back in the day, I think there was maybe about 75 to 100 wineries. So, it's really grown in size. A lot of them are smaller in size boutique wineries. Of course, you have the big ones like Dow and Justin out there, but it's kind of become the dream of the retirement scenario where people want to retire from the big city and go up there and buy a piece of property, plant some grapes and live that life. It's really a great place to be.

Tony Castellano:

Yeah. Hey, the American dream. And I'm glad your parents got to enjoy it. And it's great to see these smaller boutique wines doing well, faring through the COVID and learning how they can start to get direct to consumer so they can still sell their great wines.

Linda Collins:

It's been great. And I got to say making wine is definitely an art. And it's so cool to see these smaller boutique wineries and getting in there and just like my folks, you walk into the tasting room and you've got the winemaker standing right behind the counter pouring your wine. So, it's really fun to talk and learn. There's so much that they have to teach people that come in to taste their wine.

Tony Castellano:

Yeah, no doubt. Somebody told me in this industry, there are artists and farmers, and I would say that holds pretty true.

Linda Collins:

It does.

Tony Castellano:

So, Linda, it's a Friday afternoon or a Saturday. What kind of wine do you like? What Appalachian or what's one of your favorite drinks you like to have?

Linda Collins:

Well, my favorite drink is wine. I like all varietals. I like them from different regions, from different countries. I'm partial to Italian wines. Right now, one of my favorites, of course, is the Hidden Oak Wine. It's the 2017 Petite Sirah, it's just tasting fabulous right now. But other than wine, my favorite cocktail of choice is a Manhattan.

Tony Castellano:

Yes. Excellent choice. Excellent choice to get that party started.

Linda Collins:

Yeah.

Tony Castellano:

Well, Linda, it was a pleasure having you on the show. And Jackie, I also want to thank you for joining the 365WineTrade technology podcast. Thank you both.

Linda Collins:

You're welcome.

Jacklyn O'Brien:

Yeah. Thanks for having me.

Tony Castellano:

Definitely tune in for another episode of the 365WineTrade Technology Talks powered by Western Computer as we explore more subjects regarding the technology that moves the wine and spirits industry. Until next time, we'll see you around the vineyard.

 

About the Author

Katherine Turner-Lawrence

As the VP of Marketing for Western Computer, Katherine Turner-Lawrence brings years of sales and marketing experience in marketing, public relations, and advertising. Through her career, she has worn many hats and gained a broad knowledge with a primary focus on sales, brand identity, content strategy, digital marketing, and lead generation.

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