Len Crispino gives us a taste of the entrepreneurial spirit
Virtually every start-up starts with a story — the most underrated tool at our disposal. Stories are motivators, inspirational and rewarding at the highest level of personal experience. But stories must be genuine, able to draw the listener in a way, as if those stories were their own.
For Marisa (my wife and partner of 40 years) and I, the motivation driving our desire to develop a winery was stirred by my stint as Ontario’s trade representative to Italy — Milan, to be exact. The event was so pivotal to us that we often define our life as before and after Italy. We fell in love with the essence of Italian ingenuity, creativity and outstanding crafted wines. We began to embark on a dream to develop Amarone-styled wines in Canada, with the grapes we grow and subject to the differing climactic conditions. After a few years of talking about our dream, events reminded us that it was time to move forward. In essence, we realized that if a dream is genuine and engulfed in passion, life finds a way to make it happen. And so, we abandoned reason and became “unreasonable,” because the risk to the venture suddenly seemed inconsequential. The Foreign Affair Winery was then born. Is this story unique to us? Perhaps the specifics are, but many entrepreneurs exhibit that desire to innovate and give due respect to their gut reactions.
Along the entrepreneurial journey, friends and others may be supportive collaborators or sceptics. These groups are both critical for success: the former validating our passions, and the latter providing us the challenge to make things happen. Two of our wines, Meeting of the Minds and Unreasonable, are dedicated to them.
Without doubt, our industry is challenging on many levels. However, it’s important to not fall into the “expectation of failure” trap. The urban belief by some that one needs a small fortune to make a big one is frankly a self-fulfilling prophecy. The fortune we started with was passion and belief that we, as Canadians, can compete with the very best in the world.
It is also rewarding to us that our story may be inspirational to others in believing, as we did, that if we dream big, the world will then work with you.
Innovation takes courage. For me, this was brought home after we had embarked and succeeded with our venture. On a quixotic trip to Italy a few years ago, I had the honour to meet and taste with the legendary Giuseppe Quintarelli, creator of Alzero wine. As I was explaining the process we were applying to our wines, he reminded me that progress comes from the heart, and artistic interpretation is key to innovation. His words became inspirational and aspirational, supporting our winery’s belief that, as George Bernard Shaw said, all progress depends on unreasonable people.