Meet the Founders of Wine Empowered

Les fondatrices de Wine Empowered

Three professional sommeliers are helping women make their way in the wine world, a sector still dominated by men. We take a look back at the beginnings of their project and their vision of the future.

Les fondatrices de Wine Empowered

"We are focusing on inspiring the next generation of wine leaders"

Nominations for the 2023 Simone Awards are now open. Do you know a commited woman?

Victoria, Amy and Cynthia, three dynamic sommeliers, are seeking to change the industry’s face through professional growth and empowerment.

They founded Wine Empowered, an educational organization providing tuition-free wine courses to women and minorities wishing to embark on a career in the hospitality industry. Their programs provide wine classes to students of all levels and all backgrounds. 

Our mission is to inspire professional growth and empower women and minorities in the hospitality industry in an aim to diversify leadership roles in the industry.

To do this, the three colleagues have implemented several initiatives: 

To advance our mission, we provide tuition-free wine education, mentoring services, and access to a wider network of sommeliers and hospitality professionals.”

@Wine Empowered
@Wine Empowered

Indeed, education is the core of their project.

We believe education not only qualifies an individual for higher levels of employment, it empowers one to pursue endless opportunities for advancement,” says Victoria.

She adds: “The three of us worked in a restaurant together in NYC and offered tuition-free wine education to our staff. After this first series of classes we were so surprised to see that students were empowered to build their careers. We saw bussers become servers become sommeliers become managers! We realized that this was the key to diversifying the upper ranks of leadership within the hospitality world. This inspired us to take our initiative and expand it outside of our one restaurant.

But the association had to face a major obstacle that no longer needs no introduction:

The pandemic! First and foremost! We were incorporated in 2018 but launched our first class in 2020… which of course we had to shut down in March. However, it was a great lesson about how we could make the classes even better when we launched again.

@Wine Empowered

Far from giving up, Victoria, Amy and Cynthia persevered.

We are still a baby organization and look forward to growing and expanding our initiative. In the meantime, we are proud to serve our community in a small but mindful way by offering mentorship and education to women and BIPOC in hospitality. Just our existence, we believe, shows people how important this mission is!

Wine Empowered is unique in that they are a non-profit group with a dedicated mission to offer in-person cost-free wine education. “Other organizations are wonderful and offer scholarships to help pay for already existing programs and certifications,” says Victoria. “But we felt that we wanted to create our own safe space where those who felt marginalized in the wine world could learn.

So, what is Wine Empowered’s agenda for the next few years? 

We have so many goals” replies Victoria. “But for now we are focusing on making our current class the most successful it can be and inspiring the next generation of wine leaders!

When they received word of their nomination for the Simone Awards, they told us they felt “incredibly honored”. “We are thrilled that this support will help nurture our students’ future”.

In addition, our grant will allow this beautiful project to grow. “Every cent of every donation goes directly to our students and our initiative of providing tuition-free education to women and BIPOC in hospitality,” outlines Victoria.

Finally, what piece of advice would they give to someone who wants to commit to a cause? 

Band together”, they say. “We wouldn’t have been able to do this solo — coming together as young women who were passionate about the same cause was crucial to our success. Often, there is this mindset that you have to go it alone but when we come together we can accomplish so much more!


Thank you and we wish you all the best for the future!


Victoria was speaking to Victor Goichon, our Export Manager.

Meet Dr Deborah McCauley, Founder of VIEW

Implementing a targeted sustainable health program for critically endangered species is a trailblazing initiative. Having received a grant from our Simone Awards for 2022, Dr Deborah McCauley reveals to us how it all began and how our bursary will help threatened species in the future.

View website

"We’re watching populations wipe out on global scale"

Nominations for the 2023 Simone Awards are now open. Do you know a commited woman?

VIEW (Veterinary Initiative for Endangered Wildlife) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation of threatened species. VIEW’s mission is to protect endangered wildlife by tackling the health threats that animals face in their native habitats.

We’re a wildlife health organization”, says Deborah. “We have initiatives in North America, Africa, and in Asia. We’re a small organization creating sustainable wildlife conservation programs, working with the local communities and are empowering them to include wildlife health into their own initiatives.

This is not Dr. McCauley’s first experience with wild animals.

I’ve always worked with wildlife: at the State of Wildlife, in Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, for the Wildlife Conservation Society, at a zoo. Great conservation work is being done on a global scale, to address climate change, habitat encroachment and anti-poaching  measures”. 

However, these measures do not seem sufficient and a link in the chain seems to be missing. 

It’s a missing piece to conservation. I felt adding a comprehensive wildlife health program into conservation efforts could be as important. Not enough disease surveillance was being addressed to our critically endangered wildlife or threatened species. If you think of COVID, and how we have gotten COVID from wildlife, you have to think the other way around too: we also share diseases with our endangered wildlife. We are actually on the sixth extinction wave. We’re watching populations wipe out on a global scale.

From this observation, VIEW was born. And Deborah brought in another expert to add experience and know-how to the project in the shape of Dr. Gretchen Kaufman, a leading light in conservation medicine at Tufts University in the US.

I was lucky enough to partner with Dr. Kaufman in this project. We have a lot of really excellent veterinarians that are part of our team in trying to expand sustainably, including wildlife health, into efforts.

The non-profit association is the only one in the world to intervene on this pillar.

We’re pioneering this new space. There is no other organization in the world that is doing something very similar to us, which is targeting threatened and endangered species, implementing a sustainable wildlife health program for countries, for parks, for organizations, and doing it in a sustainable way.


VIEW accompanies local actors but does not have the vocation to intervene in a definitive way on the territories.

Our program is an initiative, we’re not staying in the chosen areas forever. We’re just here to help conservation groups include health into their efforts and then we move on. One of the things that we have done also, is that we have built the equivalent of an electronic medical record system for critical species. We are currently working with a state agency in the US and a veterinary school on a global research on elephants and North American as well as African species. It’s a unique program with searchable engines. You can upload photographs and X-rays and ultrasounds as well as Google Maps. It’s a program geared for people in the field working with endangered wildlife or threatened species.

Setting up such a project is not an easy task and Deborah and her team face obstacles, particularly finance.

Clearly the biggest challenge is fundraising. One of the reasons for that is we are very clear in our mission and we don’t deviate from it. There really aren’t any types of grant out there for this type of conservation work because we’re pioneering new ground. Therefore, donations from companies or individual donors are greatly appreciated. We have a lot of veterinarians and conservationists that understand and know the importance of our work. For example, the World Wildlife Fund is a big organization that does great conservation work, but they don’t have wildlife veterinarians or wildlife health programs. We have great people and great teams, but we need funding to expand and grow.

But the association still manages to develop despite the difficulties, with Nepal being the initial focus for the building of this initiative.

We did our pilot work in Nepal. We were lucky enough to work with some of the best conservationists, with local people, with the government, and a non-government organization called National Trust for Nature Conservation and the University. We built our first sustainable program there, starting in Chitwan National Park”, says Deborah. “We trained over 200 wildlife veterinarians and conservationists as well as the park police and biologists. When an animal, a tiger for example, is being captured because it’s leaving the park and they have to translocate it to a new location, that’s a valuable time to collect health information such as blood, tissue, fecal. A lot of really great conservation work is being done in Nepal. Not only our work, but also from other local and international groups. 

This intervention has had a glorious impact:

“Within the time frame that we were there, about eight to ten years, the number of tigers has doubled. That’s the first country in the world that’s done that. I can’t say it’s all View, but that’s an impact.”


So how does VIEW gain momentum for future projects?

Our vision is to watch out at how local communities and local conservation organizations include wildlife health as a cornerstone for their conservation efforts.

VIEW’s Executive Director stresses the importance of disease surveillance: “I strongly believe that disease surveillance is critical, and that it can help populations. Those are very important conservation issues. But health is something that has not really been addressed enough, and there needs to be more funding, and I would love to see more funding and more support in this realm.

Dr McCauley reminds us of the stark reality that her team and her project are addressing. 

We are watching extinction: wildlife populations die off without us knowing about it. If we share 75% of new and emerging diseases with wildlife, imagine how many domestic animals share diseases with our wildlife. For example, a dog can carry a disease that spills into wildlife populations. The sharing of disease is increasing exponentially. In the past 50 years, the human population has doubled. Just think how much the domestic animal population has increased enormously and then how that is affecting our wildlife.”

Deborah has won numerous global leadership awards including the 2017 Ashoka Fellowship and the Emily Couric Women’s Leadership Award in 2019.

When she found out about her nomination for the Simone Awards, Deborah felt “delighted, curious and surprised.

She adds: “We were curious to know if it was one of our supporters that put our name in your hemisphere. We appreciate that you recognize the work that we’re doing. We worked very hard on our reputation and our work. We spent many years putting these programs together, and we appreciate that you have recognized them.

Our grant will enable VIEW to work in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem on a grizzly bear project.

What advice would Deborah give to people who want to commit to a great cause?

Have a goal, have a vision. Surround yourself with the people that are going to embrace that. And don’t deviate from your goal and don’t stop. It gets tough, and it’s not easy, but you’ll get there.

Thank you Deborah and good luck for the future!

Dr. Deborah McCauley was speaking to Benoit Daury, our On-Trade Director.

Diane Dupré La Tour, Founder of Les Petites Cantines

Portrait of Diane, founder of Les Petites Cantines.

After losing her husband in a car accident, Diane Dupré la Tour realized the importance of a social support network, and found that food was the key ingredient to creating one.

Portrait of Diane, founder of Les Petites Cantines.

"We shouldn't wait for a life-changing incident to live this kind of solidarity"

Nominations for the 2023 Simone Awards are now open. Do you know a commited woman?

Diane Dupré la Tour, a 42 year old former finance journalist, is the co-founder of Les Petites Cantines, a network of restaurants that specialize in sustainable food and are open to everyone. 

We offer sustainable food, free of charge. We opened the first canteen in Lyon, and today we’re present in many French cities.

However, the inspiration sprung from tragedy. 

I lost my husband in a car accident ten years ago,” says Diane. “This tragic event made me realize that any life-changing incident can easily put us in a vulnerable position, sometimes causing inward-looking attitudes at times when we mostly need the others. I was lucky enough to receive great support from my neighbors. It made me think that we shouldn’t wait for a life-changing incident to live this kind of solidarity.

And so it began. With her friend Etienne Thouvenot, Diane decided to create a place that would fulfill this need to be connected to others. 

Instinctively, food appeared as the key element to facilitate encounters and create a social link. It’s a great source of resilience, because food not only answers physical needs, but it also answers emotional and relational needs.

The decision to make the food free is a bold and interesting one. 

 “It enables us to welcome people from different generations and life paths. The supply relies exclusively on sustainable food with organic, local ingredients from direct supplies. We also collect unsold stocks from the neighboring organic shops. The kitchen too is participatory: those who want to can come earlier and cook together. We create opportunities to meet people we couldn’t have met otherwise. Some neighbors also offer workshops. It’s like Neighbor’s Day, every day!

@Les Petites Cantines

 But it wasn’t all plain sailing for the Lyonnais pair. They weren’t caterers, and entering into such an industry is fraught with challenges.

I didn’t know anything about the catering industry,” Diane admits. “I attended training sessions about hygiene and the rules of this industry. We started with ephemeral canteens in venues that people would lend to us, so we could test the impact on the neighbors. When we realized that it was a success, we started looking for our own space. The real challenge was to find available premises, with an affordable rent and the possibility to carry out work related to the industry standards. All the premises I could find were too expensive.

This choice to become an entrepreneur at a point in Diane’s life when she had not only suffered bereavement but also quit her job while looking after three children was, she admits, an unorthodox one. 

Seen from the outside, it could sound really irrational to become an entrepreneur at this stage. But I had the feeling that it was a good time to go for it. In reality, we take a bigger risk by not following our instinct: the risk of missing the whole purpose of our own life.

But they continued moving forward. 

Our ambition, with Etienne, was to build a non-lucrative model without having to depend on subventions: our model would rely on the free and conscious contribution of our guests. It can be really stressful to never know how much money we get at the end of every day, especially when you have salaries, rent, charges to pay. You have to learn to trust yourself. And it worked!

Here in 2023, all the canteens are stable and built on a trusted model. Nearly 85,000 meals have been served to more than 35,000 guests since the inception six years ago of the initiative. 10 canteens are already open, and 12 are about to be launched. But there’s still a level of precariousness. 

Part of the supply depends on the collection of unsold stocks. Plus, we never really know who is going to cook. Lastly, we don’t know how many people will sit at our tables. Overall, for a project relying on gatherings, you have to accept that a good part of it is unpredictable. Our canteen managers are championing uncertainty management, and they do it with a lot of simplicity and social capacity. This is, in my opinion, a job for the future.

It’s an admirable set up. But, fundamentally, does it work? Diane says she is able to measure that. 

We run social impact studies every two years. Today, 95% of our guests say they feel as welcome as they truly are. They become aware of their own prejudices and can more easily get rid of these biases after spending quality time with someone in particular. Two guests out of three give more trust to others and feel trusted in return. The main thing is that we foster the ability to redefine social connections and loneliness.

But there’s more than just the social aspect. This initiative has a health dimension too. 

We also measure the impact of accessing sustainable food,” Diane continues. “82% of our guests have discovered healthy, cheap recipes in our canteens, and want to reproduce them at their home. We offer recipes made with local, organic ingredients, and ideally bulk goods to avoid too much packaging. These practices have an influence on our guests’ food behaviors, not just through our speeches but also through the experience of pleasure. The notion of savory, sensory well-being are the key to opening to others. We noticed that one guest out of two have sustainably changed their food behavior thanks to Les Petites Cantines.”

Les Petites Cantines
@Les Petites Cantines
@Les Petites Cantines

In terms of frequency, the regularity of custom goes some way to prove their success. 

 “25% of the guests come often, at least once a week. 50% of them come on a regular basis, once or twice a month. And the remaining 25% are people passing by, they come once or twice a year. These people are nonetheless important because they are our ambassadors. They talk about us. For the elderly, the initiative can come from their children who heard about us. They come with their parents the first time then let them come back on their own if they want to.”

Diane and company have now got to the point where they can make a forecast for their future success. 

 “We’re hoping that in 5 years, we can count 50 canteens within our network. This would serve approximately 100,000 guests and 100 employees. Today, we already have 30.”

But they don’t want to get too big. One of the company mantras is proximity and simplicity are the key ingredients to create social connections

The word “petites” means small in French and is as important as the word “canteen” in our name,” explains Diane. “To create trustworthy relationships, you can’t have complex structures. The entrepreneurial agility enables us to stay resilient, a precious quality in this society of changes.”

They would, it appears, rather be consultants who advise on future cantines run by like-minded others. 

Ideally, we would help create new networks in France, in Europe or elsewhere, to which we could transmit our knowledge. Our goal is not just having a social impact within Les Petites Cantines but also outside. We want to train companies, the hospitality industry about inviting interpersonal skills to their tables. Hannah Arendt describes the table as a space that connects us all, while maintaining a distance between each other. This distance is not an empty space since it is filled with what happens above the plate, which is the ability to speak. This is how we create unexpected encounters at Les Petites Cantines. Eating organic food on your own is not my vision of eating sustainably. For us, the aspect of sharing a meal is just as important as cooking organic, local, healthy ingredients.” 

Château de Pommard chose Les Petites Cantines as one of the three winners of the 2023 Simone Awards, and Diane says she felt a collective sense of pride on hearing the news.

It’s the reward of many teams. I’m also very grateful. In the end, the world of wine and Les Petites Cantines have more common values than you could imagine. One could think that a renowned winery like Château de Pommard would not have anything to do with an organization like Les Petites Cantines, whose goal is to encourage social connections. And yet, what connects us all here is food.

Certainly the conviviality engendered by carefully made wine accompanying food is one of the key driving factors when making wines at Château de Pommard, and we’re thrilled to be associated with an organisation who understand the importance, at a fundamentally human level, of how the social aspect of eating and drinking helps people connect, and has done for centuries. We hope the grant will help Diane and team move forward. 

We will use it for the development of our network, to create a collective, dynamic intelligence and support our teams. The more experienced project leaders can support new projects. We just need to train them as facilitators and provide them with an updated toolbox taking into account all the regulatory constraints,” Diane says. 

What piece of advice would Diane give to someone who wants to commit to an important cause?

Don’t fight on your own. Take people with you. You will be enriched from their experiences and their sensibilities. You will learn how rewarding it is to be able to rely on others, which is something that can be hard to accept. In France, we see a lot of suffering caused by entrepreneurial failure. This is seen as a personal failure. It would be much easier if we considered success as collective, rather than individual.

Thanks Diane, and good luck! 

Diane was speaking to our Asia Senior Trade Sales Manager, Remi Marchand .