Inspirational Woman: Elizabeth Hawthornthwaite | Founder, Elizabeth & Wine

Elizabeth HawthornthwaiteI’m on a mission to transform the world of wine tasting from stuffy, jargon-heavy, intimidating experiences to fun, engaging events which everyone can enjoy and take part in.

I am a qualified sommelier and been an operator in London’s hospitality sector for 15 years. I’ve run some of the City’s biggest and best bars including One Under Lime, The Oyster Shed and The Kitty Hawk, where I’ve increased top line sales by £1m a year. I have written countless restaurant wine list and trained under some of the top sommeliers in the world.

Elizabeth & Wine creates unique wine experiences clients, delivering wine experiences and memories that people are talking about for years to come. My events are about transforming client/team relationships and putting your brand on the map – I recently delivered a ‘women in wine’ event for a corporate woman’s network, using wine only made by female producers.

I want to help change the wine world and get rid of the snobbery and confusion behind the label. Good wine knowledge is knowing what to buy from a supermarket when going to a friend’s BBQ, not feeling intimidated when faced with a restaurant wine list.

Food and wine is a passion and I’m always focused on the latest trends. London’s restaurant scene is so vibrant, particularly the no-res, relaxed hotspots (Clove Club, Kiln, Barbary, Smoking Goat, Brat, Kricket and so on) – how can you choose modern, exciting wines when you’re eating this kind of food?  Can we get Riesling back in fashion in London’s modern thai joints, for example? What does organic/natural etc really mean in the wine world?

More about me at www.elizabethandwine.com!

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

Hi I’m Elizabeth Hawthornthwaite, founder of Elizabeth & Wine. I started my career running bars and restaurants in the City of London before opening my business in 2018. I love working with people and creating amazing experiences for people to enjoy.

My business – Elizabeth & Wine – delivers wine tastings, events and consultancy, aimed at demystifying wine and making the world of wine more fun and accessible.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No, I followed my heart doing what I love. My Mum helped when I was selecting a university to ensure I picked the right subject, which was hospitality management. When I started work i chose medium sized companies to ensure I wasn’t just a number. I was proud that one of my sites won the ‘award for excellence’ as one of the UK’s top 5 catering firms in 2012.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

I worked for a boss who wanted me out and I suffered a short period of stress and anxiety as a result but it was also the best push to help me launch my own company.

At most wine tastings (not mine!) the room is filled with more men than women and I used to feel intimidated by this. Happily the gender balance is becoming more even!

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Reaching the VAT threshold in my second year of trading. Proving to myself I can do this and my business concept is working. I don’t have to go back to a 9-5 job to pay the bills – which is great because I love being an entrepreneur!

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Spotting the opportunity to work with women’s groups and networks. My ‘women in wine’ concept, working female winemakers to deliver events which are tailored to the way women think about and consumer wine, as well as highlighting the inherent sexism in the wine world (why do sommeliers always pour to the male?) have proved very popular with women’s networks at City firms.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I think mentoring is great and something that can happen naturally. I have a couple of mentors who help me and we connect when needed. My husband is a great support as he has had his own company for 15 years.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?

The Government to invest in measures to keep women safe from male violence. Women to be free from the threat of violence and have a safe space to go at any age.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

Try it and dive in. Just do it. Most women are held back by fear.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

Aim to become the best wine communicator – the way Rick Stein is to food. To demystify wine and make it accessible to everyone without intimidating anyone or suggesting wines that are too expensive.

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