Raise a Glass with Lesley Quinn

About the Startup Women Advocacy Network (SWAN)

There is a lack of awareness and storytelling of early-stage, woman-identifying entrepreneurs in Canada. As a national convener and staying true to our core values, we want to connect entrepreneurs with the support they need to help tackle this gap.

Thus, we created the Startup Women Advocacy Network (SWAN), a network of 13 early-stage, woman-identifying entrepreneurs from each province and territory to champion the needs of women entrepreneurship throughout the whole year. SWAN members can amplify their business through our platforms and are given exclusive opportunities to have a seat at important government roundtables and other events that are crucial to creating change.

This is just the beginning. The hope behind SWAN is to create an ever-growing network of champions in each Canadian province and territory to ultimately increase the visibility and voice of early-stage, woman-identifying entrepreneurs.

Meet Lesley Quinn, SWAN representative from Prince Edward Island 

In the spirit of amplifying women entrepreneurs, we will be sitting down with each of our SWAN members to learn more about their founding journeys. Introducing our sixth member Lesley Quinn, founder of Stellar Somm Wine Experts from Prince Edward Island. 

Lesley’s first opportunity in wine came as a Junior Sommelier at the Ritz Carlton Cayman Islands. In 2012, she became a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers. Work has taken her to Calgary, Vancouver, Halifax, and Turkey. Wine has taken her to France, Italy, Austria, Portugal, Chile, and California.

In 2017 she won the Canadian Association of Sommeliers Top Somm Competition Atlantic division. Now back in PEI, she’s sharing her knowledge under the guise of Stellar Somm Wine Experts. If she doesn’t have a glass of wine in front of her, you can find her volunteering with the Charlottetown Fire Department, or outside hiking one of PEI’s many beautiful trails. 

We’d love to learn a little bit about you and your business and your entrepreneurial journey towards founding Stellar Somm Wine Experts.

It started with the realization that the late night hours of working in restaurants were no longer conducive to my mental health, so I switched to retail. However in retail, I found my knowledge of products was not being fully utilized. So I decided I would try doing my own thing and start a business where I make my own hours and I get to share my knowledge with so many more people.

What has been the most challenging obstacle for you in starting your business? And how did you overcome it or is it something you are still tackling?

The most challenging obstacle to my business has been working within the liquor laws of my province, and with our government controlled Liquor Corporation. I have overcome some of these challenges by showing them how my business benefits theirs at the end of the day, and by working with my Chamber of Commerce to help get my concerns heard. I have made baby steps but there is still so much more I hope to change to ensure our restaurants, our liquor stores, and our homes have interesting, well-made, socially conscientious products available.

What brings you the most joy or excitement in working in your business?

Seeing “lightbulb” moments with people. Like “wow” I never knew that and I can’t wait to try using this the next time I order or buy something for myself. I also love hearing “I learn something new every time I attend one of your tastings.” Knowledge is power right?!

What can folks expect from attending one of your wine tasting experiences? What would you like them to take away from their experience?

Empowerment without pretension. That confidence to be able to order or buy something different, and feel comfortable talking about it with their friends or clients. If they walk away realizing wine, spirits, beers, or ciders can be that joie de vivre then I have done my job right.

What does being a part of the Startup Women Advocacy Network mean to you?

A chance to learn from other inspiring women entrepreneurs to help me grow Stellar Somm Wine Experts into the best it can be.

In the spirit of advocacy, is there a woman-identifying, early-stage entrepreneur in Prince Edward Island that you admire or are following along their entrepreneurial journey?

Julie Anne Gauthier utilizes her coaching skills in many ways, as a podcast host, as a leadership coach, as a public speaker and as a Tourism Operator. What I admire and take-away most from her is her message to prioritize self-care. Whether she is out for a hike, sharing new organization tools, or even doing a social media cleanse, it reminds me to do the same and that it is ok to take breaks. Life is supposed to be enjoyable, and work is a huge part of your life so make sure you don’t over-do it.  Plus she is a lobster fisherwoman as well which I think is pretty bad-ass. 

A lot of the time when founders talk about their journey and their business, they talk about their “why” – why they do what they do. So, we’re interested to know – what is your “why”? 

My “why” is that I want to create a beverage community here in PEI worthy of the incredible local delicacies our sea and shore produces. How can we be “Canada’s Food Island” without great drinks to pair with the food?!

Is there anything else we haven’t touched on that you would like to share with our community?

Don’t get stuck in a wine rut! Keep trying new things, the world of beverages is so vast that you never know when your new favourite thing is just around the corner. 

If someone wants to get in touch with you or connect with you, where is the best place for them to go?

I am probably the most active on Instagram so please follow along for great beverage tips @stellarsomm.  

You can learn more about our 2022 Startup Women Advocacy Network at https://www.startupcan.ca/startup-women-advocacy-network-2022/