Petaluma entrepreneur Brandon Carneiro has blended a passion for fine wines and an MBA degree together in order to form an e-commerce business with partner and master sommelier Ian Cauble that aims to serve wine drinkers, from beginners through experts.
“After business school at SSU, I wanted to do something on my own,” he said. “I had been a wine distributor, working for wholesale distributors and wineries, and I was always troubled by the process in which individuals buy wine, and I thought I could improve it.”
Carneiro and Cauble met as undergraduate students at Sonoma State, and while Carneiro was obtaining his MBA, Cauble specialized in becoming a Master Sommelier.
“It’s really hard for consumers to get reliable information about the wines that are offered in stores; it’s not like a fine restaurant, where you have a sommelier like Ian to guide you,” he said. “Wine is not just a ‘product to be moved,’ it’s a complex and extremely interesting subject.”
Carneiro realized that online sales could be a new way of offering both wine and the important information about it to consumers, but to pull it off, he’d need the right partner to bring his concept to fruition. Cauble fit the bill perfectly, especially after he appeared in the 2013 documentary film “Somm.”
“We both took time out of our busy careers to get together, we developed the concept, found an investor and the rest is history,” he said.
Carneiro says one of the two turning points in his life occurred when he realized that he wanted to become an entrepreneur, rather than an employee. The second one occurred after a realization.
“After a lot of experience in, and some dissatisfaction with the wine business, I had the sudden epiphany that there was a missing piece to the business, that I knew what that piece was, and that I knew how to build it.”
His goals are very simple, Carneiro says.
“I’ve lived in the Napa/Sonoma wine country my entire life, and my personal goals have been informed by long-time friends who have had the good fortune and pleasure of coming from multiple generations of family here in the wine business. Like them, I want to build a successful family, a successful business and help whomever I can along the way.”
“Of course my family and friends have formed, shaped and guided my life,” Carneiro says, “but if I had to pick out just one special mentor, it would be Dr. Robert Eyler, Dean of the School of Extended and International Education at Sonoma and Professor of Economics. I took many classes from him as an undergrad and in business school and he’s had an immeasurable impact on my development as an entrepreneur, a businessman and a person.”
Carneiro says that his greatest challenge and accomplishment so far are one and the same: “Being a father to two amazing, very high-energy children.”
While the craziest thing he says he ever did was to take the leap of faith to quit his job to start a business with a baby on the way, Carneiro says it was worth it.
“I always think that if you wake up each day, anxious to go to work, then that’s a good day,” he said. “Every day, I can’t wait to see what the day holds and how we can continue to grow this business.”