The entrepreneurial adventure begins
I am Sebastiano de Corato, I am the owner, together with my brother and my father, who is still engaged in the company, of “Cantine Rivera”, which is a winery in Puglia, in particular located in the center of Puglia, in what is the denomination called “Castel del Monte”, which is the monument represented by the painting behind me and therefore we deal with the production and marketing of wines, of DOC wines, in short, let’s say, of quality and image.
It is a historical winery, it was founded by my grandfather, so at the end of the forties, so that is a fairly long story, in short we approach the sixty-ninth harvest, which produces typical wines of the “DOC Castel del Monte”, with many, many types of white wines, rosé wines, red wines and even sweet wines, but roughly the production of one million bottles. The company manages about 75 hectares of vineyards and sells its wines both in the local market, which means Puglia, in the rest of Italy and then all over the world, exporting in forty countries all over the world: the farthest, to make people understand a little, is New Zealand, in short you get to have it in all the world markets.
Therefore, it is considered a company, not only historical for the number of years, but also a company of excellence in the production of Apulian wines, which in short is one of the challenging things for a company we say historical that of staying and maintaining a record; sometimes historic companies can become old companies, so the important thing considering that in the wine sector in recent years, in the last 20 years in particular in Puglia there has not been a great ferment, many new companies. For a historic company there is the advantage of having started many years ago, but it is necessary to maintain itself, to remain young, and this also through innovation.
I have been in the company for the past 20 years, I mainly deal with the part, let’s say, the commercial part, so marketing and sales management both in Italy and abroad and I’m a little bit, I became a little bit the face of the company also in communication.
The money to start
I am a third-generation entrepreneur, it is said that the third is the one which destroys, we hope, hopefully not, but as regards let’s say the beginning of the adventure, in short the birth of Rivera, therefore, I can tell a little what happened to my grandfather.
Let’s say that the company was born, the winery was born on a farm that already existed, it was owned by my grandfather’s family, therefore, in a certain sense, the part of the money, the vineyards and the cellar, there was already a pre-existing cellar, but it was used in a way, let’s say, not as a main activity and therefore there were no great attentions and therefore there were no great results.
The beginning of Rivera was more a question of will, of having a goal, namely to market, produce and market quality Apulian wines, something that had never been done before. There was no brand, what we now call brand, so this was a partly productive idea, that is to improve the quality of production, but above all a marketing idea, to give a name and a face to a wine that he had not before. As was the case, as it were, in the years of the economic boom, things were a little easier, because perhaps there was nothing, there were few companies and so there was a market that was a little to be created, but then there were no big, big realities to compete with and it all started let’s say small, like a little adventure, a small bet that then slowly took hold. So, let’s say, that from the aspect of the initial investment there probably wasn’t a big, a great need for money because the vineyards already existed, the cellar already existed, it was more a question of will and vision, rather that of money.
What we are saying today, in the production of wines, the patrimonial aspect is very important, above all if we want to say, grow, improve, because the wine sector is a sector in which there is a need to make investments at very long time, both for the vineyards, the vineyards have a, let’s say, economic-financial life of 20-25 years and then also the cellar, apart from the structure, the plants are a very important part, when it comes to change, we are really in this phase of replacement of some plants or improvement in some plants, the investments are really important and with returns even there at very long, very long time. So, let’s talk about 10-15-20 years and then apart from the money, you need to be sure of what you want to do, because you have to think in the end to exploit the investment, that is to realize what is planned, not for five years, but for 15-20.
A negative and a positive event
More than an episode, I can tell about the phases, since the company has lived many years and therefore has experienced phases, some more positive and some less. Meanwhile, the episode, the positive phases were precisely those that have decreed the birth of the company. The grandfather found himself producing wines, let’s say, local, traditional of the area so a white wine, a rosé wine and a red wine and a little fortunately he found this rosé wine in his hands, which was what he really in the early fifties it decreed the success of the company, so much so that it was, let’s talk about the Italian market, it was associated, Rivera was the rosé wine company, so it gave it a record in a certain category that was very, very much fashion in those years and that allowed the company to grow, given also to my grandfather the confidence to continue to invest, to build a new cellar after only, in short, ten years of life, a new modern section of the cellar.
Except that then things change, trends and fashions change, in the seventies the rosé category began to suffer and therefore from being a leading product, the rosé risked becoming the product that towed us down and therefore certainly were years a little more difficult, but then it turned out, here, the entrepreneur. In this case it was my father who had joined my grandfather in the meantime, who had the intuition to try to diversify towards white wines, which instead began to go out of fashion in those years, risking, so trying to plant for the first time in Puglia non-autochthonous vines, that is vines from other regions, even from other nations, and therefore we speak of the international white varieties of Chardonnay and Sauvignon which had never been planted in Puglia and which are also used to a cooler climate than that of Puglia, however an experiment that has been successful and that we say has shifted the production of the company towards white wines that still today are an important part of our production, therefore it has allowed us to limit damage on the one hand and give further development prospects for the company.
So even at times, let’s say, episodes or negative moments lead to finding solutions therefore for survival, indeed for development.
Doing business in Italy
Because there are many, many things to be valued. It can be skills, therefore the skills of people, in other words that can create business or add value to companies that unfortunately often think, they realize that it is perhaps easier to enhance them outside of Italy and because there are also products, we think a little to agribusiness what my field is a bit, so many products that can be valued.
Therefore, the enhancement, create business to enhance these products; the difficult part of course, so easy to say, but it is certainly less easy to do it, less easy to do it, to do business because today there is so much, so much competition, so healthy competition, but this means that in order to succeed in business projects it is important to be very good, in order to stand out from what happens on the market.
So, not only enthusiasm is needed, enthusiasm is good, but we also need a right vision, even a lot of realism because sometimes enthusiasm can lead you to, let’s say, things or longer steps, the longest step of the leg or even, even simply put up, to realize a business that then fails to have a real outlet. Because in the end what matters is what commands, which decrees the success and failure of the initiatives is the market.
All this despite saying the environment, in our country often does not seem to help, indeed it almost seems to slow down or at least not make it easy to do things, get things that are the basis of the business activity.
The key traits of the entrepreneur
The characteristics of an entrepreneur is a bit, let’s say, it is difficult, again on one hand there are the skills, that is those that are acquired, they can be acquired through study or experience, but then there is a question, let us say, of personality in the sense that I think that the entrepreneur must always be in tension and the tension in doing things well and in having his employees do things well and together with his collaborators.
The tension of always thinking of new ways, new solutions, because the entrepreneur’s life is precisely the search for solutions to be able to carry out his own project. The solutions are useful because every day, every moment there are problems, they can be technical problems, market problems, the entrepreneur must make an obstacle jump, he must always be ready to jump or dodge obstacles of various kinds in order to reach a goal.
The future for the new generations
The message to young people is in the meantime to accumulate experiences and skills that mean on the one hand for the very young to study and study because without solid bases, even theoretical or say study, are things that then serve and still make experiences, which can also be experiences we say of life or work, the simplest, to be a waiter, even to have an experience abroad, see how the world works, what we say is important, then the risk that when you see how the world works outside our country , maybe it is better to stay abroad.
I say experience and bring these experiences to our country, it is necessary, on the one hand, to create a baggage that will then be used, it can be put to use when it is done, it is undertaken, but also to understand what is most brought to do, then what can be the fields in which you can specialize or deepen, maybe come up with ideas that can become business ideas, you have to do, do and do as much as possible then everything will come back.