Entrepreneur profile: Sarah Liberatore
“When my girlfriends and I get together, we want good quality, easy-drinking wine that’s affordable–and looks fabulous on the dinner table,” said Sarah Liberatore, founder of STLTO.
Unable to find it, Liberatore created her own wine, marketed to women who value style and sophistication and fun with friends. With its sleek bottles and stunning glitter cap closures, the STLTO collection is made of grapes picked from 40-year-old vines in the lush Abruzzo region, which deliver gorgeous colour and density.
CBJ: Did your love of wine or business come first?
Sarah Liberatore: While I was always interested in wine my love for business came first. Women are responsible for about 80 per cent of wine sales so the brand is a reflection of what my girlfriends and I always look for at the liquor store: good quality, easy-drinking wine that’s affordable, and looks fabulous on the dinner table.
CBJ: When did you discover your passion for wine?
SL: Throughout university, I worked for a wine agency part-time and learned a lot about the industry, but I never fully realized my passion for wine until I travelled to my first wine show in Italy. It’s pretty easy to get swept up in the culture, the flavours and the industry when you’re completely immersed in it like that. This passion paired with my education in marketing and international business, and my lifelong love of fashion (particularly the shoe variety) led to the creation and finally the launch of STLTO in June 2011.
CBJ: What has been the most challenging part of breaking into the Canadian wine market? The most enjoyable?
SL: The most challenging part of breaking into the Canadian wine market was coming to terms with the fact that we couldn’t go national initially. That being said, I decided to present the wines to the LCBO, the world’s largest purchaser of beverage alcohol. I presented STLTO to the LCBO European Wines Category and it was not selected to proceed. I’ll never forget the disappointment.
But I had to keep trying, I knew the brand was well suited for Ontario wine buyers, I knew the wine was great tasting and I knew it came in a great package.
One full year later I decided to re-present STLTO in a modified package with research on female buying patterns that proved STLTO is a perfect fit for the LCBO. I continued to present compelling presentations to the buyers at the LCBO, and here we are today, two years later with two listings at the LCBO. Another challenge with STLTO was creating the glitter caps for the wine, sourcing the right material and finding the perfect sparkle was a huge feat. We went through so many versions. It is the very first glitter cap to be used on a wine bottle, ever, and I am so glad I persevered. The glitter cap completes the look. Just like shoes complete an outfit.
The most enjoyable moment of breaking into the Canadian wine market was in April, when I went to the winery and watched the first bottling of STLTO. I’ll never forget seeing the first bottle come off the line with the sparkling glitter cap. I watched every single bottle clear the assembly line to make sure each one was impeccable.
CBJ: When did you first believe you were onto something great?
SL: It didn’t hit me until I learned that it was possible to be the first and only wine on the market with a glittering screw cap closure. It was a really difficult task and I was on pins and needles for about six months, not knowing if glitter caps were even possible to manufacture. It was so discouraging because time and time again, they simply didn’t turn out. Then, in our last attempt with a new material, it worked. Holding that cap in my hand was the moment I believed I was onto something great.
CBJ: Who is the ideal STLTO drinker?
SL: I feel that all women are ideal STLTO drinkers –the collection is really a celebration of us. In an industry that seems dominated by men, there is finally a product that is as delicious and high quality as it is fun and fabulous. Whether it’s a special treat for yourself or to enjoy in the company of great friends, STLTO brings the perfect amount of sparkle to the table.
CBJ: What advice would you give to a fellow entrepreneur?
SL: Constantly repeat these words: determination, perseverance, dedication, and confidence.Take your wonderful ideas and execute them. Nothing is impossible, but you may need to approach the situation differently or find that one key connection. It may cost you blood, sweat and tears but it will be worth it.