In celebration of World Entrepreneur’s Day, our founder Susie Willis sat down with Jeany Cronk, co-founder of Mirabeau En Provence Rosés to talk all thing entrepreneurship, women in business and balancing business and family.
Have you always possessed an entrepreneurial spirit?
Interesting question- yes and no. I have always been inventive and enjoyed the idea of doing my own thing, but often talked myself out of it eventually. I am naturally quite cautious and risk averse and the two don’t always go together. But I have become better at estimating and taking more risk as I have grown as an entrepreneur and Stephen is the exact opposite, so we balance each other out.
Do you remember the moment or event that galvanised you and Stephen to leave London and embark on your quest to start Mirabeau?
Yes I do and it was a moment that wasn’t just fun and easy. We sat at our kitchen table together and decided that we had to change our lives to fulfil his desire to work in the world of wine again, which he loved and missed having moved to tech. He also really wanted to achieve his dream to run his own business, something quite prevalent in the Cronk family, right Susie? At the time I was a busy mum with three young children and was content in my circumstances, so it was a big mental leap for me when I felt safe and happy.
Was there anything that surprised you on your journey in bringing Mirabeau to fruition?
Running your own business brings a daily dose of surprises, lots of those are actually great ones and you deal with the others. But seriously I think the nicest surprise was how many people are happy to help you on your entrepreneurial journey. The vast majority of connections we made were with people who were happy to help us or recommend something or someone. In turn we try and do the same to others and if we can lend a hand we do. In fact, I am still amazed that our first set of wine growers decided to work with us in 2009, when we were total unknowns, but they must have seen that we were serious about making Mirabeau work.
What were some of the challenges you faced in creating Mirabeau (from a business/personal standpoint) and how did you overcome them?
The biggest challenge is undoubtably running a business that is so demanding of our time and strength, while being good parents. We try and juggle and be there for all three kids, but they have had to put up with very busy parents, who have to look after their work family too.
On the business front the big challenge we face now is how to grow while keeping our business culture, where we have prided ourselves on being nurturing and guiding to the people who come to work with us. We overcome these issues (which are common in start-ups moving to more maturity) by being extra communicative and recruiting people we’d be proud to work for. Both of us strongly believe in finding the best people and enabling talent to flourish in our business family and great if they know more than you do!
There is also a very fine balance to be struck between running a business well and clipping its wings. We have to run the business in a more process orientated way to make sure we minimise mistakes, but we really don’t want to lose our creativity and get-go spirit. Those two aspects are often in conflict and that’s why many bigger businesses lose creativity and don’t innovate successfully. We really want to avoid falling into those habits and stay the vibrant business that we are. Stephen and I innovate bottom up and top down and anyone can come to us with a good idea and we will look at it. We are actually just working on two NPD projects that were kick-started by one of our employees.
As a parent and co-founder with your husband, how do you find balance between running Mirabeau and raising children, being a partner?
It’s tough and I will not stand here and tell you we have a very balanced couple life. But since the Mirabeau business is one we gave birth to together, we both feel responsible for it and there is no real resentment about the time we spend on it. We are both very passionate and driven people, so we do find it hard to switch off, especially when you feel like your input will make a difference. I think this is a very common issue in entrepreneurial couples and we also made a conscious choice to live like that. We do go off for morning walks together and make a point of talking non-business stuff and both of us love spending time at the vineyard we recently bought, where we can see the transformation taking place as we are moving to regenerative farming.
What advice would you give those wanting to embark on an entrepreneurial dream and put it into action?
It’s very hard to sift through the constructive criticism that is actually helpful versus people who just cannot imagine themselves being entrepreneurs and therefore tell you you are wrong. At some point take what you have learned and make the jump. Accept there will never be the perfect moment and you will never be entirely prepared. Then make sure you have banked some extra time and money for a rainy day or an outcome you haven’t prepared for. We could easily have given up early on if we hadn’t planned for some bumps in the road. And remember that there is a solution to almost every problem, if you look at it from all angles. Lastly listen to the market and your customers, they tell you everything you need to know.
Now that Mirabeau is a successful business, has your viewpoint changed at all in regards to how you approach/co-manage the business? What has the journey taught you on a personal level?
I think one of the things that is nice about how we run the business is that we have stuck to the same values that we had early on. We tried to create a business that made a beautiful product, generating a smile inside, yet be approachable and enduring. We have continued to live by these basic values in everything we do and it is how we communicate with our community. Our dream was always to create a product that would generate a special moment and reunite people, chatting, laughing and enjoying each other. Everything we do, even if we delegate more, still has these values woven through and we believe it shows to our customers. On a personal level I feel the journey has taught me to be more resourceful and resilient and to believe in my intuition more. In retrospect my initial feeling about something (or someone) is nearly always correct and where I have tried to override it by applying more logic, the outcome has often been suboptimal. I guess it’s hard to accept that, but a lot of entrepreneurial decision making does not get taught at business school.
What’s next on the horizon for Mirabeau?
Lots of stuff, it wouldn’t be us if there wasn’t. We will work more on the Rosé Gin as it has gotten off to such a fabulous start with so many people looking for a low sugar alternative to the other pink Gins on the market. We will also work more on lower ABV as we believe that there is a time and a place for alcoholic beverages and a lot of us want to drink less at other times, but still enjoy the experience. Not to mention my passion for interiors and really bringing the old Bastide at our vineyard back to life with cookery workshops and lifestyle retreats. And of course doing what we really love doing, making gorgeous Rosés from Provence. In wine you are only ever as good as your last vintage, so you have to prove yourself all over again year after year!