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Carol Wolniakowski

Carol Wolniakowski

Introduce yourself to our audience. Tell us who you are and what you are currently focused on.

I am a sommelier and owner of Cuvée Wine Travel where I plan custom trips and culinary cruises for people who love food and wine. I use my contacts and resources around the world to create authentic, personalized experiences for luxury travelers and small groups like wine clubs, golf clubs or groups of family or friends.

There is so much more to wine than just a beverage. The people, history and traditions behind the label bring the experience to life and can transport you to a different place. Food, wine and culture are so intertwined and have the power to connect people all around the globe.

In addition to planning travel, I host virtual and in-person wine and travel events to help people stay connected and engaged with clients, family and friends.

Tell us about your favorite Ellevate Network memory or success story. Why are you a member?

My favorite memory is sharing wine with other local Ellevate members on a Zoom wine tasting that I hosted. I have met the most amazing women by participating in a monthly coffee chat that began at breakfast and has continued online. Many of us share the same interests and goals, and it has been fun to get to know them on a personal and professional level.

How would you define your professional mission?

My mission is to run a profitable business where I connect others through food, wine and travel.

What are some career challenges on your radar?

Covid is a huge challenge for the travel, wine and hospitality industries. I have pivoted to host virtual wine tastings and travel events, which has been a huge success. During this slowdown of business, I have been focused on getting my systems and plans in order because when travel resumes, there will be a huge demand - I need to be ready!

What project have you worked on that you’re most proud of? Why?

I hosted a virtual wine tasting for a large corporation in which participants were located in two countries. It was a challenge to source the wine to multiple states in the U.S. due to complex state regulations, not to mention in a foreign country. The event was successful and the client has engaged me to host another event in the near future. I am proud of this because other sommeliers had turned the company down due to the complexities but I took a chance and was determined to create a fabulous experience for the clients.

We’d love to hear more about your career path. What led you to where you are today?

I was a corporate attorney when my twin boys were born three months premature. I left my job to focus on their care, which was my sole priority for the first several years. I then decided to study wine as a hobby and a way to get out of the house and meet other like-minded people. I fell in love with the industry and decided to pursue several wine certifications. Along the way, friends and family would ask for my help in planning their trips to wine country. One day it just hit me - I could turn this into a new career. So I started my own business focused on Napa and Sonoma, and now have expanded to create land trips and cruises around the world for luxury travelers and small groups.

What legacy do you hope to leave through your work?

I hope to create a company that will provide future opportunities for my boys to see the world and potentially get involved in business as they get older. Regardless of what happens, I want to demonstrate to my boys that the world is full of possibilities and you can accomplish anything you are willing to work for. I am following a legacy of hard work and grit from the generation before me and hope to pass that same quality to my boys.

What is your morning ritual?

I wake up at 5:30 and have coffee while I scan online for whatever is in my head that morning. I then take 10-15 minutes to meditate before getting in the shower to get ready for the day. I make breakfast for the kids and drive them to school before starting my work day at 8:30.

What advice would you offer future leading ladies wishing to break into your industry?

This industry, like many, is all about relationships. It is critical to have the skills to relate to others and to enjoy meeting new people. It is also important to follow up and keep in touch - your circle of influence plays a large role in your success in both securing high quality resources around the globe as well as long term, loyal clients. Above all, you must provide exceptional customer service and exceed expectations to be successful in a competitive, noisy world.

What is the best career advice you ever received?

Never make a decision out of fear.

Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.