Emily Corazza: Co-Founder of Friuli Italian Wines
It took one semester in Milan for Emily Corazza to fall in love with Italy. “I didn’t leave for 9 years.”
After receiving her Master’s at SDA Bocconi in Milan, her career quickly took flight. An internship at Luxottica turned into a full-time job as a financial controller, consolidating profit and loss statements for their worldwide offices. Soon after, she transitioned into an investor relations analyst role.
In the midst of her blossoming career, she met her husband, Alex, an Italian native from the Northeastern Italian region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia. Located 30 minutes from the mountains and 30 minutes from the sea, Friuli is internationally famous for its white wines.
“Everyone’s into wine. You start drinking watered down wine when you’re 8 years old. The first couple of times I went there with Alex, I was mesmerized by these beautiful, old wineries.” The town’s atmosphere is open and friendly, and there are no real tasting rooms or tasting fees. “It’s delicious. You always end up buying a few bottles of wine.”
After getting married in 2014, moving to the States became their number one priority. When brainstorming ideas for work, wine naturally came up. “We wondered if we could open a small bar or wine shop and sell wine from Friuli.”
After talking to sommeliers and family connections in the industry, it became clear that Friuli wines hadn’t made their way to the U.S. yet. Friuli’s small-scale wine production and its unique dialect were the main barriers to entry for most exporters. However, Emily and Alex had a strong bond with these winemakers and wanted to share the warmth and culture of this Italian region with the U.S. They connected with a third business partner/sommelier, Patrick, and embarked on this entrepreneurial venture.
In February 2015, Emily and Alex made their way to the States, and the bootstrapping began.
“We sort of just moved. My parents were out here, so I had some support from family. We would sit in coffee shops, I would look for tech business development roles, and Alex would research what kind of licenses we needed to set up a wine bar. We thought about importing ourselves, so we looked into the process to be a wine distributor.”
Needless to say, the process took longer than expected. Close to 1.5 years.
“We had to set up a company, incorporate it and go through the state process. There’s a ton of documentation. You need to get a warehouse facility contracted and decipher zoning laws. We didn’t know how to do any of this. It was a lot of research.
At this time I was working at a tech job. Every free moment we had was sitting at our table, drinking a glass of wine, and researching. It was stressful. It was a lot of bootstrapping. You need to figure out what you don’t know how to do.”
By 2017 though, all the boxes were checked and licenses obtained. Emily credits her husband for making ends meet. “My husband was a part-time waiter on evenings and weekends. By mid-2018, we finally reached a point where my income was good enough for him to leave the restaurant job and start selling and growing the business.”
Fast-forward to 2019, and their wine business is up and running. Emily is now President of Friuli Italian Wines while working a full-time job at Google.
Her advice for people interested in the wine industry? Do your best to network.
Talk to sommeliers, wine buyers, and people who are willing to talk to you about the industry - “it turns your learning curve from extremely long and painful to really short.”
Visit restaurants that are well known for their wine lists.
Her advice for people working with a loved one? Make sure to allocate time not talking about work.
“If I’m not at Google and I’m at home with my husband, it’s hard to not talk about business. It’s really important to carve out time where you’re not talking about work at home.”