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Mary Anna Ossa - Founder & CEO of Partners & Grapes

How many years have you been in the business? Tell us briefly about your background and your current position today.

3 years! I'm originally from Caracas, Venezuela, and moved to the Carolinas after I graduated college looking for a better future. I have 20 years of experience in marketing and sales. I'm the founder and CEO of Partners & Grapes—a boutique wine company in South Carolina. Our wines are clean crafted in the Penedès, Spain. They are organic and vegan, with no added sugar or sulfites.

Did you have a particular “aha!” moment that propelled you into wine?

I was in Spain a few years ago, and I learned about organic, vegan and low sulfites wine and how different my body reacted when I drank those instead of mass-produced wines.

What is the most rewarding part of what you do?

Sharing my story with other women and encourage them to go after their dream.

What do you do to create wellness balance in your life? Any particular activity, practices, etc that are meaningful to you?

I spend time with family and friends. I travel and go to concerts. I also make sure I take time to do nothing. I feel this pressure to be productive, and I must remind myself that it's okay to do nothing sometimes.

What changes do you hope to see in the wine industry in the next five years?

I'd love to see more women, especially women of color in leadership positions. Also, changes in legislation to help small wineries and importers distribute their products.

What does equality in the wine industry look like to you?

Equality has a lot to do with gender. This is a white male-dominated industry, but it also has to do with the size of your business. It's tough to find distribution when you're starting and your company is small. Big distributors won't even return your calls.

How do you feel you’re contributing to creating a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive wine industry?

Partners and Grapes' core value is "Believe in one another and rise together" I want to build more than just a wine company. I want to create a platform to celebrate women's achievements and growth. When one of us wins, we all do.

What advice would you give to someone starting their career in the same sector of the wine industry as you?

We all have that little voice inside our head that says things like, "You can't do it," You're too old," You don't know how to run a business." We need to stop listening to that voice and believe we can. Believing in yourself is the first step. Learn to do things scared. Fear might never go away, but you can turn it into the driving force that gets you up and running every morning. Lastly, ask for help; most people are supportive and love to help entrepreneurs.

Name some people who inspire you in the wine industry and please explain why

The McBride Sisters. They built a powerful brand and are now using it to help other women succeed. The ladies at Avaline created a model based on giving their customers all the information to make an informed decision. Honesty and transparency are critical to their success.

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