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Olivia Brandow: Montezuma Winery’s go-to person for marketing and design

Sunday Editor Louise Hoffman Broach interviewed Olivia Brandow, who is Montezuma Winery’s go-to person for marketing and design. Unlike many people her age who grew up here and went to college elsewhere, she returned to her roots to make her career. The interview was conducted via email. Here’s what she had to say about why she chose to return:

Olivia Brandow

LHB: Where did you grow up and what kinds of things interested you? Where did you attend high school and what were some of the activities in which you participated?

OB: I grew up right here in the Finger Lakes in Romulus, where I attended Romulus Central School. I was very active and pretty much involved in everything, which I kind of had to be with a graduating class of 27 people! I loved every part of it, though. I was big into sports and played soccer, basketball, softball, and ran track, but also enjoyed participating in the school’s musicals and plays. I am proud to say that I was part of the undefeated state-champion basketball team in 2018, hands down one of the best moments of my life so far. Outside of school, I loved being outside whether it was in my backyard or at the lake. We Finger Lakes natives know that lake life is the best life!

LHB: You told me that you went to Mercyhurst University. What did you study and why was that attractive to you? What were the goals you set for yourself?

OB: After graduating from Romulus, I attended Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pa. My parents had me tour a lot of schools, and Mercyhurst was one we sought out to visit when we saw they had a strong graphic design program. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do (who does at that age?), but I knew I had a creative side and I wanted to explore more of that. After visiting, I fell in love with the campus and the professors. They sold me on their marketing program as well, so I ended up majoring in Integrated Marketing with a minor in Graphic Design.

As soon as I started, I knew I was in the right career path. As I learned more about design, I started dreaming of designing wine labels as I grew up in wine country. Little did I know that I would be doing exactly that and loving every part of it.

LHB: So many people your age leave the area to pursue a career. Instead, you found your niche here. What made you decide to return?

OB: It’s funny how when you’re younger you can’t wait to get out, but once you leave sometimes you find yourself realizing how great home is. I always thought I would move away, but when I left for college I realized how great the Finger Lakes is and how much potential there was for a career here, especially in the wine industry. I love how most of the Finger Lakes is full of local, small businesses, and I knew I wanted to be part of and support that.

LHB: Tell me about the wine industry in the Finger Lakes. Are you surprised how fast it has grown?

OB: The wine industry is certainly continuing to grow in the Finger Lakes, as well as distilleries and craft breweries. I love how the Finger Lakes has been so welcoming to these new businesses, and I really feel like it has helped make us such an attractive tourist destination. I think the growth in our industry has also made people who live in the area realize that there is so much to offer right in their backyard. Our region wouldn’t be where it is if we didn’t all support each other, and I think that helps make the Finger Lakes wine region so special.

LHB: I know you did your internship at Montezuma Winery and now you are working there. What is it about Montezuma that was so attractive to you?

OB: The summer before my senior year, I interned at Montezuma Winery for credits and to gain real-life experience. I got the hands-on experience right away and fell in love.

I started out assisting in marketing tasks and design projects. They then asked me to return full-time when I graduated, and I said yes in a heartbeat. Throughout my almost six years here, I have learned so much about marketing, packaging design and business operations in the wine industry. I love that I have the room to be creative here, and it has honestly made me love my career path even more. I am very grateful for the Martin family giving me this opportunity and supporting my growth throughout the years.

LHB: Tell me about what a typical day is like at the winery. We talked about the expansion when I wrote a story about it. How do you think it’s going to make a difference to the operation?

OB: Busy, busy, busy! There really isn’t a slow day here, as we’re always working on a new project, new release, promotion, you name it. I’m a busy bee though, so I love it. It has been especially busy with our new expansion, and it’s really awesome seeing the progress each day. They’re working on putting in the new windows as we speak and, at the same time, they’re putting in EV chargers in our parking lot. Multi-tasking is a superpower of ours!

LHB: Where do you see yourself in five years? Ten years? What are your eventual career goals?

OB: Like I mentioned before, my career here has really reinforced my passion for marketing and design, but it’s also made me discover my passion for leadership. When looking to the future, I can see myself in more of a director role where I’m more so leading a team of marketers and designers. Maybe that’s something I could do here as we continue to grow or it may take me somewhere else. The craft beverage industry is so fun and allows me to be creative so I would love to stay in this industry.

LHB: What is it about you that people may not know that you would like them to?

OB: I am proud to say that I am WSET II-certified (by the Wine Spirit and Education Trust)! The Martin family paid for their full-time employees to take the WSET II course last spring. It was a three-day course jam-packed with wine tasting and education … boy, was that hard! Many flashcards later, I passed the exam and am officially certified!

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