Champagne businesswoman Vitalie Taittinger gives us some insight into how tough you have to be to hack it as a woman in the alcohol industry...
You may not have heard of Vitalie Taittinger, but you will definitely know her Champagne house, producing Taittinger Champagne since the 1930s.
But if you were about to dismiss Vitalie as an heiress, you can think again – only choosing to join the family business when her father bought back the brand in 2006 after it was broken up and sold against his will.
Now, with her father and brother by her side, Taittinger has gone from strength to strength, becoming the ultimate family business – but there’s no doubt that a lot of that is down to Vitalie, proving herself to be an inspiring businesswoman, boss, mother of four – and did we mention that she’s absolutely lovely?
But how does she do it all?
According to Vitalie, it’s all about mindset and elegance. ‘I don’t want to be a man’, she told us. ‘I don’t need to turn myself into a man to achieve the same things. I’m really conscious that I’m a woman and that’s a beautiful thing’.
Our Women Who Win interview series celebrates strong and inspirational female trailblazers, shaping the future for us all, and Vitalie Taittinger and her unwavering optimism and love for her work and colleagues is that in a nutshell.
Jenny Proudfoot sat down with Vitalie to find out how tough you have to be to survive as a female Champagne boss nowadays and how to use being a woman to our advantage in the workplace…
What is the biggest sacrifice you have made?
Deciding to follow my father into the family Champagne business – it totally changed my life. I would have loved to have been an artist – I studied art and that was my plan – but I was so impressed by my father’s dedication to re-buying the family company that I asked to work for him instead. He kept it a secret and the people that knew doubted him – he was quite alone in the project. But he did it, and it wasn’t for ego or money, for him it was something to transmit to the next generation and I was, and I still am, very impressed by that. I had to reorganise everything and accept another life – it was one of the biggest decisions I ever made.
How often are you discriminated against?
I think that women are respected in the Champagne industry. We work in a different way to men – and that’s great. What I’m really trying to do is push the feminine side in business. I don’t want to be like men. I’m really conscious that I am a woman and I don’t want to turn myself into a man to achieve the same things. I don’t need to be a man.
How do you overcome struggles?
It’s all about teamwork. When I’m in a team working towards a goal, I am no longer a Taittinger family member or a woman, I am simply someone who has a job to do – I try to be super dedicated about the objective.
What is the best advice anyone has ever given you?
Someone once told me that if you want to be in good health, you have to love yourself and tell yourself that every day – and I really think it’s true. You have to empower yourself every morning. Instead of seeing your face and telling yourself “I feel old, I have dark eyes, I can see wrinkles”, you have to look at yourself as a beautiful person. It is such good advice – and like all good advice, I never actually manage to follow it, but I do think it is important.
What do you refuse to compromise on?
I refuse to compromise on honesty and trust – they are so important to me. If I promise someone I will do something, I will always follow through and if I get behind something, I get behind it 100%. I will only hire people that I trust – that and authenticity are the two most employable traits and I always take them into consideration when building my team.
What quality do you deplore in others?
Negativity. I need positivity – that is the dynamic that I like and thrive in. I actually wouldn’t be able to work in a negative environment – you can make mistakes, you can have problems – but you have to go on and try to find some positivity – just try it again, correct it – and feel better. When people around you are of the same belief, it is so much easier.
What is your superpower?
I think my superpower is love and joy – I love people, I love my family, I love life. And in the workplace, there’s no greater superpower – when you love people and you love what they are doing, they are so much more encouraged – they want to prove and they want to give. The more generous you are, the more people are generous with you.
When are you at your most productive?
I think I’m the most productive when I’m alone. No day is the same for me and I’m always thinking about a million things in depth and jumping from one to the other. It is hyper challenging, so for me it’s very important to have time to myself to be able to process. I try to make the most and take the benefits from each moment alone, just breathing and taking some distance.
How should women ask for more?
I’m really bad at asking for more – I never ask for anything – I have always been a believer in being patient and letting things happen. I really do feel that if you deserve something, you will get it, but it is important to know your worth. My advice is to go in with the right attitude – don’t voice your frustration, instead explain what you do and the value that your involvement brings. Most importantly, try not to insist too much, go about it in an elegant way.
When are you proudest?
I am super proud when I see my children. I’m proud of what they are and who they are becoming. I love watching them – picking up on their humour, seeing how they evaluate things, watching how they drive themselves. They are becoming individual people and one day they are going to fly. Being a mother is definitely the most valuable act I have done in my life – it does make you feel a bit older though!
How do you celebrate success?
I love celebrating by surrounding myself with the people I love – being with my husband, seeing good friends or staying at home with all of my children. For me it’s kind of success enough to stay in the home I love with the people I love. But a bit of rest, Champagne and good food can help too.
Finish the statement ‘Women should…’
Women should embrace the fact that they are women. Our society has changed so much and we’ve come so far that we’ve almost started to forget that being a woman is a beautiful thing. There are so many things that only we can do – we are so many characters in one. We can be mothers, we can be workers, but it’s important to remember that we don’t have to represent strength and authority all of the time, it’s OK to be tender and creative. Being a woman is a wonderful thing.