Murphy Perng is the founder of Matter of Wine, a business that focuses on educational wine events. We had the good fortune of connecting with the young entrepreneur, and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Murphy, it seems you’ve taken a few risks to build your business. What role has risk played in your life or career and how would you advise others to manage risk?
Take the risk only if it’s worth it, and risk only what you can. How do you know if it’s worth it? If it’ll get you closer to the things you want most. How do you know what you can risk? That depends on what you can tolerate. A meaningful career and happy life – that was always the idea for me. And the most fulfilling career I could think of was one that had emerged from a passion I’d developed for wine. So after 5 years in a corporate role, I left to establish Matter of Wine (MOW), a wine experience company. MOW teaches in-person and virtual workshops on all things wine-related and offers private sommelier bookings for private and corporate events.
In the weeks following, a thought would sneak into my head from time to time: that every day I put into building my own business made me one more day removed from the corporate world, and just a little less employable in the eyes of hiring managers. The notion that the corporate safety net was drifting away made me uneasy, but I believed the risk I took was a crucial step towards living the lifestyle I’d be happiest with. I planned for months before making the leap, because I knew what I wasn’t willing to put at risk: a basic standard of living that included food, shelter, and the ability to pursue hobbies and maintain relationships. To ensure I wouldn’t have to worry about the basics, I had begun to replace a portion of my income with freelance marketing, graphic design, and tutoring work. I timed my leave with the knowledge that within a month, income from freelancing would be able to cover the things I had deemed essential. Everything else, I felt I could risk: a stable, disposable income that came with a comfortable lifestyle, the momentum I’d gained in my corporate career, and the potential failure of my soon-to-be business.
When I first left my job, I focused most my efforts on freelancing. Not a year later, MOW began gaining traction and my focus shifted to growing its client base. Come October, I’ll have run MOW for two years – the most fulfilling two years of my career, yet. To date, MOW has hosted wine events for Equinox, BuzzFeed Inc., WeWork, Young Presidents Organization (YPO), and many others. Our events and Educators have been featured on wikiHow, LAist, and We Like LA. Above all else, my work largely consists of meeting new people, tasting wine, and sharing my love for it – I can’t think of any career that would make me happier. MOW is young and its success is yet to be determined. One thing I can say for sure? The risk I took in leaving my corporate job to start my own business – worth it.
Please tell us more about your business. What are you most excited about? What’s next?
Matter of Wine specializes in producing educational wine experiences and offers private sommelier bookings. Each of our sommeliers is WSET or CMS certified and available to host wine tasting workshops at teambuilders, holiday functions, fundraisers, bachelorette celebrations, and other special events. Our private sommelier services are now offered online as well, as more and more of our audiences are looking to connect with their colleagues, friends and family, virtually. Our flagship event is our monthly Sip & Sail, an intimate sail on a 40-ft catamaran during which a MOW Wine Educator guides the group through how to see, smell, and taste wine, as well as evaluate its quality. Although our sails are currently paused, we hope to bring them back when it is safe to do so.
We are excited to be launching our Chinese website this fall and offering the full extent of our services in Mandarin, including workshops, cellar sourcing, and restaurant program advising. In addition to English, our workshops are also currently offered in Spanish, French, and Bulgarian.
Can you share with us your favorite spots for wine in LA?
Happy to! Here are the spots that I can’t wait to revisit when it’s safe to do so again:
Favorite Wine Shop – The Wine House
The Wine House is retailer that also offers Wine Spirits and Education Trust courses on its second floor. Many of its staff members have benefitted from the accessibility of wine education at their location, so take advantage of their expertise! Not only does The Wine House have a large selection of wine from all the major wine-growing regions, but it also has an automated Tasting Lounge, so you can taste certain bottles before purchasing.
Favorite Wine & Dine – It’s a Tie! AOC Wine Bar and Locanda Positano
AOC: To spend less time choosing rather than drinking your wine, I would check out its online menu before visiting. Their small plates are inspired by cultures around the world and incorporate unique ingredients, herbs, and spices. The wine selection is largely French and Californian; it’s so extensive, you won’t have a problem finding the perfect wine to pair with your meal.
Locanda Positano: At the heart of Italian cuisine lies fresh, high quality ingredients, and Locanda delivers just that. Their pastas, fish and meat dishes are just plain satisfying and their wine list, though short, is impeccable. Their space is very intimate and cozy, so be sure to make a reservation.
Favorite By the Glass – Augustine Wine Bar
Augustine is located in Sherman Oaks, but it’s worth the trek. Few bars have so many varied, uncommon wines offered by the glass. Try all their South African wines side-by-side to taste the different terroir of each appellation, or be adventurous and order a grape varietal you’ve never heard of from a wine region you didn’t know existed.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Where to begin! There is absolutely no version of my story where MOW is where it is without my friends. In its nascent stages, they gave me the confidence to pursue a mere idea, edited my website text line-by-line, and spent hours doing photo shoots with me. Once launched, they were the first ones to attend my events, connect me to industry professionals, and introduce me to potential partners. At times, it was as if I had a marketing team that believed in my brand – sharing my events on social, talking up MOW’s services to their companies’ culture teams, and bringing their friends and family en masse to my wine workshops and experiences. I don’t know how to explain just how thankful I am for my supportive friends.
And then there’s my family. My sister is a constant, unwavering voice of encouragement. She is willing to help however she can, whether that’s hiring wine servers or serving the wine herself. My parents both pursued interesting careers by following their own passions and they are my inspiration. While many parents might question their daughter’s unconventional dreams – “Guys, I’m going to start a business that provides educational wine experiences!” – we had a couple of conversations about it and that was that. From my time as a student of wine, to quitting my corporate job, to launching MOW, to now expanding MOW’s services to Asian markets, my family has put the full weight of their support, creative ideas, and work behind me. I am so lucky to have them.
Lastly, there’s my partner, Brian. Brian is the most supportive partner I could ask for, here for me in ways I never would have dreamed of. Because of him, Matter of Wine is better in every way. I am talking about a man that has been present at just about every single one of my events for the past two years – as an attendee, my DD, my photographer, or my event producer. In business, he is the person I bounce ideas off of, my editor, my creative muscle, and my problem-solver. In life, he is the person that makes the most mundane every day activities awesome. He’s been supportive long before I decided to pursue entrepreneurship, cheering me on as I took my Wine Spirits and Education Trust (WSET) exams. Afterwards, he endured many, many conversations with me about leaving corporate and starting my own wine company. Every time, his stance was, “We can do it,” knowing full well that the journey to building a sustainable business wouldn’t be easy. And it wasn’t. But, with where we’re at now, I’ll admit it: we can. I’d like to dedicate my shoutout to: my friends, my family, and my partner, Brian.
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