We had the good fortune of connecting with Gina Freize and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Gina, how do you define success?
Freedom. There is nothing more rewarding to me than making my own decisions, working in a career that has good hours, running a business that brings joy to people and being able to truly work only on things that make me happy. It was so hard to give up a six-figure corporate income and venture out on a dream. I used to think success meant money – the more you have the more successful you are. While some might think so, I disagree. Success is waking up every day anxious to dive into work projects. Success is bringing smiles to people’s faces. Success is deciding to work at 2 a.m. one day, then take the next day off. Success is working with people that share your love of living. And finally, success is having the freedom to truly make decisions that take me to the places I want to go.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
What I think sets me apart is that I truly love what I do and I’m not afraid to show it, no matter how cheesy I may be. Call it passion, dedication or determination, I just love what I do, love what we sell and love the joy it brings. We also excel at saying YES. Normal tendency these days is to say no first, but we truly say yes much more than we say no. This often poses challenges, but challenges are never as scary when they can help us achieve something new. I also think our dedication to personal attention has done wonders for our brand. We help cheese lovers keep track of their favorites, we work hard to know their names and their favorite cheeses, we go above and beyond to personalize and customize. In this day and age when we are digitally connected but personally disconnected, I think our personal touch has absolutely helped build the Venissimo brand. We have learned lots of things the hard way (three locations that had to close). But we’ve also learned it’s better to try and fail than to not try at all. Each failure or hard knock has taught us something new that has helped us improve what does work.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Stand at the corner of Ivy and Albatross in Banker’s Hill where the arriving airplanes are so low, you feel you could touch them. Then grab a sunset cocktail on the rooftop deck at Mister A’s where the plans actually arrive below you and you get incredible views of the city. Head down to Crack Shack for delicious outdoor fried chicken and cocktails in Little Italy. End the night with gelato in the piazza in Little Italy for super atmosphere and people watching. Take a Vespa ride along coast from Encinitas to Point Loma, stopping at the Torrey Pines Gliderport for excellent sandwich lunch and soak up the parasailers and stunning view (might even see whales migrating between December and March). Then stop to say hi to the sea lions at La Jolla Cove. End with dinner at Coasterra on Harbor Island for magnificent outdoor dining and view of the city. Check out the open-air deck at the Central Library, then grab lunch at Las Cuatro Milpas in Barrio Logan where Mexican ladies make tortillas by hand and all the dishes are fried in lard (the closest taste of Mexico without going to Tijuana). Bike ride up 5th Avenue in the Gaslamp and down Broadway downtown and over to Coronado on the ferry. Ride over to the Coronado dog beach and take a stroll to soak in oodles of doggie joy. End with cocktail at the Hotel Del (where you’ll often see dolphins jumping around the surf). Grab a picnic lunch at Mona Lisa in Little Italy, then drive about 45 minutes out to Escondido to go wine tasting. Our favorites are Domaine Artefact and Speckle Rock. Walk off the wine with a hike up to Potato Chip Rock (if you’re adventurous) or one of the various Iron Mountain area trails. Italian dinner at Buona Forchetta in South Park is always a favorite. Great day drinking can be found at the cool bar known as the Invigatrorium in East Village (try one of their signature Negronis). Check out Point Loma Seafood for the most amazing selection of fish in town (eat there or buy to take away and cook). Visit quiet and secluded Moonlight Beach for romantic sunset.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
For overall inspiration, I thank biographies. From Andrew Carnegie to Richard Branson, their stories make me want to achieve and help me realize that I can be who I want to be and accomplish the things I want to achieve. For Venissimo specifically, I give great thanks to SCORE, an organization that is part of the Small Business Administration connects entrepreneurs with mentors that can help with business planning, finances and more to help get ideas on track. And they do this for FREE! My mentor (a volunteer) spent decades in retail and was instrumental on making sure my business plan and financial projections made sense. I give them immense credit for validating my idea and giving me confidence to proceed.