We had the good fortune of connecting with Laurent Yung and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Laurent, what is the most important factor behind your success?
There are many factors behind somMailier’s success today but if I had to pick one, I strongly believe that the quality of my wines is the most important one. When I started this adventure in 2017, I knew the idea was a good one as many people like drinking great wine and French wine has always had a great reputation everywhere in the world. I also knew that I was in a unique and incredible position, via my whole family in France having made wine for 5 generations including my brother Patrick who owns one of the oldest French wine distribution company in Paris. The sourcing (and great sourcing) was not a problem and I really felt I had all the ingredients to propose something unique and exclusive to many wine lovers as possible. At this stage, I only had the concept in my head, and I had built a business plan to validate it. This point was easy for me as I always loved creating financial simulations and trying to predict the future. But the most difficult part was to come with the implementation of everything I had in my head to make somMailier a viable business. The first 2 years were a learning experience for me, trying to do many things from local wine tastings, some Press releases, Facebook campaigns, more wine tastings, creating partnerships, etc… Growth was there but not as fast as I would have liked and the main reason was certainly because I was trying to do too many things at the same time and when you do this, you run the risk of not doing those things right. But what kept me going was my customer’s feedback on all the wines they were receiving. My customer retention was incredibly high, and everyone was unanimous about the quality of each wine they were receiving or sending to friends and family. From that point on, I knew my business would take off (which it did now). Bottom line, when you have a great product, your customers will stay with you, re-order and tell their friends. This is the recipe for long term success for somMailier.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
SomMailier is the only wine club in the US that is 100% dedicated to French wines. My brother Patrick and I are immensely proud to be able to give access to incredible boutique French wines, not available in the US for the most part, to many wine lovers in the US. When people join somMailier, first, there is absolutely no commitment to continue for a certain period. We want to make sure people enjoy their experience with us and we understand this type of wine club is not for everyone. With every shipment, our members receive 3 or 6 different wines (they decide between all reds, whites, or mix) together with beautiful wine cards explaining everything about the winery, the winemaker, some food pairings, and some tasting notes. Some benefits for being a member include special discounts on re-orders, discovering wines not available in the US and the possibility to have exclusive visits of some of our family wineries in France when travelling there. A few members already took advantage of this last benefit and were delighted by the special touch they received. This is, I believe, what sets us apart from other wine clubs. This is not a wine club created by a random group of people who one day fell in love with wine and decided to make a business out of it. We have been in this industry for 5 generations and we understand the challenges that small wineries can face every day and we understand the importance to give them exposure to markets they would never be able to reach due to the size of their production. We work with passionate and incredible winemakers who trust us doing a great job representing their brand as best as we can. We work with real people creating real products and we take great pride in building a bridge between them and a community of wine enthusiasts from this side of the Atlantic. Our path to where we are now was not easy as we started from scratch with limited resources. But we are so proud of what we accomplished until now. My brother and his team in France have been incredible at sourcing some of the best boutique wines in France from all wine regions. And my team here (we are 4 now) has been relentless to create the best experience possible for all our members or our customers sending gifts to their wine lover friends! For the near future, I would like people to think of somMailier when looking for French wines or sending French wines as a gift. We have the passion and the resilience to make somMailier the best wine club to discover amazing boutique French wines that people could only taste when visiting France.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
One of the first things I would do with my friends is take a boat out of either San Diego Bay or Mission Bay and based on the season, go whale watching, fishing, cruising on the bay or just anchoring near the catamaran Hotel in Mission bay while enjoying fresh oysters (with a great La Fleur des Pins wine from Bordeaux of course). Since 2015, my wife and I have been members of this amazing boat club in San Diego called Freedom boat club and we have brought so many friends on the water since then. That would be 1 thing on their agenda for sure. For a nice restaurant, I would take them to Tom Ham’s lighthouse on Harbor Island drive. If you can sit outside, the view of the San Diego bay is breathtaking. I would also for sure cook them a paella at home! I love cooking this Spanish dish and before COVID, we would gather at my house or a friend’s house and make a couple of paellas in big paella pans for 30 to 40 of our friends (all this with great wine of course :-)). I also would bring them to Old Town and have lunch there while enjoying a nice and big margarita. If they like eating fish, and we are not able to go get our own fish in the ocean, I would take them to Catalina Offshore seafood market on Lovelock Street. They have a great selection of fresh fish and the best oysters I found so far (Sol Azul oysters from La Laguna de San Ignacio in Baja California). I would also take them to watch a sunset at Del Mar beach while having a picnic there. And if they come around September/October, I would take them to Borrego springs to watch the stars. I think after that, they would not want to go back home!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I might not be highly creative on this one but the only person I can honestly think of is my wife Elise Yung. She has a full-time executive job at an online bank in La Jolla and she always believed in me. When we moved to San Diego from France with our 3 kids, she had to give up her job in France and she did it without an ounce of hesitation. she took care of all the painful job or relocating an entire family in a new country with our kids not speaking the language. She never complained once and somMailier’s success is owed in big part to her support and faith in me. She is an incredible woman that would deserve her own article in SDvoyager. Mother of 3, executive at a bank, board member of the French American Chamber of commerce in San Diego, and my sounding board since the beginning of somMailier’s adventure. So yes, big shoutout to my wife Elise!