The County Wine Tours was started by three best friends-turned-business partners who want to share their love of wine and Prince Edward County with others looking to explore. Genevive Savundranayagam had been visiting The County for over 10 years and immediately fell in love with it's charm and wine. She first discovered her love of wine while living on a vineyard in Italy, and has since sipped her way through California, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe. When she’s not doing wine “research” around the world, Genevive works as a Marketing Communication professional in Toronto.
TamilCulture: Tells us a little bit about yourself and your educational background.
Genevive: I attended the University of Toronto, where I pursued a double major in English and Psychology and graduated with an Honors Bachelor of Science. After I finished university, I worked in the financial sector and quickly realized it was not the career I envisioned. This experience forced me to do some soul searching and led me to a job at a PR firm where I performed consulting for Corporate and Financial clients. From there, I decided to pursue more education in Corporate and Crisis Communications and did a Masters in Professional Communications in Australia. The program allowed me to gain more in-depth knowledge in this field and gave me the opportunity to travel – one of my passions!
I was able to explore Australia and New Zealand and discovered my love for the mountains and hiking. At an early age, I traveled on my own and always had the most life-changing experiences. It was through my travels that I learned that anything is possible once I put my mind to it, and this is how I live my life. When I came back to Toronto, I helped start up a boutique PR firm from the ground up. I had the opportunity to be mentored by a leading expert in the field and managed some high profile communications campaigns for large organizations across the country. After working hard for several years, I was itching to travel again, so I decided to take some time off and went to Africa.
TC: Can you tell us about your philanthropic endeavors?
GS: I find I’m often been drawn to supporting causes related to education, children’s rights and empowering women. One project that is very close to my heart is the Nyota/Wezesha Education Foundation. The foundation started off providing education and a home to abandoned and orphaned children in Kenya and has now evolved into providing scholarships and mentoring to academically gifted, destitute youth, and supports their education from high school through university. The goal of the program is to help build leaders who can contribute back to their own communities. While I was transitioning with my career, I went to Kenya to meet the kids and see the program in action. It was an unforgettable experience. Now, every year I work with an incredible group to organize an Art Auction in Toronto that helps fund this program while supporting local Canadian artists. Presently, over 100 youth have benefitted from this program and one of the students recently finished Medical school – something we were all very excited about!
While I was in Africa, I had the chance to meet with local families, and explore Kenya and Tanzania. I also thought it would be fun to hike Mount Kilimanjaro on my own – to challenge myself mentally and physically. After hiking for a week in extreme weather conditions, I promised myself I would never do something crazy like this ever again. But it’s only once you reflect back on your experiences, you realize the impact and how it has shaped your life. My experience in Africa reinforced my desire to make a meaningful difference in the world and reminded me that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.
This is whn I decided to use the skills I had gained over the years in PR to support a non-profit organization. This led me to pursue an opportunity at UNICEF Canada. I was responsible for managing their Marketing and Communications for UNICEF’s global and national corporate partnerships. During this time, I worked on cause marketing campaigns to raise money for programs overseas and to support fundraising efforts for global emergencies. Through this role, I obtained great exposure to the life-changing work UNICEF does around the world. Although my time at UNICEF was wonderful, I knew that I eventually wanted to work on building my skills in other areas of my life. One of the challenges with working in small agencies and non-profit organizations is finding work-life balance. Most of my time was dedicated to work, which left little time for pursuing other dreams.
I was then offered a job to manage a communications team for a large organization in Toronto. I decided to take this opportunity as it enabled me to continue growing in my area of expertise, while giving me the time to work on projects that I’m passionate about – including The County Wine Tours – a side hustle I launched with two of my closest friends last year.
TC: You have had so many diverse experiences, so what made you choose the Wine Industry?
GS: To start, I love wine. Myself and my two co-founders have been visiting Prince Edward County for the past 10 years. In recent years, when we would go up for the summer, we noticed more and more wineries popping up and limo drivers bringing groups to these wineries. We immediately recognized an opportunity. My friends and I have been wanting to start a business together for a long time. We just needed the right idea. Two years ago, we decided to create wine tours that provided a unique experience – something that would appeal to us and our friends who loved to go wine tasting around the world. So we decided to launch the first bike wine tours in the County.
TC: What were the first steps that you took to establish the business?
GS: We knew that an amazing opportunity existed in Prince Edward County. Our first step was to conduct research on our competitors to see what existed and determine if there was a demand. My co-founders Erin, Sheba and I all work in Marketing and Communications, so we were not wine tour operators. However, when we set our minds to something, we make it happen, and we are willing to put in the hard work. We were also fortunate because Erin’s father and step-mom lived in the County. They managed operations on the ground and worked closely with us to launch the company. We all had full-time jobs as well, so we dedicated time on the weekends to work on our business plan, financing, staffing, operations, and marketing. We hired freelancers to help with research and provide admin support so we could focus on overall structure, building partnerships and marketing.
TC: Can you describe to our readers about the services that your Wine Tour business offers?
GS: Our key offering is the Sip and Cycle bike wine tour. It is a full day tour. We meet our participants in the morning and provide them with bikes and helmets. Our trained tour guides are locals from the County, so they really know the space and the history behind PEC. The guides take our participants around to our partner wineries. We have curated the entire experience for them, which means we have chosen our favorite wineries, and have planned three to four tastings at each winery. The tour also consists of a bike ride along the beautiful Millennium Trail. It’s an active bike ride – about 20 km and approximately 6.5 hours long. One of our partner wineries even offers a barrel cellar tour where you can learn how the wine is made. The tour usually consists of four wineries in total, with small groups consisting of 10-12 people. The tour essentially provides an intimate experience in the County with really knowledgeable guides and a variety of wine tastings. We now offer car tours as well. All tours can be booked directly online.
TC: On average, how many tours do you have in a day?
GS: In the busy season, between July- September, weekends are fully booked and we run tours daily. Typically, we have three to four tours running per day. We added additional tour spots this year and automated the process for booking all our tours.
TC: What is your role in the Company versus that of your friends? Do you specialize in different areas?
GS: All three of us are equal co-founders in the company. We meet regularly and run everything by each other. As we built out the business, we had to manage and lead different areas to make it work. Now we have an Operations Manager and Tour Coordinator so we all focus our time on marketing, communications and overall strategy.
TC: Who supported you when you first started your business?
GS: We were very lucky that all of our close family and friends who we shared our plans with were very supportive and no one ever thought it was a crazy idea. But I don’t think anyone expected the success that the business has garnered so quickly. We were very lucky that Erin’s dad and stepmother lived in the County and they played a major role in our success because they were on the ground and worked so hard to deliver a wonderful experience for our tour participants. It was very surprising how much support we received and how eager everyone was to share our business in their own respective networks. Overall, this has been a very positive experience.
TC: Have you always had aspirations of becoming an Entrepreneur?
GS: I have always known that I wanted to work for myself one day. From the time I was young, I was quite independent and have gone after what I wanted. I don’t think that this is traditional in our culture, and my career choices haven’t fit traditional expectations. But I have always pursued what I loved and worked very hard. I’m now working on my next side hustle which will be launching soon and is more aligned with my life vision. I believe that everyone has a vocation and purpose in life but there are a lot of directions you can take to get there. All of my career choices have set me up for the next opportunity. I don’t regret any of the choices I have made. I am glad that I have been able to work in many different environments because it has provided me with skills that I can now apply to future businesses. I have also met the most incredible and inspiring people along the way.
TC: What advice would you give to our TC Readers that possess a similar passion?
GS: Don’t be scared to take a risk. So many people have ideas they don’t execute on. You just have to do it. Whether it turns out to be a success or a failure, it doesn’t matter because you will always learn so much along the way. I believe that anything is possible if you truly put your mind to it, if you are passionate about the endeavor AND if you are willing to put in the hard work and effort to make it happen. I really believe that.
To book a tour, visit https://thecountywinetours.com/!