Maker: Maker Wine
Sarah Hoffman, Kendra Kawala, and Zoe Victor take a canny approach to wine.
Sarah Hoffman, MBA ’19: None of us come from the wine industry. I think that’s pretty unique for a wine company. Kendra and I were in the same class at Stanford GSB; Zoe was a few classes ahead of us and met us shortly after we graduated. The genesis of Maker was falling in love with all of these small-production wineries within a few hundred miles of Stanford. Kendra and I had a fun side hustle project to get to know these makers and think about how we could make wine more accessible and inclusive. Maker really started out of a class project in Startup Garage. We got our first seed check the second year of school, and that set us off on this journey.
“Maker” is an ongoing series in Stanford Business magazine that uses an annotated photo to tell the story of a manufacturing business overseen by Stanford GSB alums.
Sarah Hoffman, MBA ’19, Kendra Kawala, MBA ’19, and Zoe Victor, MBA ’15 are the cofounders of Maker Wine.
Kendra Kawala, MBA ’19: One of the big drivers for us was to lift up these underrepresented wineries. The other part was putting on our hats as millennial wine lovers and wanting something different out of that product experience. That became a foundational pillar for Maker: Premium wine does not have to be snobbish; it can be really approachable, really fun, and still pay tribute to quality winemakers and what they do.
Zoe Victor, MBA ’15: If you walk into a grocery store, most of those labels you see are owned by the three big distributors. There are thousands of these amazing privately owned wineries that have no means of marketing or distribution. Your average wine drinker doesn’t have access to those wines either. We’re trying to bring those two groups together.
Sarah: We want to highlight unsung varieties, regions, and people. Most canned wine you’ll see is “red blend,” “white blend,” or just “California.” We’re canning wineries’ signature, best estate, super-premium wines that are not like the white-labeled bulk juice they want to give away, but really represent what makes them special and exciting.
Kendra: We started selling product in-market in January 2020.
Sarah: Selling canned wine in the winter — probably not the smartest idea even right as a global pandemic hit! It was definitely pretty scary at first.
Zoe: Each year, we’ve doubled or tripled the volume of wine we’re canning. We’ve done about 300,000 cans through 2022.
Sarah: We’ve probably canned more premium wines than anyone in the world. We’re starting to enter the cans in a lot of traditional bottled wine competitions. We’re seeing that tasted blind both against other cans and against bottles, they’re winning top marks. Judges are just shocked that a canned wine won double gold or won a category. It’s been a fun way to make a splash in the industry.
— Told to Dave Gilson
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