LEADERSHIP Conversations with the Captains of Industry
Getting into the Spirits
Companies that import wine, beer, or spirits into the United States face all the challenges COVID-19 has unleashed on the global supply chain—tight capacity, congested ports, and the rest. And if that weren’t bad enough, wine companies also face extra supply woes apart from the pandemic. “There have been tremendous shortages, predominantly due to weather events, both in Europe and in the United States,” says Alexi Cashen, co-founder and “chief executive optimist” (CEO) at Elenteny Imports, a New York-based provider of logistics solutions to the alcoholic beverage industry. Hot summers and wildres have produced hard times for some recent vintages. We sat with Cashen to discuss how Elenteny helps its customers in this difcult era, learn about her leadership approach, and hear about some of her other ventures. IL: What led you to co-found Elenteny Imports? As a new college graduate working in the restaurant industry, I loved learning about wine. When I moved to New York, I soon started working in sales for a wine supplier and then a wine wholesaler. Because New York is such a multicultural city, it provided a great opportunity to try wines from many regions and learn how the industry works. My foray into entrepreneurship started when I met Tim Elenteny, who had an idea to provide freight forwarding, logistics, and distribution services to the beverage industry. I was drawn to the idea, and we became co-founders in 2010. IL: What’s one important lesson you learned early in your career that has helped to shape you as a leader? I recently read a quote from The Tao of Leadership : “The wise leader stays centered and grounded and uses the least force required to act effectively.” Early in my career as a leader, I was sometimes afraid of something—losing a customer, or not training an employee fast enough. Because of that fear, I would keep doing things myself. I forced my energy, expectations, or the relationship’s outcome with a customer or vendor. I have learned to become more centered, to ground myself, act more effectively, and force things less. As a leader, you have to be aware of your emotions, allow yourself to pause and say, “I don’t have an answer. I need to think about that.” Then you can come back to conversations in an authentic way, leading with empathy and honesty.
Alexi Cashen Co-founder and CEO Elenteny Imports
Alexi Cashen drinks up supply chain challenges by staying centered, and listening and talking to customers with honesty, empathy, and complete transparency.
by Merrill Douglas
32 Inbound Logistics • January 2022
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