Q&A with Molly Monson-Stutesman

Molly Monson-Stutesman

Vice president of sales and marketing
Goose Ridge Estate Vineyards and Winery

Number of employees you oversee: 300

Tell us about Goose Ridge Estate Vineyards and GR Distillery:

Goose Ridge Estate Vineyards and Winery is family owned and operated. As a fourth-generation agribusiness, our family started herding cattle and began sowing the land in Washington’s Yakima Valley in the early 1900s. Today we have a 3,000-acre estate in Columbia Valley that in addition to growing grapes, continues to run cattle and grow commercial cherries and apples. GR Distillery is our latest venture that produces hand and surface sanitizer and will be introducing a grape-based vodka.

What do you normally produce?

Goose Ridge Vineyards produces five wine labels: Goose Ridge Estate, g3, Tall Sage, Stonecap, and a canned wine brand called Cascadian Outfitters.

How did you decide to begin producing hand and surface sanitizer?

With GR Distillery, we initially planned to introduce a grape-based vodka. However, as the world shifted in response to the Covid-19 crisis, we were inspired to use our resources to take action and support the community with hand and surface sanitizer. Our family has a history of innovating and this is just one more example. 

What did it take to pivot to a new product?

Because we had started the distillery, we were able to pivot quickly from vodka to the production of sanitizer.  

Do you expect this to be profitable? What was your motivation?

Our focus is on our community. Our top concern was preserving the jobs of our employees, followed closely by providing a much-needed product for our community. Because of the crisis, our question wasn’t will this be profitable but how can we use our resources to help?

What has surprised you? Any unexpected benefits or obstacles?

We knew the sanitizer would be helpful during this time, but our family has truly been overwhelmed by the gratitude and support from our community. 

Will you keep producing sanitizer after the pandemic?

Yes, we are planning to continue producing the hand and surface sanitizer.

What advice do you have for other businesses interested in developing new products to meet new demand?

Patience is a virtue. Working in a pandemic created new problems including resource shortages. For example, when trying to access supplies quickly, we couldn’t always get what we needed in the timeframe we wanted. In the grand scheme of things, we were able to launch our sanitizer project quickly but it didn’t feel that way in the thick of the process. 

What has this meant for employment levels?

This allowed for us to keep all of our winery employees employed, as well as two of our tasting rooms, Woodinville and Leavenworth, which were open for curbside service of our hand and surface sanitizer.

What are your customers saying?

We have received a lot of great feedback from our customers explaining how thankful they are that we pivoted our business model in such a quick way to help the frontline workers and the community during this time.

How did you come to this kind of work?

In the early 1900s, my great-grand father,  M.L. Monson, brought the family to the Yakima Valley, armed with a love for the land and the dream of building a family farming business that would continue for generations. Initially, we focused on orchards and cattle. But after talking with Walter Clore, widely recognized as the visionary behind Washington’s wine industry, my father Arvid Monson built on the legacy of the land started by his father and began to establish vineyards in the arid hills and valleys around Richland. With that, Goose Ridge Estate Vineyard & Winery was born. My sisters and I grew up with the understanding you don’t farm for this generation, you farm for the next one.

What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?

Creativity and flexibility: Being able to think outside the box when the Covid crisis hit allowed us to pivot quickly from producing vodka to our hand sanitizer.

What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time?

Lead by example. Do what you say when you say you will do it. Your team needs to trust you. 

Who are your role models or mentors? 

My father Arvid Monson, brother Bill Monson and sister Valerie Monson

How do you keep your employees motivated?

By providing them with autonomy, independence and trust.

How do you measure success in your workplace?

It’s important to have goals and metrics but we also measure success by meeting with our teams and managers to get their feedback, as well, as analyzing the individual value of each of our projects. 

What do you consider your leadership style to be?

A coach. I try and recognize everyone’s individual strengths and skills and have them work on projects that emphasize their expertise. This has allowed us to build strong teams as well as offer employees room to grow within our company.

How do you balance work and family life?

We are a family-owned company so those two aspects often overlap. I work on a daily basis beside my brother and sister, and it is not unusual to see our children at the winery, vineyards and or orchards working alongside us. 

What do you like to do when you are not at work?

During my spare time I enjoy working in my yard and spending time with my family at our cabin.

What’s your best time management strategy?

Set goals and prioritize your timing based on what you need to accomplish those goals. 

Best tip to relieve stress?

Being thankful. Starting and ending my day with a positive mind frame helps to reduce my stress. I also practice yoga. The combination of exercise, breathing and mediation always helps.

What is your favorite book?

I enjoy Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum novels. They are fast paced, entertaining and the perfect way to decompress. They pair well with a glass of Goose Ridge Rosé and an afternoon on the patio. 

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