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How One Customer Conversation Changed an Entrepreneur’s Perspective

As Sarah Pierre approaches 10 years at 3 Parks Wine, she reflects on why taking care of people (including herself) has been key to success.

When Sarah Pierre acquired 3 Parks Wine Shop (so named for its proximity to Atlanta’s Grant, Glenwood and Ormewood Park neighborhoods) the store had barely been open a few months and was still waiting for an identity and a vision for the future. Today, the welcoming space is home to an eclectic community of both casual drinkers and veritable connoisseurs, complete with regular tastings and a popular wine club.

As she approaches her 10-year anniversary at 3 Parks next year, Sarah says the best advice she received along the way actually came from a customer. “She was celebrating the 12th anniversary of her company, and I was just a couple years in,” recounts Sarah. “I think she could tell by the look in my eyes that I was just like, ‘How? How?!’”

The customer’s advice, which Sarah still shares with up-and-coming entrepreneurs today, was simple: Don’t compare yourself to others. “She was like, ‘I'm 10 years older than you! I've been doing this much longer than you. You'll get there. I can see it,’” recalls Sarah. “I'll never forget it. Now, here I am 9 years into the business, and I’m finally starting to see a lot of those things I was hoping for back then. It all happens in the time it's supposed to.”

Here, Mailchimp caught up with Sarah about what she learned when she turned her focus inward—on her unique strengths, on her community, and on her own wellbeing.

Your experiences have value (even when they seem unrelated)

“When I started 3 Parks, I had no idea how to sell wine retail,” admits Sarah, who started her career in the restaurant industry. “I just kind of figured it out as I went along, and I operated the way I would operate if I were selling wine in a restaurant.” As it turns out, that perspective has made all the difference.

“Part of having a retail store is connecting with every single person who walks in the door,” she explains. “And even when you're not connecting with them face to face, you have to find a way to keep people really engaged.” Mailchimp helps Sarah accomplish that, whether she’s advertising an upcoming wine dinner or spreading the word about a coveted new bottle.

“I love the notifications that I get from Mailchimp: Like, ‘Your campaign yesterday made you this much money!’ Those are great,” she says with a laugh. The analytics don’t just tell her more about the store’s bottom line. They also help Sarah understand what her customers want. “I like the click map,” she adds. “I can see what's selling.”

In person and through the screen, Sarah attributes 3 Parks’ success to her customers and the hospitality experience that taught her how to connect with them. “I think that's what really led to our success in the beginning,” she says. “If you’re on the floor bartending or managing a restaurant—you know, working the front-of-house—you really get to know the regulars. You take care of people. That's what I did right off the bat.”

If you’re on the floor bartending or managing a restaurant—you know, working the front-of-house—you really get to know the regulars.

You take care of people. That's what I did right off the bat.

Sarah Pierre, Owner of 3 Parks Wine Shop

Taking care of yourself is good business, too

If you're rolling your eyes at the idea of work-life balance as some kind of hot business tip—let alone a realistic one for an entrepreneur to implement—you're not alone. "The reality of it is that I tried many, many times to do the whole self-care, 'make sure you're putting yourself first, 'don't overwork yourself' thing," says Sarah. “I don't have any partners. I'm doing it by myself, so if someone's calling out in the morning, I don't have a team of 12 to call in and replace them. Unless I'm out of town, everyone in my life knows that my plans are dependent on that: I might have to go to work.”

Still, Sarah has gradually found moments in her routine for habits that fill her cup. "I work out every day," she says. "I rarely skip a workout, even if it's just yoga for 15 to 20 minutes, or a good long walk."

Making time for yourself doesn't always have to be about your physical wellbeing, either. "I try to talk to friends and family every single day of the week," Sarah adds. "Every day I pick up the phone and call someone. It's really easy to just give all of your time to work, especially for those of us in an industry where we really can work all day, every day. I think it's really important to stay connected with people."

Patience is key—comparison is not

Sarah still looks back fondly at the advice from her customer-turned-friend all those years ago. As she’s paved her own way in the wine world, her unique background has allowed 3 Parks to carve out a special position in the wine world—even if it didn’t happen overnight.

"I tell people to take their time. I tell people not to compare themselves to others," she says. “Every person who wants to start a business thinks that it's going to be gangbusters right off the bat. But for most business owners, it just takes time.”

For Sarah, the gift of time has allowed her to build authentic relationships. “We weren't crazy crazy busy in the beginning, so I had a little bit of time to grow and to learn,” she says, noting how grateful she is for the “amazing” group of customers who continue to support her. “I started getting a really dynamic group of people coming in, and the rest was history.”

Photos by: Kate Blohm

Published: July 25, 2022

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