Stefano Zagni, 50, is the founder of Angel Champagne, one of the most expensive brands on the market, whose first 24 bottles are being sold as a collector's item for £250,000. Mariah Carey is its official ambassador in the United States.
What did you want to be as a child?
My father was a businessman with a construction company and I wanted to work with him and be a businessman, so I could control the direction of my life and do what I enjoy.
You left school at 16 – any regrets?
No, I'd never recommend anyone to leave school but I couldn't wait to get out and do my own thing. I started as a labourer on construction sites and after my father died, when I was 19, I became responsible for the company. It was tough but I got on with it. I was very ambitious and I don't like to fail.
How did you come to launch a champagne brand?
It started 15 years ago. I was exporting construction products to America and I used to be in top-end clubs and restaurants. I saw people buying champagne and I thought I wanted to produce the world's most fantastic champagne.
How did you manage that?
The Italian side of my family has been involved in wine for a couple of generations. Through family contacts I visited the Champagne region and sourced the right grapes. I wanted a specific flavour. I found that the ladies didn't like the top brands; they were too heavy. I wanted something lighter. I chose the grapes, bottled and sold it. In the early days it was more passion than mass production, I just wanted to see if I could do it.
How did you fund the business?
I used the profits from my other businesses and it was a massive risk.
Do you consider yourself successful?
When did you first realise this?
After I lost my father and found myself running his business and running it successfully.
What are your interview tips?
I've never been for an interview in my life! Everyone I've employed, I wouldn't say I've poached them but I just had a feeling about them.
What are your CV tips?
Face to face is better than a CV. You need to fit in, be ambitious and want to progress.
Are you describing yourself?
Probably. Angel was my idea and my baby but I couldn't have done it on my own, I needed a team.
What motivates you?
My children. Everything I do is for them because I want them to have a fabulous life. They are the reason I get up in the morning.
How do I get to be where you are?
Have an idea, believe in it and follow your gut instincts.
Is Mariah Carey a diva to work with?
No, not at all. She's the most creative person I've ever met.
Do 24 bottles really cost £250,000?
Yes. A standard bottle costs £840 but the first 24 bottles to be produced are a collector's item. They have a platinum finish with mounted diamonds and they're very special.