My Way: Stefano Zagni, founder of Angel Champagne
'Have an idea, believe in it and follow your gut instincts'
Thursday 28 January 2010
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.
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