An elevator convo with Amy Powell and Christina Lau Tam, founders of Toasst. See here for more from our Next Up series.
What do you do?
Christina Lau Tam: Toasst (toasst.co) is a wine subscription service dedicated to wine enthusiasts who want to live, learn and wine better. We offer a sommelier experience by sourcing quality wines from around the world and delivering them conveniently to your doorstep. For our members, the monthly or quarterly Toasst box offers a seamless, hassle-free way of discovering and tasting wines.
How does your business work?
Amy Powell: As wine lovers who are always looking for the story behind the label, we found our calling through a community of fellow wine enthusiasts who came to us to discover new regions and passionate winemakers who they could connect with. Hong Kong is undoubtedly an international wine hub — however, much of the focus is on the top end of the market, with serious Bordeaux and Burgundy collectors. There is always a place for those wines, but we saw a lot of demand from consumers who were interested in trying new wines but didn’t have a trusted source to turn to.
CLT: Toasst answers that market gap. We work with importers to identify up-and-coming wineries, little known regions and interesting grape varietals that all go into hand-selected subscription boxes that are delivered monthly or quarterly right to our members’ doors. All of our Toasst boxes come with a virtual tasting journey in the form of tasting notes and food pairing tips presented in a fun, informative style, so our members can learn as they drink.
How did your business get started?
AP: It all started over a glass of wine… really! Christina and I are both American, but we met here in Hong Kong at a wine tasting at Michelin-starred Caprice. At the time, I was the Director of Communications at Four Seasons Hong Kong, following a long career in the wine and beverage industry in the United States. Christina was also a corporate communications specialist by day as well as a contributing writer to Lifestyle Asia and Foodie Magazine. She had also recently attained WSET Level 3 wine certification. We discovered we had a lot in common!
CLT: After years of giving recommendations and even ordering wine for friends, we realised there had to be a better way to help real people who are short on time to drink better wine. In the end, we wanted to create the kind of wine club that we would want to be members of, and would help people like our friends, discover new wines too.
Who are your customers?
CLT: Our subscribers come from a cross section of Hong Kong society. On one end, we have professional women who enjoy wine but are looking to expand their repertoire beyond the usual sauvignon blanc and shiraz. On the other hand, we have senior business executives who consider themselves “serious wine lovers” but at this point have been mostly focused on reds. We help them with expanding their knowledge of whites from regions and producers that they are less familiar with.
AP: With all of our subscribers, the thing they seem to have in common is a love of wine and a desire to discover something new, presented in a fun and informative way.
What’s a day in your working life like?
CLT: No day is the same but every day revolves around our passion for wine and travel. We work very closely with our partners to review their catalogues and trial wines from around the world to ensure that our Toasst boxes offer a unique virtual travel experience through wine. Additionally, Amy and I ensure that our selections are a good fit for our Toasst box and members while also partnering with organizations in Hong Kong to drive initiatives and events that embed our philosophy for living better through wine.
AP: We are building a community of like-minded wine lovers. Part of that is direct interaction with our customers: answering questions on orders, processing new subscriptions, and finding out which wines our members love! We are also engaging with our members through a variety of platforms telling stories about wine for our social accounts on Instagram and Facebook, and planning unique partnerships and events. We want to make learning about and drinking wine fun and accessible to all.
Where do you see your business in the future?
CLT: We hope to be the most trusted source for people to learn from while drinking great wine at home. Wine for us is also about community. We are working on some exciting partnerships for 2020 to bring wine into a new context for all kinds of groups, from female executives in networking settings to leading workshops in mindfulness through tasting. We’re also planning exclusive wine events for our subscribers built around visiting winemakers and exclusive wine pairings, and much more!
AP: Finally, we continue to scout out the most interesting bottles from around the world. Expect us to expand our range this year beyond the core offering, as we seek to highlight wines of the world in new exciting ways for our subscribers.