If Germans are best known for loving structure and rules, Anton Steinhart seems to prove the exception.
Most of Anton’s life decisions have been guided by his spontaneity and desire to do something for the less fortunate. His slightly roundabout path started in Germany, and eventually, via England, ended in Illinois. There he has settled as the owner of the in-home wine-tasting business Wines for Humanity. And as the name already says, the guiding principle of WfH is doing good: between 9% and 12.5% of all revenue goes toward fighting homelessness in America.
Anton Steinhart actually never planned to come to America. But after finishing his education in Germany in the ‘70s, he did want to go somewhere to improve his English language skills. And that is where his spontaneity and, obviously a lot of daring, started to steer him toward WfH.
Anton saw a blind ad in a local newspaper. It offered work in England, but without any detail on what exactly that job entailed. Adventurous and, as he calls it, “full of energy and drive” at the age of 25, he applied anyway. Eventually, he received a call from London, and went – still not really knowing what the job would turn out to be.
“I got there and found out that they were in the wine business,” Anton recalls. And while he had no prior experience in that field, he set to learn everything there was about wine and the business of buying, importing and selling. But eventually, he wanted to see even more of the world: “Brazil, maybe, or South Africa,” he recalls his dream destinations at the time, then laughs: “Who knows why!”
Wanting to do More
But when the company he worked for expanded into the U.S., his boss told him he should go there, and so Anton transferred to America. He arrived in 1977, intending to stay for one year, but then never turned back. “Yeah,” he says. “That became a long year.”
Eventually, Anton felt the need to do something for others. Once again, he responded to an ad – this one for a mission trip to Bolivia in a church bulletin. Certain he wouldn’t have the needed medical qualifications they were looking for, he reached out regardless to see if there was something he could do anyway. The organization found something. Going in a completely new direction, Anton joined the mission trip to Bolivia to learn about the indigenous women’s sewing skills and help them sell their products in the U.S.
Upon his return, Anton thought about what to do next. That’s when he decided to combine his years of expertise in the wine industry with his passion for helping others, and started Wines for Humanity.
Wines for Humanity’s primary way of marketing their products are in-home wine tastings and the subsequent orders. Of course, there are many other companies that offer the same service, but what sets WfH apart from the rest is that anywhere between 9% and 12.5% of the revenue from every sale goes directly to charity.
Giving to the Community with Wine
WfH also offers several options to non-profit organizations or businesses hosting events that benefit a charity. Wines for Humanity can donate wine tasting certificates, which the organization can sell or auction off, send their members or donors to the Wines for Humanity site to purchase directly, or have their own labels put on WfH’s wine to gift to their charity’s donors.
Since its inception in 2007, Wines for Humanity has facilitated almost 7 million Dollars in charitable contributions. For the most part, donations go toward helping people to avoid becoming homeless in the first place by providing overnight accommodations, assist with rent or utility payments, or supply meals. But customers who purchase an in-home wine-tasting can also specify their own favorite charity for all revenue related to their event.
Working for WfH
Remember Tupperware parties? Well, WfH works on the same principle, only with wine, rather than plastic ice cube trays. Wine advisors are independent contractors and build their client base through referrals, or their own advertising efforts. But as the testimonials on Glassdoor or Indeed show, with plenty of support from Anton.
As of August 2020, your initial investment is a whopping $69 for a starter kit of 18 wine glasses, 6 bottles of wine, an insulated rolling wine bag, corkscrews, and marketing materials. (You actually only pay $20 in advance; the other $49 comes from your first payment).
Anyone interested in becoming a freelance wine advisor gets to shadow an established advisor during one event. If they like what they see, they go through a free 4-week training course about wine, followed by one accompanied tasting event for feedback and advice. After that, it’s off to the races, with very little requirements. Advisors need to conduct a minimum of one event per month to remain active in WfH’s system. (There is a monthly charge of $9.99 to use the WfH website for ongoing trainings and connecting with clients.)
Across the board, WfH gets as close to a five-star rating as a business can. When customers do have warranted complaints, Anton does his best to respond and resolve the issues. His wine advisors seem quite happy, too, citing strong support of the company and a great company culture. So if you’re looking for a little side hustle, or think wine parties would be a perfect way for you to be your own boss, reach out to Wines for Humanity via their website for details.
In the Times of COVID
It’s hard for any business to suddenly have their revenue stream interrupted by a pandemic. It’s probably twice as bad for a business whose revenue is meant to help avoid homelessness, an ever-increasing problem now, as more and more people lose their jobs.
Of course, people no longer want to invite a dozen friends into their home and open the door to a wine advisor: “Our business changed from one day to the next”, says Anton. “Prior to COVID, 98% of our income came from wine tastings. And overnight, it was all gone.”
WFH’s first response to the sudden interruption of business was to shift attention from in-home tastings to online sales. Still giving 8% of revenue to charities, the wines on WFH’s site temporarily sold at a 40% discount.
Ultimately, it wasn’t all that bad a move. Sales numbers in that quarter were higher than any sales ever made from tastings. Of course, the profit was far less. But it gave Anton time to look at re-designing the business model to include the now ever-present Zoom option.
Only recently, Anton himself held a Zoom event for 64 clients across the state of Arizona. Perhaps less time for individuals to ask their wine advisor a lot of questions. On the bright side, each participant now has 6 bottles of tasting wine to themselves, rather than having to share with a dozen friends. The cost remains the same: $69 for the 2-hour event that includes 6 to 7 bottles of wine. In itself, quite a good deal.
In Non-Pandemic Times
Anton pauses for a moment, thinking back to that event. Then, in his refreshingly open way, he adds “We kind of gave away the farm. Perhaps 40 was a little high. But it is what it is.”
When things return to normal, and you can host a wine-tasting in your own home again, note that events like birthday or bachelor/bachelorette parties do have an added charge. Those events tend not to drive traffic to the site, and WfH wants to ensure the advisors are compensated for their time. But on average, the cost for a wine tasting, including the wines, is $69.
After purchasing a wine-tasting, you’ll be contacted by an advisor to note your selection of wines from the WfH shop. The wine advisor also sends you a list of which foods pair best with each of your selected wines.
Not everyone has as many wine glasses as they have friends. That’s where that starter kit comes in. The wine advisor will supply the glasses for the number of guests at your event. And after about 2 hours, you and your guests rate how you liked the wines. At the end of the evening, your advisor packs up their glasses. You don’t even have to do the dishes. (Well, at least not the wine glasses.)
And we can confirm from experience that these evenings are not just great fun, but also educational. So if you enjoy a glass of wine every now and then anyway, try out Wines for Humanity. Whether it’s with website orders or, hopefully again soon, a fun evening with friends at your home. You can sip your glass of red or white, knowing you did some good for those less fortunate.
Wines for Humanity is currently available in AZ, CA, CO, FL, IL, MI, MO, NC, ND, NV, OR, VA, WI, WV. Expansion into other states will likely be on hold until after the pandemic, but is planned.