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News > Alumni News > The Touring Sommelier

The Touring Sommelier

Two Old Girl friends create a unique at home wine tasting business...
29 Sep 2022
United Kingdom
Alumni News

We recently had the pleasure of chatting with Old Girls Chloe Carson and Harriet Heath, friends from the Class of 2010, who have embarked on a new business adventure together, The Touring Sommelier, a company which brings fun and insightful wine tastings to your home or business in the north of England.

Having been friends since we were in college, we decided it was about time to start a new adventure together. We have always loved wine (just like everyone else!), but once Harriet gained a distinction in her Level 2 WSET (Wine and Spirit Education Trust) course, our passion really started to grow. We wanted to create experiences so that everyone could access the tastes, smells and stories of wines from all over the world, and gain a little wine education, without having to leave the comfort of their own home or rented accommodation.”

Chloe has a background in engineering. She loves growing vegetables in her allotment and going on walks with her family dogs, Dave and Junior. Her favourite wine is a bone-dry cava (or Champagne if she's feeling fancy)!

Harriet teaches Latin by day, spends the summers watching cricket, and has an obsession with Coldplay. Her favourite wine is anything sweet, from Riesling to Sauternes!

Please let us know what you are doing now and where?

Chloe: Outside The Touring Sommelier, I work as a dust extraction engineer for a company called Ideal Extraction in Ilkley. I started my career as a surveyor offshore, moving into pipe design but was approached by Ideal Extraction to work with them producing 3D drawings and managing projects in 2021. Within The Touring Sommelier, you will find me filling up people’s wine glasses and replenishing the food boards at the wine tastings.

Harriet: I’m Head of Classics at Merchant Taylors’ Boys’ School in Crosby, Liverpool. I teach Latin, Classical Civilisation and a bit of Ancient Greek.

How did your journey to setting up The Touring Sommelier begin?

Chloe: The idea came to us in April 2022 after Harriet had completed her WSET course earlier in the year. We love to enjoy wine together and we just thought there was a gap in the market for something of this nature.

Harriet: I fancied a new challenge and decided to do the Level 2 WSET course in wine, then loved it even more than I was expecting. Chloe and I had gone out for a coffee together and started bouncing ideas around about a wine tasting experience that people could book to come to their home or accommodation, to avoid spending loads of money and effort going out for food and drinks. We came up with the name ‘The Touring Sommelier’ and decided to take the process one step at a time with weekly Teams calls.

Are there any particular skills that you find are essential for your job?

Chloe: When you start a company with someone else, particularly a friend, communication is key. Neither of you should feel embarrassed when saying you don't know the answer. I think we are very lucky because as a team we complement each other well and we know we can figure a lot of things out between us.

Harriet: Getting on really well and being able to be honest with each other has been key. I also want to keep learning about wine so that I’m ready to answer any questions customers throw at me. I’m currently studying for the level 3 WSET course which I will complete in November. Teaching has helped too, because I’m happy to stand up in front of a group of people and get enthusiastic about something without lecturing!

Do you have any advice for current students thinking of following your career path?

Chloe: My only advice is to find something you are passionate about and want to succeed in. You want to make sure you look forward to your day when you wake up every morning, even if you know it is going to be a tough one!

Harriet: I’m totally with Chloe on this. Starting a new company takes a lot of time and effort, even on days when you don’t feel like it, so you’ve got to find something that you really enjoy and believe is worth it! I’d also say if you have an idea about something, then run with it. If the worst that could happen, is it doesn’t work out, so what? Also remember that things that make you the most nervous beforehand usually make you feel amazing when you’re actually doing them.

What are the challenges that you faced establishing a new business, and what advice that you would give to any budding entrepreneurs?

Chloe: The biggest challenges for us have been overcoming the legal hurdles. Working with alcohol and food, it's really important we make sure we have the correct licenses and have notified the relevant legal bodies. My advice to any future entrepreneurs is to make sure you have thoroughly researched your market, competitors and any legal obligations you may have when starting up.

Harriet: Make as many phone calls as possible! You can’t know the answers to everything, so call the people who do. We’ve spent loads of time on the phone to lawyers, licensing officers, friends and family, getting as much advice as we can. As long as you’re doing all you can then no-one can accuse you of doing the wrong thing. The biggest thing I’ve learnt over the past few months is that, generally, people are kind and happy to help. When it comes to customers, they are usually really appreciative of all you’ve done for them.

Where do you see yourselves in the future?

Chloe: We've maintained a motto of 'put one foot in front of the other'. I want us to go into this venture with goals for continuous growth but also being open minded about the direction of the company.  Everyday we learn something new about business. The economy is changing so quickly, and we want to make sure we can adapt to its changes.

Harriet: The main thing is that we keep enjoying ourselves and providing an experience that we both believe in. Of course, the more people we reach, the better, and we want to keep adapting and improving what we’re doing. We have removed the snobbery from wine tastings, and kept all the fun and interesting bits, so we want to experience that with as many people as possible.

When you look back at your time at BGS, what are some of your fondest memories?

Chloe: I loved the traditions we had at BGS. Prize Giving and Founders’ Day were my favourites, even from starting in Year 7. In the Upper 6th, I was CSM in the CCF at School. It was an honour to lead the School to the church on Founders Day along with my fellow CSM and RSM from the Boys’ School.

Harriet: The friends I made at School were and still are the best bit of BGS. We always had such a laugh and supported each other when we needed it. I was in the choir – singing Arctic Monkeys in the Verona amphitheatre always sticks in my head – and I was in the CCF where I got bossed around by Chloe as CSM as we marched waist-deep in mud clutching our rifles after a 5am wake-up on summer camp. The musicals were probably my highlight though. I got to play both a French prostitute in Les Mis and a nun in the Sound of Music.

Are there any particular teachers who helped to shape your career choice?

Chloe: I was lucky enough to be chosen for the Duke of Edinburgh scheme and World Challenge when I was at BGS. Mr Wilkinson led both schemes, and Mrs Banfield came to China with us on the World Challenge. Although not academic, I learnt a lot about maintaining a positive mindset and putting 100% into the things we do.

Harriet: She knows this already, but from about year 8 I wanted to be the next Mrs Coulthard. She made me love Latin, which is the reason I still teach it today. Mr Joyce was also a total legend – funny in a way that only a bit of a genius can be.





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