A tidal wave of nostalgia washed over me as I drove up the long winding gravel driveway. The same driveway I've driven up countless times before. But this time it was a first.
Let me start by saying that I am a sentimental person. It's a blessing and a curse for sure. Feeling strong emotions about an experience in the past can be a weird thing. Like, let it go already!
So why does a gravel driveway evoke strong emotions? No, no, I'm not losing my mind, it's not the driveway but rather what was at the end of the driveway.
The long driveway landed me at the front door of 50 West Vineyards in Middleburg, Virginia.
50 West will always be near and dear because it was my last job before becoming a mom and leaving the 'corporate' workforce.
I spent two years as the marketing manager for 50 West and it's sister winery, Sunset Hills. This was a dream job.
Most of the time things were wonderful - marketing two Virginia wineries for the products and experience they provided, driving to the office in the most beautiful parts of Northern Virginia, while working with an incredible team. I was able to be creative by taking photos to support marketing efforts (this is where brand photography came to light for me).
50 West was my favorite of the two - even though you're not supposed to pick favorites ;) The views were incredible. I'd sit upstairs working on slow days overlooking the hills, and in the winter, watch the sunset colors take over the sky.
During my time there, however, it was under old ownership. Their managing style was less than desirable. I definitely left there with an anxiety problem that took years to dissipate.
The silver lining to bad management is that it usually leads driven people to pursue better opportunities.
So there I was, six months pregnant trying my best with a big baby bump to reach into the bottom of the washer when it hit me. What would happen if I pursued my photography business starting that very day?
Yes, that's a true story.
Later that same night I wrote out a list of baby-steps (no pun intended) to get my business started. And the rest was history.
Of course, I was still working my 9-5 while pursuing my new 5-9. However, with maternity leave on the horizon, my thought was the business would give me something to do in my time off. *cue all the laughter because I had no idea what was coming with a newborn*
One of my last memories was being very pregnant wrapping up my day at 50 West, in my favorite spot upstairs, when one of the owners found me. With both hands holding the railing and blocking the only way downstairs, he proceeded to bark questions about why the winery wasn't flooded with customers ….on a Monday.
In the moment, I felt panic and the need to get out of there. Nothing would have happened but the anxiety problem was the real deal.
With time, the business grew and my son made his debut. Maternity leave was a fog of sleepless nights, recovery, and that lovely post-partum anxiety.
Thankfully the circumstances were right and I was able to stay home with my son and ease out of my marketing manager job.
Time marched on. The coworkers I once worked with slowly left the winery to go after new winery jobs or leave the industry entirely.
With each year the memories of the winery faded and my businesses (thankfully) continued to grow.
Word on the street was that the wineries were purchased by new owners. A little spark of hope ignited because I knew that these properties had so much potential but someone needed to see the potential.
As I was reaching my fifth business anniversary, I received an inquiry from the new owners thanks to a former coworker sharing my information.
The new owner shared that they had recently completed a massive renovation on the 50 West tasting room. They were having a grand opening party to share the new space and wanted a photographer.
Vibrant positive energy was the first thing you sensed walking in the doors. A new chapter had begun for 50 West and I was so grateful to be there to witness the grand reopening weekend.
Both 50 West and myself had come full circle - the winery has a fresh start and I found myself completely content in my business and decision to leave a corporate job.
Looking for a beautiful spot to enjoy good company and take in Virginia wine country? 50 West Vineyards is the perfect spot both inside and out. The views are incredible and the newly renovated space is one to experience.
About Emily Marcella for Creative Brands
Emily Marcella is a Northern Virginia Personal Branding Photographer serving creative small business owners. Emily has a three-part approach to brand photography - together we plan strategically in order to shoot creatively and generate images that allow you to market intentionally.