From a quiet dairy farming town in Western Australia, Freya Hohnen grew up to be an award-winning winemaker.
“When my parents arrived in Margaret River in the 70s it was a quiet dairy farming town. Even people from Perth hadn’t heard of it! It was breathtakingly beautiful, peaceful, and wild,” Freya says of the now iconic region.
“I felt so free and spent as much time as possible outside. The winemaking pioneers arrived around the same time as the surfers and hippies,” says Freya of her childhood. Her dad was one of the winemaking pioneers. “They didn’t have any guidance or support back then, so he was extremely busy getting this ‘start up’ going and successful. This was followed with a lot of travel to pedal his wares.”
Women: The Unseen Backbone Of Successful Businesses
“Life was simple and dad was rarely home,” says Freya. “Mum pushed through these initial hurdles and as kids we had no idea of the struggles she faced. She showered us with love and devotion. All I remember is her raucous laughter, music and joy.”
“In the early days it was mum’s job to keep an eye of the driveway to the winery (which we could see from the house), and to run over and open the cellar door should a car drive past. This was a rare event. She took care of everything so that Dad only had to worry about the business … Dad never bottled a wine without mum approving its quality first.”
The Strength Of Mothers
“Mum realized early in her marriage that her husband was going to follow his own dreams and passions, and that she had to do the same—that you can’t rely on your partner for your own happiness, you have to find it yourself,” says Freya. “This had a major impact on me.”
Freya’s mum dedicated herself to the family until the children were grown, then followed her own path into university and studied Buddhism, the principles of which were passed on to Freya and that guide her still.
“We are responsible for our own happiness. It comes from within – not from material things or other people,” says Freya.
Her mum has also beat two bouts of breast cancer, “I am so grateful that she survived,” says Freya. “It made me realize how fragile life is, and to focus on what is truly important. It was also the first time I saw her immense strength and courage.”
A Return To Her Roots
When Freya was growing up, Cape Mentelle where her father worked was owned by Veuve Cliquot. Inspired by the language and culture of the French visitors to the region, Freya finished high school and set off for France, purchasing a one-way ticket, “with absolutely no plan at all. I departed declaring I would never be in the wine industry.”
While living in Paris, the combination of good food and incredible wine, consumed together in good company, changed things.
“[It] opened my eyes to the irreplaceable pleasure that this beverage gives,” she said. “I then went on to work a vintage in the Provence region and that was the end of me. I couldn’t deny the love for wine any longer. I headed home two years later and enrolled in the University of Adelaide to study Oenology.”
Freya put her winemaking dreams on hold while her children were very young. “Vintage time for a winemaker is relentless and there is certainly no room for babies at this time of year,” says Freya.
“I knew starting a family would be a compromise for a career in winemaking, but one that I was happy to make at the time. But I have always kept a shoe in the door so to speak. I found myself on the front end of the business, running cellar doors and then selling new French oak barrels for the Francois Freres group.”
Once & Well is Born
“The biggest break for me was when the opportunity came to partner with Pinnacle Drinks to create the Once & Well wines,” she says. Her coveted wines include Frankie’s Garden Chardonnay, Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon and Frankie’s Garden Rose.
Importantly, running Once & Well means that Freya can communicate her business goals and make key decisions while the day-to-day winemaking is undertaken by her team, giving her the flexibility she needs to be a parent and see her vision realised at the same time. The perfect balance.
5 Tips To Make It In Business From Winemaker Freya Hohnen
1. Grab Every Opportunity You Can
“If you are given any opportunities in life, grab them with both hands and see where they go—sometimes we make assumptions or judge an opportunity too harshly, instead of taking a chance and going for it. These moments in life are rare, so it might be better to jump in and go for the ride. At the very least you will learn new skills or something about yourself.”
2. Work To Your Strengths
“Nobody is perfect or skilled across all areas. If you know what you are good at, or be honest about what you love doing, you are more likely to be successful. We rarely work in isolation, so don’t be held back by your insecurities.”
3. Get Help From Others
“Leading on from point two, if you look to the people around you, identify and utilise their unique strengths, it’s good for all. At the same time, don’t expect perfection from others. Be compassionate.”
4. Communication Is King
“Successful communication is like good blood flow. It allows all the individual parts of a business or project to connect effectively.”
5. Use Setbacks To Learn
“Things will go wrong. Don’t freak out. Use these moments as opportunities to improve. It’s how you handle these situations that will define you, not the situation itself.”