Badassery Magazine March 2018 Issue22 - Page 19

B eginning as a Christmas tree farm, Airlie Winery was founded in 1986 as the tree farming industry began to fade. Mary Olsen, owner of Airlie Win- ery, is a native of Wisconsin and transferred to Oregon will work- ing for US West telephone com- pany. Just like many Oregonians, she enjoyed going to the winer- ies on the weekends. She liked it so much, so joked that in her “next life” she would buy a winery. After a few years, she was pro- moted to US West main office and moved away from Oregon. How- ever, in 1987, when it was time to leave her job with the phone com- pany, she decided to move back to Oregon and make good on her promise and purchased the Air- lie Winery already established. Airlie’s winemaker Elizabeth Clark likes to joke that she moved to Oregon on a fluke. “In 1999, I was the wedding guest that never left” she explains, “and finally my hosts passed me off on a friend who was driving to Oregon. Hav- ing never visited and knowing that my cousin was living in Portland I decided to hitch a ride. I’m so glad I did. After spending the summer exploring the area I fell in love with Oregon and the winemaking community and haven’t left since.” After moving there and get- ting a job at a catering company, she became interested in wine and the winemaking process so much she approached a lo- cal winemaker to teach her. After five years of mentoring, Elizabeth joined Airlie as their winemaker. Mary used the years of business experience she gained working at the phone company to build up the business as her own. Having always been a hard worker, she took to entrepreneurship quite easily. She’s proud of the fact that her employees at the vineyard have worked with her for years and doesn’t take the responsibili- ty of other people’s families rely- ing on her and her business lightly. Airlie is a proud women owned and operated business because women, in general, have not have the same advantages as men. Mary hasn’t let this stop her in her career and was the first fe- male Vice President of a techni- cal department at US West. She brings that same empowerment to the winery. When applying for her farm loan to acquire the win- ery, she encountered a certain amount of disbelief that she, as a woman, could be successful sim- ply because not many women were trying to purchase farms at the time. But, she got the loan and over the years has found that be- ing a women in business has more advantages than disadvantages. When it comes to being a wom- en in business, Elizabeth agrees women can use their gender as a tool but doesn’t think it should define the quality of their work. 18