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Meet Sarah Tomasetti of Wine 4 Paws

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sarah Tomasetti.

Sarah, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
We moved to the Central Coast in 2001. After volunteering at Woods Humane Society in SLO for a couple of years, my husband and I moved from Arroyo Grande to Paso Robles. It became more difficult to make the 45 minute drive to Woods as often as I wanted to, and I started to think about what else I could do to make an impact.

The idea for Wine 4 Paws basically came from going out wine tasting around here. Every winery owner we met was incredibly nice, and every winery had at least one cat or dog on site, many of them rescues. I thought, “If I knew certain wineries were donating money to an animal rescue organization, I would absolutely visit those wineries!”

So in 2009, Wine 4 Paws was born. I figured if I could get 20 or so wineries to donate money and come up with a couple thousand dollars, it would be a huge success. Fortuitously, I knew a graphic designer and a web designer who volunteered to put some basic visuals together for me. Once I had those, I went to Woods Humane Society to propose the idea and they, really not knowing me very well, took a leap and supported it.

Next I started visiting wineries to pitch the idea. I couldn’t believe how many of them were excited about Wine 4 Paws from the very beginning. That first year we had 35 wineries and raised about $6,000 for a one day effort. The wineries who had participated came back to me and suggested we do the fundraiser for the entire weekend going forward, so we did. Since then, Wine 4 Paws has raised almost $500,000 for Woods Humane Society, and we now have about 100 businesses involved – wineries, breweries, olive oil producers, and restaurants. It’s pretty amazing how these businesses have joined together. Their enthusiasm for it is infectious!

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It’s always a lot of work to put Wine 4 Paws weekend together – did I mention the infectious enthusiasm of our participating businesses? It’s what keeps me going year after year.

This year was a rough one – for all of us. We went into lockdown one month before Wine 4 Paws weekend was scheduled to take place.

In the month or two leading up to the lockdown, I knew we were going to be challenged. I decided that we HAD to keep going. Not only did Woods need the financial support, but all the wineries, olive oil producers, and restaurants were struggling to stay afloat, too. If there was any way this event could drive business to our participants, we were going to do it. The Tasting Rooms weren’t open, but they could still sell wine, and our restaurants had really picked it up on the take out offerings.

We have a loyal group of supporters who come out year after year for Wine 4 Paws weekend. That includes a LOT of people from LA who come up every year for the event. They still need wine, right? And hopefully they still want to help us raise money, even if it won’t be in person this year. So we went virtual. All the wineries put together great shipping deals, and most of them were offering “curbside pickup” for locals. We ended up with 67 of the 98 original businesses participating. Our goal was $25K, half what we raised in 2019. We wound up raising almost $43K!

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Wine 4 Paws – what should we know?
I have a background in Human Resources Management and spent 15 years as an Executive Recruiter working from home for clients throughout the U.S.. Wine 4 Paws has always been done in my “free time”, and one reason I love doing it is because it helped me connect with my local community. A few years ago, I decided to leave Executive Recruiting and start consulting in the wine industry. Janell Dusi of J Dusi wines was my first client; I was very fortunate to align with such a great winery out of the gate. I’ve added a couple more clients since then, using my background in database management and organizational skills to manage E Commerce programs and wine clubs.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
My husband, Steve! Truth be told, when I first told him about my idea for Wine 4 Paws, he thought it was the craziest idea I’d ever had. He couldn’t believe I was going to go the wineries and just ask them to donate money. But he realized very quickly that this thing had legs, and he’s been with me the whole way. My loyal group of volunteers is amazing, too. And of course, this event would never have become what it is without all the wineries, breweries, olive oil producers and restaurants that make the donations. It’s just a beautiful example of people coming together for a great cause.

All of our participating businesses donate a % of their sales for the weekend. I’ve got a great map, which is free. There are no tickets to buy – just head out and stock up on your wine, beer, and olive oil, and enjoy some great food. We’re shooting for April 10 & 11 next year, and if this year’s success was any indication of what’s to come, Wine 4 Paws 2021 will be a great one for the cats & dogs at Woods Humane Society!

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