Inside the Exclusive Private Club Devoted to Food, Wine and the Arts


In this ongoing series, we are sharing advice, tips and insights from real entrepreneurs who are out there doing business battle on a daily basis. (Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.)

Barrett Wissman is the Chairman Emeritus of global talent agency IMG Artists. His latest venture, Domus Artium Reserve, brings together people passionate about wine and food, the arts and architecture, and events featuring extraordinary talent.

Give us the elevator pitch for your business.
There are two key aspects to the business. First, our cofounders are producing fine wines together under the Domus Artium Reserve banner. For instance, renowned chef Thomas Keller is currently developing his first French wine with winemaking legend Michel Rolland. Secondly, the venture is a private members club. Our members not only get access to exclusive clubhouses, dinners, wine tastings, experiences, and events but also have the opportunity to make their own wines with our wine experts. This is a pretty unprecedented opportunity as normally only the major vintners have access to experts of the caliber of Michel Rolland or Riccardo Cotarella.

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What inspired you to launch this business?
At all of the food, wine, film and arts festivals I have founded or attended, I always felt there was still white space for the taking. I wondered how I could create a truly immersive experience that goes beyond these one-night or two-day events. It wasn’t until around two years ago that the answer began to crystalize. I decided to start an arts series in Rome at extraordinary places that are either private residences and palaces or public places that seldom accommodate the public. At that time, we always found wineries to supply our evenings but I realized that many of the great historic Italian families were in the wine business. The same is true in France. This unique events series became a proof of concept and I could then see the pathway to the larger vision of the creation of Domus Artium Reserve.

You have big names amongst your cofounders. What is your advice on approaching big names to join a company and make a big idea happen?
I also recognized that I needed the right partners to make this venture everything I had imagined. So I reached out to Michelin star chefs Thomas Keller, Yannick, Alléno and Carlo Cracco and legendary winemakers Michel Rolland and Riccardo Cotarella, as well as wine critic Antonio Galloni. It was gratifying to discover how quickly they saw the vision. It’s a reminder that as an entrepreneur, you must always take the chance. No one is ever too big, too far out of reach or too expensive. What motivates stars isn’t always fame or fortune. Stars and celebrities have their passions, and I find that artists of one genre are often attracted to the best in another genre. The issue is that they aren’t normally given the chance to work with one another. I guess the key to success in attracting any talent is to grant their wish of what they always wanted but wasn’t immediately accessible.

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What advice would you give to people who have great passions but don’t immediately see the business opportunity in them?
Well, my background was as a musician. I am a pianist and music has always been my first love, so the fact that I became an entrepreneur rather than a professional pianist was perhaps the first big unforeseen surprise. What I take from that, and the advice I would share with those new to the entrepreneurial path, is to remain open. Your first love and your first passion may not always be where you find your greatest success. Don’t be rigid. There is joy in the journey.

What advice can you give entrepreneurs looking for funding?
This is a complex question that requires one to understand the sector involved. Investors typically have their special interests and you need to know that before approaching anyone. These days, with multiple media outlets reporting on venture and private equity funds, it isn’t that difficult to find out who the players are in each sector. So do your research and be targeted in your outreach so that you have the greatest chance of success in terms of getting an investor’s attention in the first place and then getting into the room or onto the Zoom.

What is something many aspiring business owners think they need that they really don’t?
I think many business owners think they need more capital than they do. It’s easy to solve problems with capital, but it is also expensive in terms of investment. One can often find ways of doing things by appealing to stakeholders for reasons that are important to them. This can often save capital and improve the balance of risk vs. reward.

Related: At 22 Years Old, He Made a ‘Beautifully Stupid’ Bet on Himself. Now This Founder Runs a $100 Million Online Business.

What does the word “entrepreneur” mean to you?
For me, a true entrepreneur is someone who is willing to take risks and constantly be out of their comfort zone. Without that, progress doesn’t come easily. A true entrepreneur must be willing to fail before succeeding and not everyone is built for that life.

Is there a particular quote or saying that you use as personal motivation?
Placido Domingo once told me, and is known for saying: “If I rest, I rust”. I guess that sums everything up for me from a career and work perspective. On another front, when it comes to working tirelessly for issues that are personally important, Robert Redford told me, “If you can do more, you should”. I won’t forget that.

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