Social Impact Investors: How Joseph Carr of Josh Cellars Is Helping To Change The World

Yitzi Weiner
Authority Magazine
Published in
9 min readDec 16, 2022

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…I would love to bring the spirit of Joshgiving to the masses, following the footsteps of others I admire such as Jose Andrés. I aspire to continue to give back to causes that matter to me and beyond, creating a large-scale global community that can help people in need. What I’ve found is that a movement like this starts by helping your own community, your own neighborhood first. I’m dedicated to continuing this wonderful charitable work with Josh Cellars, to make a difference however and wherever we can.

As a part of our series about “Social Impact Investors”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Joseph Carr.

Joseph Carr was raised in Upstate New York by hard-working parents of modest means. After a career working in wine industry, he set out on his own and founded the Josh Cellars brand in 2007, selling bottles out of the back of his truck. Josh Cellars has now grown to become the #1 selling premium wine brand in America.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I didn’t get my start in wine, in fact, quite the opposite. I grew up in a blue collar lumbermill town in Upstate NY. My father was a lumberjack. I drove a truck until I went to college, where I began working in a French restaurant to pay for school, trading in my work boots for a tux. I began reading books about wine and worked my way up to become a wine steward, and then a sommelier. I then went on to expand my career in wine, working for wineries all over the world including Italy, France, Spain, and Napa Valley. Eventually I decided to set out on my own — first producing Napa Valley Cabernet under the brand name Joseph Carr. I was privileged to work with growers, coopers, artists, and winemakers in California to help grow my brand. In 2007 I created the Josh Cellars Brand, named in honor of my dad, Josh.

Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?

I misspelled a word on my label and didn’t proofread it. When the labels arrived, we realized we couldn’t use them — quite an expensive mistake when you’re first starting out. My wife had been an English major in college, so from then on, I made sure she did all the label proof reading and editing. This mistake taught me that the devil is in details — even the little things matter.

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?

When I was first starting out with my own brand, the New York Times wrote a piece and called me a “producer to watch”. This was a major turning point for me and my career. Up until then, I wasn’t sure I had made the right decision going out on my own. This recognition really helped build my confidence. After this acknowledgment from such a prestigious outlet, my wife and I worked harder than we ever worked to continue to build the Josh Cellars brand. I think the lesson is to truly keep pushing. Even when you think you’ve “made it”, there’s still more to do and more to work at.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person or mentor to whom you are grateful who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

The person I’m most grateful for was my wife, Dee. She believed in me every step of the way. She was my biggest fan. When things got tough, she held my hand, and when I failed, she was there to pick me up.

You have been blessed with great success in a career path that many have attempted, but eventually gave up on. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path but are afraid of the prospect of failure?

The words “courage” and “conviction” have helped me along my career path in many ways. Strive to have the courage and conviction to continue on your path, but don’t forget to lead with energy, love and joy. If you can capture all of that, then failure isn’t really an option.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main part of our discussion. The United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality, and inclusion. This is of course a huge topic. But briefly, can you share a few things that need to be done on a broader societal level to expand opportunities for women, minorities, and people of color?

We live in a very big world, and not everyone is the same — and that’s a good thing. I think there needs to be a continued focus across all industries on celebrating differences to help create a better, more inclusive future for everyone. Change can only happen when there is effort and intentional purpose behind it. There are many advocacy groups that help the entire wine industry become more aware of the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion, including Women of the Vine & Spirits, Lift Collective, and the Diversity in Wine Leadership Forum.

You are a social impact investor who is focused on making a positive social impact. Can you share with us a bit about the projects and companies you have focused on, and look to focus on in the future?

I founded Josh Cellars as a tribute to my dad, Josh Carr. To honor his legacy of lifelong service and volunteerism, Josh Cellars consistently supports causes and communities that were important to my dad — from military and veteran organizations, firefighters (my dad was a volunteer firefighter and US. Army vet), to out of work restaurant workers and healthcare providers. To date, Josh Cellars has donated more than $1.5 million to various charitable endeavors.

This past Thanksgiving, Josh Cellars expanded our charitable work even further with a program called “Joshgiving” — an initiative aimed at inspiring friends, families, and communities across the nation to show their gratitude for one another. Throughout the months of October and November, we enlisted people named Josh across the country, including renowned singer Josh Groban, to give back to their local communities via various charitable activities. We wanted to touch as many communities as possible. In total we donated more than $220,000 to 6 different give back initiatives as part of Joshgiving — specific details below:

  • Josh Groban Collaboration: We teamed up with Josh Groban to give back to local veterans, hosting an event at the West LA VA Center in partnership with Sing For Hope, a nonprofit that harnesses the power of music to create a better world. Along with a $100,000 donation to support the organization’s mission, Josh Cellars and Josh Groban donated a uniquely designed piano to the facility and entertained veteran attendees with special performances to uplift their spirits.
  • Support for Veterans: In honor of my dad Josh, (the brand’s namesake) who was a US Army vet, Joshgiving included a special giveback program to support American Humane’s Pups 4 Patriots — a program that trains service dogs to help veterans in need. Josh Cellars donated $100,000 to the organization including $1 for every bottle purchased on JoshCellars.com throughout November.
  • Local ‘Acts of Thanks’: Local Joshes in Boston, NYC, Denver, San Diego, and Nebraska gave back to their communities with a variety of different charitable acts — supporting the LGTBQ+ community, helping the homeless with a coat drive, meal distributions, and beyond.

What you are doing is not very common. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were going to focus on social impact investing? Can you share the story with us?

My dad Josh continues to be the inspiration behind the Josh Cellars commitment to giving back.

To honor his legacy of lifelong service and volunteerism, Josh Cellars consistently supports causes and communities that were important to my dad — from military and veteran organizations, firefighters (my dad was a volunteer firefighter and US. Army vet), to out of work restaurant workers, healthcare providers and beyond.

The recent Joshgiving program was truly inspired by him. He embodied the spirit of Thanksgiving every day of the year. He truly believed in the power of people banding together for a good cause. I know he’d be proud of all the work we’ve done and will continue to do.

Can you share a story with us about your most successful social impact investment? Or an investment that you are most proud of? What was its lesson?

This year’s Joshgiving campaign is the social impact program I’m most proud of. It truly allowed Josh Cellars to not only “talk the talk” but also “walk the walk” when it comes to giving back. The program was all about putting the “Thanks” back in Thanksgiving and inspiring a groundswell of goodwill this holiday season and beyond. I think the lesson with this campaign is that to inspire others, you really need to prove your commitment first. We’ve received such a positive response from the Joshes who participated, our consumers and beyond. It’s been wonderful to see people band together for such worthy causes during a time when showing your gratitude is more important than ever.

Super. Here is the main question of this interview. What are your “5 things I need to see before making a successful investment” and why?

  1. A solid business plan — A clear path to success is essential
  2. A real passion for what they are doing — Important that you are investing with people who believe in their cause/position
  3. Willingness to collaborate — Be sure that the people you are investing with are willing to work alongside you/as much as you
  4. A long-term outlook — Investment is not always a short game, there should be a plan for the future and beyond!
  5. Realistic expectations — Acknowledging the real return on the investment and what the time frame will be so you can plan accordingly

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I would love to bring the spirit of Joshgiving to the masses, following the footsteps of others I admire such as Jose Andrés. I aspire to continue to give back to causes that matter to me and beyond, creating a large-scale global community that can help people in need. What I’ve found is that a movement like this starts by helping your own community, your own neighborhood first. I’m dedicated to continuing this wonderful charitable work with Josh Cellars, to make a difference however and wherever we can.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

When I was a kid fundraising was called bake sales. Focus on how you can make a difference — even a small one — every day, every week. Don’t have your sole focus be on the spreadsheets or the PowerPoint presentations or just getting the job done. Try and find those opportunities to make an impact, even a small one, in just one person’s life when you can. When you do, don’t be afraid to tell others — in some small way, perhaps they’ll follow your lead.

We are very blessed that a lot of amazing founders and social impact organizations read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you’d like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this. :-)

I’m a big fan of Oprah Winfrey. I think she really gets it on so many levels. She has influenced and helped millions. Also, she does things behind the scenes that nobody sees. To me, she is truly an amazing and a constant inspiration for me.

How can our readers follow you online?

Follow @JoshCellars and @Josephcarr.Napa.Valley on Instagram or on LinkedIn to learn more about me, the brand, our social impact programs, and beyond.

Thank you so much for this. This was very inspirational, and we wish you only continued success!

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Yitzi Weiner
Authority Magazine

A “Positive” Influencer, Founder & Editor of Authority Magazine, CEO of Thought Leader Incubator