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Career 180 with Steffan Bankier: He's thinking inside the box

Steffan Bankier

Steffan Bankier Credit: Steffan Bankier

Steffan Bankier, 24, is the co-founder of Public House, a start-up that takes an innovative approach to boxed wine. Public House boxed wines come with stemless disposable wine glasses and have a handle, making it easy to carry them around. Bankier was previously a strategic planner for ad firms Young and Rubicam, and Saatchi and Saatchi. He currently lives on the Upper West Side.

Why did you switch careers?
I would spend a lot of my time during the day reading all these start-up blogs. The thing with a really big company is that there's a lot of bureaucracy. The thing with Saatchi is that it hires a lot of smart people, and basically my job was to come up with a strategy for the campaign. But by the time it's approved through all the different departments and everyone's happy, it's diluted completely what you're doing, and I just felt unfulfilled with what I was doing. I felt like creating ads, especially ads for T.V., really didn't feel that exciting to me and there was no impact and no end result. I had saved up some money and I decided to move out of my apartment in Brooklyn and move home on the Upper West Side and figure out what kind of venture I can do in the branded alcohol space. I've always been really into alcohol, as a consumer but also from a professional standpoint. It's a product that is so conducive to being branded. Wine felt like a good fit because I'm French, so wine's always been sort of around. And it's such an old-school industry and I felt, going into it, not afraid - to do something a little weird, a little different could move. … [It's] a $40 billion market, the U.S. has the biggest wine industry as of 2010.

What are some pros and cons of your new job?
The cons are that there's no sort of security, every day is really stressful; potentially at any moment it could just fall under me. Sometimes I wake up at night and I can't sleep because of problems XYZ. [But] the pros very much outweigh the cons. I get complete ownership of what I'm doing, I'm very passionate about what I'm doing, I see a real impact. I hope to change what people see [in] boxed wine. There's a stigma, everyone thinks of [boxed] wine and they think of Fanzia, but Franzia uses really bad wine. … You have sort of a balance between respecting the education of wine but at the same time making it less intimidating through boxed wine. We want to change the way people think about boxed wine. … [Also] I get to drink, I never run out wine.

Are you happy with your switch?
Very happy.

Do you have any advice for readers who are considering a career 180?
Stop thinking about it and just do it. There's obviously less risk when you're younger. I think startups are awesome and fascinating. I think that if I'd stayed at an agency I would always been thinking to myself, 'what would my life have been like if I had left?' The learning that I've had in the past year has been exponentially more than what I learned in advertising.

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