This article initially appeared on Advocate.com. Read the original here.
Back in late 2019, actor Massimo Dobrovic was excited to launch his new line of wines in the Unites States. Unfortunately, as we all now know, this turned out to be a very difficult time to start a business due to the pandemic taking over our lives (and economy) in early 2020.
Best known for stealing scenes with his wit, charm, and colorful fashion sense on the hit Bravo reality series Euros of Hollywood, Dobrovic comes from a wine-producing family in Istria, an Italian territory that is part of Croatia. His vision to start Massimo Wines came with two goals: to bring his family’s wines to the U.S., and to structure the business to give back to LGBTQ+, HIV, and immigrant communities.
Dobrovic says a huge concept behind Massimo Wines is “that in order to achieve happiness and pre-established career goals, you have to work for a company or job that you love, in a working environment that makes you feel safe, free and respected, with strong moral values and 100 percent oriented to give back to society.” The organizations the company is supporting (or plans to support) include United World Colleges, a UN refugee program, UNAIDS, Desert AIDS Project, the Human Rights Campaign, and various LGBTQ+ centers throughout America.
Dobrovic says he also hopes to connect several personal passions with the company. “We marry all the arts of the world by opening a small door to local artists to showcase their art [at Massimo catered events]…every month with a different artist from a different artistic medium, a chef from a different part of the world that designed a menu that pairs excellently with the wines, beers, and spirits presented during such events. All the exclusive events are resuming online this spring with our club members given first priority,” he says. (Dobrovic adds that SAG/AFRA members, Actors Society members, and volunteers of the Human Rights Campaign and California LGBTQ+ Centers get a 20 percent discount on events.)
Despite the challenges and hardships brought on by the pandemic, Dobrovic says he’s trying to stay positive and focused. In addition to starting Massimo Wines, he has recently started teaching at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Hollywood while also pursuing a Masters’ degree in fine arts with teaching credentials (as well as taking courses in business and finance). Dobrovic says the move was, in part, for mental health reasons.
“When I started teaching, I fell in love with the profession,” he explains, “so I decided to get a master’s degree which will allow me to teach at any university, college or conservatory in the U.S.A. I much prefer to be teaching at a private college than managing crazy restaurants with crazy owners and crazy customers. My body and brain just don't have any more resources left to take on more projects in the food and beverage industry — especially after managing Italian restaurants in California for the past 17 years when I was in between acting jobs.”
2016 Massimo Terrano Istriano, a red wine made with an indigenous grape from the Northern Adriatic Region of Istria
The pandemic wasn’t the only thing that shook up Dobrovic’s life recently. After a decades-long relationship ended in 2019, it prompted him to relocate from Palm Springs to Los Angeles and continue pursuing his new dreams and goals. Though not too far of a move geographically, the artist and entrepreneur says it’s energizing being back in the big city.
“I am finally living by myself,” says Dobrovic. “I haven't lived by myself since I was 21 years old. It feels like pure paradise. The restoration and the way our historical Downtown L.A. was brought back to life in the last few years is truly revolutionary…. The entire downtown in Los Angeles gives you the right working atmosphere and entertainment to succeed as a businessman and entrepreneur.”
As for what the future holds for Massimo Wines, Dobrovic is uncertain but hopeful. “This is an unpredictable and difficult time for our business, which is facing serious challenges due to being a start-up only created [just over] a year ago…. We are working unbelievably hard to save our company by applying for multiple financing resources that are slowly being released from the local authorities.”
“Massimo Wines was funded only out of pure love and passion,” he adds. “Giving the possibility for the first time [for people in the U.S.] to be introduced to wines, beers, and spirits from undiscovered regions of our planet.”