The Winner’s Circle

B.E. Next Award Winner

Selena & Khary Cuffe, Founders/CEO&CFO
Heritage Link Brands L.L.C.
Los Angeles
Wine importer and distributor

The Cuffes’ believe no venture will work without:
1] Understanding the ­fundamentals of the business
2] Belief in your ­mission
3] Working with ­people who have the same level of service and standards

Heritage Link Brands L.L.C. (www.heritagelink created a mission to “invite people to taste the very best of the African Diaspora showcased through the medium of wine,” says Selena Cuffe, 33, the company’s CEO. Selena and her husband, Khary, 30, who is CFO, founded the Los Angeles-based wine importing and distribution company in 2005.

With the U.S. economy in a slump, Heritage Link Brands still raked in revenues of $1.06 million in 2008, up from just $42,000 the year before. With $1.6 million in sales projected for this year and eight employees, the importer is poised to turn a profit well ahead of the six-year wine industry standard. The Cuffes have scored recent deals with 1-800-FLOWERS.COM Inc. and major commercial airlines, American and United Airlines.

And let’s not forget taste. Environmentally friendly farming methods allow the imported wines to retain more of the distinctive qualities of the soil where the grapes were grown.

Overseeing some 16 different brands, Heritage Link Brands imported close to 17,000 cases of wine last year. U.S. retailers such as Whole Foods, Albertson’s, and Biggs carry a variety of their brands including the award-winning M’hudi and their most popular brand, Seven Sisters. “It’s who we are as people: committed to the development of people who look like us,” says Khary. “And it provides us with a unique point of difference from our competitors.
The Cuffes credit their success abroad to the relationships they have developed with their producers, distributors, and customers. They travel to South Africa several times a year to manage quality control and meet with partners; they plan to eventually open an office there.

“These brands, the families, the people trust us to represent it as if it’s our own,” says Selena. “It’s about more than the wine.”

—Maya Payne Smart & Tennille M. R

The B.E. Next Award is presented to the fearless young entrepreneur age 21-35 tapped to be a future business leader.

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