The wine industry isn’t the most inclusive when it comes to ownership. Despite this fact, many entrepreneurs have managed to enter the market. With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic creating new restrictions for businesses as cities try to combat the outbreak, many have had to find new ways to adapt so their businesses don’t close.
One entrepreneur managed to pivot her brand into the virtual space with a wine society catered to Black women.
Shayla Varnado is the founder of Black Girls Wine. Her business was off to an amazing start, but like many entrepreneurs, she faced new challenges when the COVID-19 pandemic began to force cities to shut down. She had to act fast to protect the brand and her team from the fallout.
“In the beginning, some of the biggest hurdles were figuring out the technology. Between platforms and communicating to our members what was to come, there was a small adjustment period,” Varnado told BLACK ENTERPRISE via email.
“I had to decide whether or not I was ready to expand the team,” she added. “I knew after hosting a month of virtual events that I wouldn’t be able to sustain working the business all day and then moderating and hosting at night. Since COVID, I had no choice but to expand the team. We’ve been busier than ever and growing by the month. The growing pains were a hurdle but they’ve also been a blessing.”
While Varnado was already working on opening her virtual wine society, she said the pandemic forced her to push up the idea in order to stay afloat. Many establishments were closed, which has enhanced the society’s success.
“Now all of our chapter members across the country, no matter where they are, can meet and connect with each other,” she said. “It allows us a way to offer access to all the membership perks to women who wanted to join no matter where they live. Now anyone can join and that makes being a member even more exciting!”
Varnado said her goal was always to create a brand that focused on Black women since they were often left out from marketing and branding within larger companies–despite their affinity for wine.
“I wanted to create that experience, that space, and be a brand that is totally and solely focused on the Black woman,” she said. “I want her to feel special and valued as a wine lover and as a human being. I want her to know she is seen and I intend to continue creating and offering opportunities for her to grow, connect, and be celebrated.”