Meet Chrishon Lampley, The Black Woman-Owned Wine Company Taking The Midwest By Storm

Chrishon Lampley has turned the wine industry on its head with her woman-owned business, Love Cork Screw.

Chrishon Lampley has built a name — and a home — for herself in Chicago through her groundbreaking wine company, Love Cork Screw. In doing so, she has cemented herself as a force to be reckoned with within the world of viniculture.

Lampley first came onto the scene with the creation of her art and wine bar. However, a sudden freak flood on Christmas Day left the business and young entrepreneur in shambles. “I was traumatized, scared,” said Lampley. Despite the bleak circumstances, the incident soon started her on a different path, one that she had been contemplating for a long time. 

“I didn’t understand the “why” at the time, but I knew that my heart was still beating, so I still had a purpose,” she said. “I also knew that I had the gift of people. People loved me, they loved talking to me, and I had a love for wine. So that’s all I knew at the time. I did not know that I was going to create a national brand of Love Cork Screw. But I knew I had something going, and that gave me the strength to open my mind up to what else was out there.” So, in 2013, Love Cork Screw was founded. One decade later, with over 2 million bottles sold nationwide, this ode to Chicago has turned the wine industry upside down.

Transforming her grief into success was not a simple feat, but it was made slightly easier courtesy of a network of companions Lampley had built since moving to Chicago. “It was the fact that I knew people because of the art gallery,” she said. “Love Cork Screw was really off of the people I met living in the city when I owned the bar. Again, I didn’t grow up in Chicago, and Chicago is very much like a ‘where did you go to high school’ city, and I didn’t. I grew up in the burbs!” 

Still, she understood that getting off the ground as an entrepreneur doesn’t begin with having an idea but rather a community, which she credits for Love Cork Screw’s achievements. “I was always someone who was concerned and caring, so when it came to Love Cork Screw coming about, it was almost like, ‘Say less!’ That’s pretty much what everyone did when Love Cork Screw came. They trusted me, they trusted the brand was going to be great because my art gallery was great,” she said. 

The entrepreneur’s charisma has opened the doors for the sommelier in ways like never before. She recently provided some of Love Cork Screw’s most popular wine varieties for this year’s BLACK ENTERPRISE Sisters Inc. Summit, where Black women entrepreneurs assembled to discuss the growing pains of being self-made businesswomen and the importance of female-driven initiatives. “I was very happy to send some wine for that event. It was very exciting to be asked to do that. It’s so great to have Love Cork Screw in rooms like that, especially in great events that mean so much,” Lampley said. For the summit, she shared their ‘We Go High’ rosé, inspired by former first lady Michelle Obama’s iconic quote, along with their ‘Touch the Sky’ Niagara, which gave attendees a unique taste of Chicago. 

A large part of Love Cork Screw’s mission has been promoting inclusivity and sustainability, two values that have become an increasingly requisite aspect of winemaking. “Inclusivity does not just mean being a brown person owning a brand. There are so many moving parts in this industry, from law to compliance to being a sommelier. There are so many moving parts in this that are not utilized because we have to use these three-tier systems, and they’re not Black-owned, right? So there are some but a very small amount that can be distributed to large stores like the Walmarts and Targets of the world. So there’s more that needs to be done,” said Lampley.

Though the wine industry has gradually transitioned to a more sustainable model due to increased climate change, for Love Corkscrew, it was already an integral component of its business structure. “Sustainability is kind of complicated in this industry,” Lampley stated. “A lot of times people feel that wine has this old school presence of always having a cork and certain things that come with the wine industry, but the one great thing about this industry is it’s changing now. It’s not so old school, so things matter, meaning that I was one of the first people to put nutritional value on the back of my wine bottles because I want you to know what you are putting in your body. We are very transparent about everything that happens, and we always answer the questions that customers ask.”

As she grows accustomed to life as an accomplished businesswoman, Lampley has come to one realization – no amount of experience ensures a problem-free career, especially as a Black woman in a white-dominated industry. “I still have the same challenges. Nothing different there,” she revealed. “That’s being less than 1% of the industry, and I would say when I started, it was like .02% of the industry as an African American woman negotiant, especially in the midwest.” 

Still, despite such obstacles, Lampley has never once faltered in her mission of promoting her quest for change in the winemaking world. “I look to break every glass ceiling until there’s no more to be broken and to help people break through this industry that looks like me.”