‘Prejudice is a business killer,’ says co-founder of largest black-owned wine company in US

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I love sparkling wines and recently discovered the McBride Sisters wine company and this special bottle: Sparkling Brut Rosé. I have become obsessed. I brought my new favorite bottle to dinner parties, opened it when I had guests over, and gave it to a girlfriend. My friends love wine as much as I do.

McBride Sisters Wine Company

“My curiosity about wine began as a child,” says Robin McBride, co-founder and president of McBride Sisters Wine Company. “I remember trying to ferment Welch’s grape juice in baby bottles under my bed! My sister and I always had a passion for wine that we wanted to share with the world, in an industry where very few people looked like us.”

The US wine market size is approximately $63.69 billion, with an expected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.8% (from 2022 to 2030). The sparkling wine segment, my favorite, is forecast to grow the fastest at 7.7%, driven by prosecco and champagne.

Enter the McBride Sisters Wine Company, which the sisters founded in 2005 in California, first as an importer and then as a winemaker. Its collection of sparkling and canned wine has taken the industry by storm in recent years.

Robin McBride and her sister Andréa McBride John co-founded their company in an industry that has notably lacked diversity of representation. “About one percent of one percent of all winemakers are black,” said Phil Long, president of the Association of African American Vintners (AAAV), in an interview with Wine-Searcher. “If you’re looking at winemakers and brand owners in general, there are over 50, but if you’re looking for African Americans who are both winemakers and brand owners, there are only a few dozen.”

Image credit: McBride Sisters Wine Company

The McBride sisters have sparked a movement to change that. “My sister and I are on a mission to transform the industry, lead by example and cultivate community,” says Robin McBride. “One delicious glass of wine at a time.”

Here are the three most important lessons McBride and her sister have learned as they built America’s largest black-owned and women-owned wine company:

Related: “I’m not a diversity quota,” says the founder who’s disrupting the dessert category

Don’t think that money will solve everything

McBride has always been a problem solver. As a child, she loved taking things apart and putting them back together. She also remembers asking a lot of questions. “I got on everyone’s nerves,” she says. “I’ve always been on a mission to find the why and look for the solution.”

Now as co-founders, the sisters are always in problem-solving mode. In their journey to build the company, they were under-resourced and under-staffed. The pandemic was another reminder that money won’t solve everything. “We can’t pay to play in our industry. The other players are just too big and will always outspend us,” says McBride. “During the pandemic, we needed to innovate around ways to engage our consumers. We created a free online summer school on Facebook and filmed modules from home and it didn’t cost us much more than our time. We not only engaged the community our but raised it [by providing] useful content.”

Related: This founder went to prison when he was 15. Here he came up with the idea for a company that is now backed by John Legend.

“Prejudice is a business killer”

The sisters’ path to building their business has not been easy. “There’s an immediate lack of credibility that you can feel from investors who are skeptical of your success as a black woman founder because you have to be an anomaly,” McBride says. “Hundreds of questions come at you. Who really owns the company? Who makes your wine? Do black women even drink wine? Prejudice is a business killer.”

Early on, one investor actually recommended that the sisters get a white man as a partner to help them raise money. But the sisters would not give up; they would not be ignored. “We are great business leaders and we know our customers,” says McBride. “Eighty percent of wine purchases are made by women. And yes, despite what some of those investors thought, black women drink wine.”

Today, the McBride Sisters wine company employs 51% people of color and 93% women, which includes an all-female team of winemakers.

Related: This Filipino American Founder Is Disrupting the Beverage Aisle by Introducing New Flavors to the Bubbly Water Market

Celebrate and give back

In 2019, the McBride sisters were invited to the Essence Festival and were asked to join the mayor of New Orleans on stage at the opening party. They decided to make a wine to commemorate this moment and called it Black Girl Magic Riesling. They made less than 100 cases for the event and demand was high. The sisters were not prepared for how well it would be received.

“People really loved the wine,” says McBride. “For my sister and I, it was an opportunity to celebrate our culture and community, to honor black women. Because for too long, the industry has not taken care of us as consumers, and it was important for us to create a line of wines. to us as a community that can be enjoyed by all.”

The McBride sisters continue to push beyond all barriers to offer customers a wine that represents their culture, their history, their likes and their celebrations. “This collection is inspired by and is meant to celebrate the incredible black women in our family, our community and all who celebrate them,” says McBride. “It’s our opportunity to give back to so many black women who continue to support us.”

Related: This Baker Was Told Not to Speak Spanish to Coworkers, So She Started Her Own Cake Company That Values ​​Employees as Much as Customers

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