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

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I love sparkling wines and recently discovered the McBride Sisters Wine Company and this particular bottle: Sparkling Brut Rosé. I’ve become obsessed. I took my new favorite bottle to dinner parties, opened it when I had guests over, and gave it to a girlfriend. My friends like wine as much as I do.

McBride Sisters Wine Company

“My curiosity about wine started at a young age,” 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 size of the United States wine market 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 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 importers and then as winegrowers. Their collection of still, sparkling and canned wines 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 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 look for winemakers and brand owners in general, there are over 50, but if you look for African-Americans who are both the winemaker and the brand owner, there are only a few dozen.”

Image credit: McBride Sisters Wine Company

The McBride Sisters have ignited 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 glass of wine at a time.”

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

Related: ‘I’m not a diversity quota,’ says founder disrupting dessert category

Stop thinking 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. He also remembers asking a lot of questions. “I got on everybody’s nerves,” he says. “I was always on a mission to find out why and find solutions.”

Now as co-founders, the sisters are always in problem-solving mode. In their journey to build the company, they have had few resources and few staff. The pandemic was another reminder that money won’t solve everything. “We can’t pay to play in our industry. The other players are too big and will always outspend us,” says McBride. “During the pandemic, we had to innovate in ways to bring our consumers closer together. We created a free online wine school on Facebook and filmed modules from home, and it didn’t cost us much more than our time. No we just got our community involved.but it made it grow [by providing] useful content”.

Related: This founder went to prison when he was 15. That’s where the idea for a company backed by John Legend came up.

“Bias is a business killer”

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

At first, an investor recommended that the sisters have a white man as a partner to help them raise money. But the sisters did not give up; they would not be ignored. “We are great business leaders and we know our consumers,” says McBride. “Eighty percent of wine purchases are made by women. And yes, despite what some of these investors thought, black women do drink wine.”

Today, McBride Sisters Wine Company employs 51% people of color and 93% women, including an all-female winemaking team.

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

Celebrate and come back

In 2019, the McBride sisters were invited to the Essence Festival and asked to join the mayor of New Orleans on stage at the opening party. They decided to make a wine to commemorate the moment and named it Black Girl Magic Riesling. They made less than 100 cases for the event, and the demand was huge. The sisters were not prepared for the good that 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 a long time, the industry hasn’t catered to us as consumers, and it was important to us to create a line of wines for us as a community that everyone can enjoy.”

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

Related: This Baker Was Told Not to Speak Spanish to His Coworkers, So He Started His Own Cake Company That Values ​​Employees and Customers

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