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I love sparkling wine, and I recently discovered McBride Sisters Wine Company and this particular bottle: Sparkling Brut Rosé. I was distraught. I brought my new favorite bottle to dinner parties, opened it after the guests arrived, and gifted it to my girlfriend. My friends love wine as much as I do.
“My curiosity about wine started at an early age,” says Robin McBride, co-founder and president of McBride Sisters Wine Company. “I can remember trying to ferment Welch’s grape juice in a baby bottle 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 US 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, driven by my favourites, prosecco and champagne, is predicted to grow the fastest at 7.7%.
Enter the McBride Sisters Wine Company, which the sisters founded in California in 2005, first as importers and then as winemakers. Its collection of still, sparkling — and canned — wines has taken the industry by storm in recent years.
Robin McBride and her sister Andrea McBride John co-founded their company in an industry notoriously lacking in diversity of representation. “About one percent of one percent of all winemakers are black,” Phil Long, president of the Association of African American Vintners (AAAV), said in an interview with Wine-Searcher. “If you’re looking at winemakers and brand owners, there are more than 50, but if you’re looking at African Americans who are both winemakers and brand owners, there are 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 delicious glass of wine at a time.”
Here are three important lessons McBride and her sister learned as they built the largest American black- and woman-owned wine company:
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Stop thinking that money solves 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. She says, ‘I have touched everyone’s heart. “I was always on a mission to find causes and find solutions.”
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 doesn’t solve everything. “We can’t afford to play in our industry. The other players are much bigger and will always outperform us,” says McBride. “During the pandemic, we needed to find new ways to engage our consumers. We created a free online wine school on Facebook and filmed the modules from home, and it didn’t cost us much of our time. We didn’t just engage our community. But increased [by providing] Useful content.”
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“Bias is a business killer”
The sisters’ road to building their business is not easy. “There’s an immediate lack of credibility that you can feel from investors who doubt your success as a black female founder, because you must be an anomaly,” says McBride. “Hundreds of questions come your way. Who really owns the company? Who makes your wine? Do black women even drink wine? Prejudice is a business killer.”
Early on, an investor actually recommended that the sisters take on a white man as a partner to help them raise money. But the sisters did not give up; They will not be ignored. “We’re great business leaders, and we know our consumers,” says McBride. “Eighty percent of wine shopping is done by women. And yes, black women drink wine, despite what some of those investors think.”
Today, McBride Sisters Wine Company employs 51% people of color and 93% women, including an all-female winemaking team.
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Celebrate and give back
In 2019, the McBride sisters were invited to 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 that moment and called it Black Girl Magic Riesling. They made less than 100 cases for the event, and the demand was huge. The sisters weren’t prepared for how well it would be received.
“People really loved the wine,” McBride says. “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 hasn’t looked at us as consumers, and it was important to us that we wanted to create a line that everyone could enjoy. Wines for us as a community.
The McBride sisters continue to overcome all obstacles to provide customers with wine that represents their culture, their story, their tastes and their celebrations. “This collection is inspired and intended to celebrate the incredible black women in our families, our communities, and everyone who celebrates them,” says McBride. “This is our opportunity to give back to the many black women who continue to support us.”
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