Welcome to this installment of the Shared Spirits Marketing Industry Influencer Interview Series. Our desire is to share personal stories and interviews of the people behind or associated with spirits, wine and beer brands. These great stories provide context to the narrative of authentic brands. Made up stories aren’t really our style!
In this interview, we’re honored to feature Marisa Sergi. If you don’t know her or her brand yet, take note of this day, you will! We have a literal brand superstar in the making in today’s interview. She far too humble to share that kind of statement or tone in public discourse but take our word for it. This young CEO is dynamic, smart, savvy, and experiencing progress that lays the groundwork for literal global exposure. She’s a Cornell Grad who knows the science of wine making, the business of wine making, and the all important relationship building of the wine industry. In addition to the academic credits, her schedule embodies a CEO willing to pay the high price of time spent in endlessly educating the public on the brand and the wine. Let’s get started!
Sherman: Marisa, what a pleasure to meet you and have you and your story featured in our Industry Influencer Series. I feel after reading up on your story and listening to a couple of your interviews that I’ve met an absolute future star in the wine business. When you share that you’re a third generation wine maker, were your parents and grandparents home wine makers as in community oriented wine makers or was there a wine business you learned about as well while growing up?
Marisa: They were actually both! My grandparents made wine as a hobby and so did my father. In 2005, my father, Frank Sergi, decided to take his passion for making wine and established L’uva Bella, a commercial winery. L’uva Bella produces wines made from California grapes and also sells winemaking juices for the home winemaker. Our family juice business reaches over 14 states in the US. It was a positive experience to be a part of the family business, so I applied to Cornell University for their Viticulture and Enology program to make it a lifelong career.
Sherman: What has been the toughest part of starting a wine brand? Perhaps better said, what’s been your biggest surprise?
Marisa: Starting RedHead Wine has been very challenging. By putting in dedicated hours I have discovered and also have been given many opportunities which I have embraced. Others see the passion for what I am trying to accomplish and want to help. I never imagined RedHead Wine actually being in over 400 stores this soon and having a regional and national roll-out in the works. I could not have done this alone.
Sherman: Are you finding wine making as a male dominated industry or have those barriers been eliminated by now?
Marisa: This industry is still male-dominated, but women are taking a strong interest in the field. My graduating class at Cornell was nearly one-third women, which is a great improvement compared to previous classes.
Sherman: You’ve gained tremendous traction in grocery and retail outlets recently landing Wal-Mart. The production and supply chain commitments had to have been hellish to figure out. What was your strategic thinking taking Wal-Mart on as an outlet? Did you emulate any big brand like Yellow Tail or Skinny Girl as you built your plan?
Marisa: My strategy is to “stay in my lane.” What I mean by that is, I do not want to commit to something that I know I cannot fulfill. Wal-Mart gave me two states (Ohio and Michigan) to start selling RedHead Red Blend in which allows me to grow appropriately. I am currently working on projections so that my products are “on time and in full” to all retail and on-premise locations. This in itself has been more challenging than I realized. I like to think I am the girl next door and I am uniquely different from Yellow Tail and Skinny Girl. Although there is a lot you can learn from their success stories.
Sherman: You interned at Gallo if I remember correctly. What do you feel was your biggest take away from that experience?
Marisa: So much came from the boredom (evenings alone) during the summer internship I had in 2014. It allowed for creativity time that many millennial don’t allow for due to their use of electronics. During the time in product development division, I worked alongside many respectable leaders on the main campus that was empowering and intimidating. My boss, Cal, was especially someone that I looked up to and was one of my mentors. He taught me the importance of teamwork, how to communicate more effectively and encouraged me to think “outside of the box.” My entire experience was priceless.
Sherman: I often remind entrepreneurs that business plans are nothing but guidelines and shouldn’t necessarily be adhered to …they are destinations and the pathway varies.
Have you exceeded your expectations for the brand or did you aim so high, you have a ways to go given your current success?
Marisa: The business plan is so important, over the past few years I have updated or revised it many times. It has shaped the overall vision and execution plan of the brand.
Sherman: Tell us a little about your day starting with your morning routines. Do you have one?
Marisa: I don’t have a routine, every day is unique. Whatever it takes to balance office work, face to face time with customers, community involvement and public speaking events.
Sherman: Other than your cell phone or laptop, what is the most important tool you have for business?
Marisa: The tools I use to assess communication skills. It is important to be able to tell your story so you can connect with people on a much deeper level and make an impact.
Sherman: When you’re not drinking wine, what do you enjoy?
Marisa: Using my voice to share failure and success stories. Giving back through public speaking events to inspire others or point them in the right direction to accomplish their goals.
Sherman: What’s next for Redhead Brands? Can you future us with some predictions?
Marisa: I am currently planning a regional and national roll-out for the brand. My goal is to be able to sell RedHead wines nationally.
Sherman: Marisa, this has been great. What might you wish to share that I missed? Maybe a favorite quote or mantra?
Marisa: “The answer is always ‘no’ if you do not ask.” This psychology has guided me to be brave enough to gain audiences not only with store owners but with CEO’s and top management of Fortune 100 companies.
Sherman: How do readers connect with you and your brand? Any preferred socials you wish to share?
Marisa: Please connect with me on twitter, Instagram and Face book. I am very accessible and always try respond to those who reach out!
Sherman: Thank you so very much for your time. Your story is a great one and we can’t wait to see the growth that lies ahead for you and Redhead! Have some fun learning of the early days of Marisa’s entrepreneurial journey in the video below!