Grape Expectations: See How This Wine CEO Built a Business

Talk about #SparkGoals—Marisa launched RedHead Wine at age 19. Now she’s looking to make it bigger and better than ever.

Marisa Sergi’s goal to be a winemaker was set before she could legally drink wine: She crushed her first grapes with her father and grandfather when she was just a child. By the time she graduated from Cornell University’s viticulture and enology program, the third-generation winemaker from Youngstown, Ohio, was forming her own business plan.

That plan led to her founding and becoming CEO of RedHead Brands, and her wines became available at a range of retailers across Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. She then brought her wines to a Walmart Open Call event, in which entrepreneurs pitch American-made products. This led to the wine being sold in select Walmart stores.

Marisa, now 26, spoke with Walmart World about learning lessons, being authentic, and growing her business.

Business Lessons Learned From Family

I learned how to build relationships, have a vision and make it happen, sell to retail locations, work with distribution companies, and manage a team.

How to Build Credibility

Be honest and listen to feedback. Be fully transparent and never oversell yourself or a product. Trust is what makes any relationship. It is equally important to listen to what your customers want. Any relationship must be mutual.

Advice to Young Entrepreneurs

Work on building something that is meaningful and that you’re passionate about. It is difficult to succeed in any industry if you do not live and breathe your mission.

The Importance of Patience and Persistence

Most of my sales are from going into each store and talking to decision-makers. Often, we had to make multiple trips to the same location to receive a yes. We had to check weekly or biweekly to make sure we received reorders. I am grateful for all of the Walmart associates I’ve met along the way!

Finding Purpose Through Her Passion

In the past, I lacked self-confidence, which inadvertently affected my motivation and vision of what I thought was possible. This was due to being bullied and allowing the negativity to feed my continued self-doubt. Fortunately, my life turned around when I decided to pursue a career in winemaking. I was able to find purpose through a passion because it was something I enjoyed and gave direction to a future that was unique.


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