Catch Marisa Sergi on the #PirateBroadcast
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Russ Johns 0:04
Welcome to the #piratebroadcast, where we interview #interestingpeople doing #interestingthings where you can expand your connections, your community. #Kindnessiscool and #smilesarefree. Let's get this party started.
It's a beautiful day for the #piratebroadcast. #Interestingpeople doing #interestingthings. Today we have something near and dear to my heart. Someone that creates wine for a living and I just, I like wine. She likes wine. We're going to talk a little bit about wine, and also the journey that got her to where she is today. Marissa, how are you today?
Marisa Sergi 0:48
I am fantastic. How are you?
Russ Johns 0:50
Well, I'm very well thank you for asking me. I have to say thank you all the gratitude in the world for you being here. Thank you so much for everyone that has joined the #piratebroadcast in the community. If you're not connected, reach out. Tell them Russ sent you. She'll know that you're a pirate, you're in the community. You're officially retired now. You're a pirate vinary. Let's go back a little ways. Now tell us exactly for those that aren't familiar with who you are. You have a couple of wines that are available. Give us some breakdown, and then tell us what you do. You're the CEO of this winery. You putting out some great product. I love the brands. I love the, Purple Rain, that I want to dig into that a little bit. That's that's a fun, BraNd. Then is it the redhead?
Marisa Sergi 1:55
Russ Johns 1:57
Yeah, yeah. What other ones? Talk a little bit about the winery itself and what you're doing with this and then we'll work backwards a little bit.
Marisa Sergi 2:06
Sure. So right now, my fiance and I have been shooting recently acquired my family's winery. It's called L'uva Bella, about two and a half three months ago, so it's fairly fresh but long history with having this decision come to fruition. I'm a third generation winemaker. I went to school for wine at Cornell University. I also worked at MJ Gallo winery for about a year, year and a half out in California. But Evan has a long history of manufacturing. He's actually a fifth generation of a family business out in Cleveland. Called I Chewman, it's a, it's the largest metal refinery in the country, actually. So he had a lot of experience with that, but he didn't really want to go into the family business. He wanted to make something of his own. So he started his own company called Zai tech, and then transitioned out of that too. build other middle market companies. And he also had a lot of experience building startups internationally. So he had a great experience to take over the winery with my winemaking expertise. So he's actually the CEO of the winery. I'm the chief Commercial Officer. And I'm really working on the development of all the brands are regionally and eventually nationally, but I also control the original brand a started which kind of got me kick started into the industry called Redhead. So that's the 45 seconds of what's going on?
Russ Johns 3:42
Well, hats off to you and and the redhead brand in and also Purple Rain because I just I just, I was looking at those and I'm thinking that is awesome. That is fantastic. And it's not, you know, I I used to live in Seattle and go to the Spring Barrel tasting and you know, in eastern Washington and, I've been down in Portland and out, you know, the wine country there and you know, I've been to Napa and tasting different ones. And it's, it's not a it's not necessarily a simple, easy business to develop. So you're experiencing in the winery business previously, you know, growing up, is really gonna lend itself to your success, you know, at least a little bit, right? Definitely. I mean, this industry is cutthroat, especially distribution and retail. So having the experience watching my family build this business, but also finding an organic interest in distribution and building brands really sparked my interest to take things to the next level. So with developing Redhead as a small brand in 2016, to now one of the fastest growing brands alongside Purple Rain in the state of Ohio where our branching out to other states as well. So we are really lucky to have the support of many communities across the state and other retailers that gave us the opportunity. Actually, Purple Rain is one of the number one schemes in most big box retail or mom and pops. Some of the data is pretty impressive. So I'm really excited to see how fast things are moving out in the market when it's so competitive.
Oh, that's that's fantastic. And one of the things that I've always been curious about because I'm not in the food industry, and you should probably connect with Randall Constant he's in he actually has.
Marisa Sergi 5:42
Oh I know him.
Russ Johns 5:43
Yeah, he's probably already tracked you down. And it's just like, one of the things that always fascinates me with the food industry is supply and demand. You know, because when you open up a distribution area Like Meyer, like you were able to introduce the wind to Meyer and, and they're great organization that, you know, gives you shelf space. Anytime you can get shelf space is a good thing. And I've got a few friends in in the distribution arena, and you have to really fight for that shelf space. You know, it's like, okay, I want, I want I level one right in the middle. And so the other side of that same equation is once you get that and your products are selling, then you have to keep up with the demand. So you have to have backpack a little bit of back stock. So you have to almost anticipate what you might sell in those locations.
Marisa Sergi 6:44
Absolutely, That's what I've been. That's my big project right now.
Russ Johns 6:48
Okay, walk us through that.
Marisa Sergi 6:50
Oh, absolutely. So I'm really lucky that I have great relationships in the market. I'm out there nearly every day all over the state of Ohio, which is our main market right now. And you'll be able to extract out at the store level look at other platforms to see how fast the products are moving and work with our distribution partners. So it's something that I've been able to really dial into and, you know, per store. I know the store, I know what it looks like, I know the people I, I could really envision when I'm looking at these breakouts. So when I am looking at the number I'm projecting, I can say, Well, yeah, I know this is a great educated guess from all the data because I live and breathe in that store as well. A huge advantage because you can look at screens and data all day, but you have that in store experience, you know the name of the manager, you know, the customer, it really helps to know what can't be replicated as we move forward nationally, but it can help fine tune things in the long run. So it's really great to have that experience. And, you know, I couldn't be like an educated guess, it's still gonna be tough to say, I'm gonna sell, you know, 30,000 cases in this market, but I'm really gonna be interested when it comes December 31 to see how accurate I was. So stay tuned.
Russ Johns 8:19
Well, and the other a few key points around that is that building relationships is key to your success, you know, building and developing a relationship and knowing and understanding what their demands are for their business, you know, and that's, that's something a lot of people that are really into data. You know, they don't explore that part of the equation as much you know, the intuitive nature of people will change and evolve and I'm sure that you have seasons that you know, wine is, you know, going to be a little more Yeah, flying off the shelves. And then there's also, you know, we're kind of going through a time that nobody really has a lot of data on, you know, with COVID and the pandemic and everything else, you know, I don't know, maybe people are staying at home drinking more wine. I don't know.
Marisa Sergi 9:17
Russ Johns 9:18
Definitely. Is that is that the case? Is that what you're seeing the trend?
Marisa Sergi 9:23
Yeah, it's especially when the pandemic first hit and the shutdowns happen. Wine sales skyrocketed. But again, no, we want the sales to be under great circumstances. We don't want people over consuming because they're at home and we want it to be at an appropriate level but we're definitely happy to supply the stores with their demand and it's definitely been great to see the the wine selling really well and even open into new markets because people are requesting the wines as well. So it's really worked out to support us as a growing business especially because you just don't know how the, well, originally you didn't know how the pandemic was gonna affect any business, but you're seeing some large operations closing their doors versus prospering and I'm, I'm grateful to be on the other side of the, the, you know, I'm in the white here, so I'm good.
Russ Johns 10:19
You know, it's funny, because how long, how long is the winery been in existence? About 15 years? Okay. So you've been around long enough to understand what it takes to, to, you know, the business is seasoned. It's not, you know, just, it's not a start up any longer. It's an established business. You have clientele and everything else. Now, what part of your business is or what kind of the wine is, is it grown on on site or is it shipped in for capacity. You have other vineyards that are growing grapes for you? Or how does that percentage How does that work for you?
Marisa Sergi 11:03
Yeah. So, with us we buy 100% of our products from other vineyards, we do not have a vineyard. I personally think it's the best business model for us. Because if you sort of vineyard from scratch, you don't get the fruit until five years down the line, you have to make sure it's properly irrigated and the drainage income costs up to $100,000 a hectare. It is not just something you get into plant a few vines and everything's great, it's very expensive and risk so we'd like to support a lot of the vineyards that are already established out in California we use a great broker to help select the best quality year over year which gives us a huge competitive advantage. Unlike other wineries that own vineyards if they have a bad crop where they get to do with it. So we're really trying to source the best quality Canada every year as well as for our Purple Rain line. We are using a lot of concrete vineyards out in northeast for Ferdonia all over the country and you know, Michigan like Benton Harbor and even Washington so we have a lot of resources and we know we're going to get a great product which gives us confidence to march onward with producing our wines.
Russ Johns 12:18
Yeah, it's it's not an easy business being a being in the wine business and being a farmer. I mean literally,
Marisa Sergi 12:27
Russ Johns 12:29
it's it's it is tough and it's very it's very you know, sensitive to the weather the seasons that everything else and if you're buying in you're buying from other vineyards, then you have an ability to operate and scale because you can also gather up some grapes if one areas, you know, weather is is a little challenging one year you can actually get grapes from another area. So wise move.
Marisa Sergi 12:58
Russ Johns 12:59
what About the restaurant industry is are you in restaurants as well locally there.
Marisa Sergi 13:04
So with the history of the business, we do have a small Bistro. We are at least Evan and my focus is our commercial operations. So we do have a complete separate staff and so on that runs that separately for our business. So we are a commercial operation with a bistro associated but it's a very separate entity for us where people can interact and purchase the wines but our core competency is all of our commercial operation. When it comes to custom crush. We do a lot of custom crush for wine.
Sorry, I should have put my phone Do Not Disturb. I was getting a phone call so it went black I apologize. But also we distribute to retail and bulk wine as well. So Little bit of everything
Russ Johns 14:02
over cool. I was just thinking to the restaurant industry and how hard it's been hit during this.
Yeah. So the restaurant industry has been really hard. So not being dependent on that is probably, you know, in your favor at this point in time. I would Yeah. Because if you were to if you're depending on restaurants to be able to produce results for your business that might be a challenge.
Marisa Sergi 14:56
Yeah, we absolutely understand the challenges and we That's why we separated the entity completely. So it's simply a singlely run and something that we are really not involved in at this time.
Russ Johns 15:10
Yeah, I don't see it. And are you? I mean, we met on LinkedIn. So are you also using other social media channels to meet and build relationships with organizations and stores?
Marisa Sergi 15:25
Absolutely. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, I'm also on tik tok. So I'm using all the forms in a very comedic manner, but also having a lot of fun too. So
Russ Johns 15:38
that's fantastic. Well, we should probably find out if there's some people in the room that have some questions here.
Marisa Sergi 15:43
Okay, that would be great.
Russ Johns 15:45
That'd be awesome. Gabriel. Good morning, fellow pirates. Angie. Yeah. Good morning pirates. Mert? Hello, Russ & Marisa hello fellow pirates greetings from Ankhara turkey WOW. Amen. And here's Khan. Good morning Russell and Marisa, Ahoy, pirates. And then, Karen. Good morning pirates. Karen. Thanks for connecting. I appreciate that. And then Karen Spooner Kathy Spooner. Good morning, Kathy, how are you today? you have any questions for our guests, our new pirate in the community? Byron Good morning. Let's whine about it. Let's wine about it. Good morning everyone and fellow pirates. Then we have Sherry Good morning, my friend. Gabriel. Thanks. I had a great conversation with Gabriel yesterday. If you've been on Gabriel show or not, he has the "made from scratch broadcast" every evening. He does it five days a week as well. It's great to be able to build on that a family legacy extended to renew the brand with the new family is the next generation. That's that's a great point Kahn. And Marissa, maybe you could speak to that a little bit. Because, you know, if you'd had a business for a while, there's a lot of things that just automatically, you know, you know, inherently you go through business. And when somebody else comes into it, it adds a new dimension. Sometimes that's productive. And, and sometimes that's a little bit challenging at times. What's your experience so far with your, with your, your business partner right now?
Marisa Sergi 17:36
It's been great, honestly, the transition was absolutely necessary. There are a lot of organizational issues where, you know, my parents are a mom and pop type of group and we're really working on professionalizing things and implementing technologies that are super important to our success of the business and for example, we're tracking Inventory with the new venturi system. And we have to our codes when all of our tanks and barrels where we could just scan it and see, you know how much what capacity it's holding, what varietals there, what's the free SO2 and when is it due for bottling. So we have all of the technology in our favor. And it's really going to help organize the wine staff and of course, our warehouse as well, because you need to know all these things that is really your pen and paper originally. So not only that, but really implementing all the no additional accounting services and adding more people to the team. We've hired three people since the acquisition. So we're really excited to move forward and everyone's been really great to work with the culture has improved significantly and everyone's really happy to be here. So we've had nothing but positive feedback from the team and we foresee that continuing onward for the rest of the year
Russ Johns 19:03
That's fantastic. I love to hear that kind of feedback from business owners that are that are emerging out of their current situation we're in 2020 is like, okay, a lot of people can take a reset. And there's a lot of people that are using it as a reset, to build and grow their business. So I'm kind of curious, how did you what prompted your parents to get into the business in the first place? What was that story? What's the story behind that story?
Marisa Sergi 19:34
Yes, so my father. It's kind of a sad story, but he really turned it around the story for the Ohio Department of Transportation and he was in his truck eating lunch in 1998. He was hit by a drunk driver that went through a red light and he had six dislocated disks in his backing neck, so he was really injured and he was earning workers comp and He's like, okay, I can't, I want to do something with my life but I'm not able to do a lot of physical labor. So when you started selling wine that he made to his friends, which turned into, okay, how are you going to make more wine so they're buying grapes and juices to sell to its friends and then it turned into a large business where we actually launched through the geo Russa company it's a Italian food specialty, producer distributor in the Youngstown area. They go by Father to use their warehouse so the first year or two to use the cooler to make sure that the grapes and juices were at a optimal temperature until we were ready to produce and sell and my father built the first winery which is our original and current location in 2005. So we've really grown significantly from very humble beginnings to work, the largest wind producer in the state of Ohio.
Russ Johns 21:02
Marisa Sergi 21:03
Russ Johns 21:04
That's fantastic. That's fantastic. So, you know that this is one of the stories like I was a musician. I fell three stories and broke my arm and had to change my whole life. Much like, much like your dad, you know, unfortunate circumstances turned into something else that all of a sudden you're going down a new a new path, you know, creating something completely different. So you grew up in, I mean, you grew up, as, you know, all of a sudden, hey, Marissa, go do this, go do that. And you know, you're wearing all these kinds of hats. So you kind of learned all all the elements about the business as well.
Marisa Sergi 21:45
Yes, absolutely. And being around the dinner table when I was younger and listening to dicussions, you know, you learn a lot and don't go into Cornell University for four years for winemaking also helped
Russ Johns 22:01
That, that that probably and then working in California, I'm sure that had a little bit of a impact as well.
Marisa Sergi 22:07
Russ Johns 22:08
Yeah. So let's see who else is in their own today. I really, it's what we do here is the community is really wonderful. Yeah. Oh, Gabriel, thanks for the link. And then also, Kenyatta Hey, Rob Stathum. Do you know Rob, are you connected with Rob? I'm not sure. Rob is up in Toronto area. He's a small Yay. He does a lot with wine so it'd be great to have you guys connect. Morning. What's this about? It Devore this is about wine and winemaking. And she says God bless. Gabriel, I'm sure wine is fun to make but even very experienced, make it disappear.
Unknown Speaker 23:00
depends on who you talk to. Yeah,
Russ Johns 23:04
you talk to Oh, Kenyatta Good morning, wonderful friend, you always bring sunshine to the room. And then Arthur is here, Arthur. Hey, art. How you doing? Man? I sent you an email yesterday. I hope you enjoyed it. So do you personally taste test your product? Marisa?
Marisa Sergi 23:24
Well, absolutely, we're huge on quality here. But not taste testing. Like, I think you're insinuating. But yes, only in a professional manner. Lots of quality control here.
Russ Johns 23:38
Yeah, I would imagine. Because that's, I mean, from batch to batch, how do you how do you grow or develop the consistency across batches? Yes, that's the blending process. So how does that work?
Marisa Sergi 23:53
Yeah, I mean, we have nothing but consistency here when it comes to our retail brands. Everything is very similar and we stick to a very regimented process to make sure that the quality is consistent batch to batch so we don't really have any concern when it comes to that. But when it comes to our higher end, barrel age, traditional varietals, yes, we want it to be a little more unique and we really baby that process to make sure it's exactly the way we want to produce it, but also for our custom crush clients that we're designing the line to their specifications as well.
Russ Johns 24:33
Yeah. So do you have any favorites like like, special wines you've created that are like, yes, this is this is really special to me.
Marisa Sergi 24:44
Definitely our 2015 Montegulciano. We used French and American oak for this special vintage and we blended it to make a very fruitful work get zesty, a Montegulciano that is doing very well. It's a it's actually one of our premiere products. It has a 22 karat gold label screen printed on the bottle. So it's definitely something I'm really proud of and something I really enjoy.
Russ Johns 25:10
Oh, wow, that's awesome. How many wines do you actually produce? Currently,
Marisa Sergi 25:15
for the retail market? We have four core brands that we sell but we sell other unique varietals that are bistro or to high end wine shops.
Russ Johns 25:28
Okay, and do you do like I I've experienced in other areas do you do in your area? Do you do spring barrel or barrel tasting or you know when, when that's first emerging as the wine people get to take their first test and maybe buy a case and put it in their cellar for a few years?
Marisa Sergi 25:51
Yeah, we definitely do special events, especially for people who joined her wine club but because of COVID and since we purchased the company drink since Covid We haven't done anything like that, but we really look forward to having special events such as what you described when things become safe again, so this is
Russ Johns 26:11
Fantastic. I love this, it's kind of fortunate and I don't know, I don't know if that could be reproduced virtually like this but it's just not the same you know, you get you get some wine and cheese and you got some a few things, finger foods and you know, wine and you're having conversation about the vineyards and the vintage and, you know, the different varietals and things like that. It's just a fun experience. And I just, I haven't done it for years and I miss it. So I look forward to when that's available to us again. So that will be fun. Let's see who else is in the in the house here today. Arcot he's on the other side of the room. Happy Pirates happy morning evening, Marisa. privati wine makers amazing here in India also. Yes. All over the world. There's wine in India Christmas season here we make it ourselves and our family is it's very big business big as a business too. That's fantastic. Howard says what is the most critical success factor for the next 90 days? That's a great question, Howard.
Marisa Sergi 27:29
Definitely being organized when it comes to communicating to our distributor and retail partners. Christmas is around the corner, although it's August but you'd like to plan sooner than later because that's where you do a lot of your sales and a lot of consumers are looking for something new or exciting to celebrate with their friends and family. So really implementing our Christmas programs to get approved into the retailers as well as keeping our team organized for harvest. As we are starting to bring our first several tons of grapes over from California, I think, mid September, so quite the chaotic couple couple months here.
Russ Johns 28:16
That's fantastic. Howard actually has a startup around mouthwash and toothpaste in the organic arena along with CBD, and it's, it's amazing. So I'll be talking to Howard as well later on in this point. I'm trying to get him on the show to talk about his products and service. That'd be kind of fun. Also, Kathy, good morning, Russ. Hi, looking good. Thank you so much. Andrew is in the room. Where's the winery located in Ohio?
Marisa Sergi 28:54
Yes, it's located in a small town called Poland, Ohio. A little bit outside. Youngstown on the PA border near Newcastle. You can check us firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to check out more information.
Russ Johns 29:10
Yeah. And all of the links from today's show will be in the podcast after the show, so we'll have that announced. And then Arthur Jones. Whoo. There we go. Good morning. You could see how these go back and forth. great stories. Thanks, Russ. Joanie. Thanks for joining us. Joanie. Appreciate you sending love. Karen says Hi, Arcot. Do you have a worldwide in India? Is it worldwide or do you not? Oh,
Marisa Sergi 29:44
definitely not. We are just focused on appropriate expansion. We are selling in Ohio, West Virginia lately in Pennsylvania. And we're expanding to Kentucky and Virginia here soon. So stay tuned with those details. As I able to share those
Russ Johns 30:02
fantastic no reason not to have a winery in Ohio, that you don't have a box. Love that you don't have a box. So well, Marissa, this has been fun. This has been wonderful. I'm glad you helped us understand the wine industry and a little bit more about the redhead and the Purple Rain. I love I love your brands, I love your your way things look and feel all the success and wishing you the very best and all your adventures. And so thank you so much for being here. Any last words of advice or legacy ideas or thoughts that you want to share with the community?
Marisa Sergi 30:44
I think the best piece of advice I ever received was the answer is always no if you do not ask. So really put yourself out there and really try to curate those relationships to grow your career business. It's been really great to see how much positive How many positive connections I've made over the last several years by just reaching out and showing up. So think that nugget to take with you the rest of the week.
Russ Johns 31:10
Fantastic. Well, I appreciate you and thank you so much for being here. And we look forward to future conversations. Maybe when a when you're doing a new product launch or something, you can come back and join us. Give us an update. It'd be, it'd be fun. And please connect with the Pirate community because there's a lot of great people here that are doing some amazing things. And it's all based on a little bit of kindness. So, we all believe it. #Kindnessiscool, and #Smilesarefree, and you #Enjoytheday. Thanks. Take care. Bye.
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