Wine isn’t crafted for a specific age, race, or gender — and the industry shouldn’t be, either. To change the trajectory of the aging wine industry (and put common misconceptions to rest), current leaders need to effect change and form a path for the next generation of industry experts.
The future of wine is accessible, inclusive, and colorful.
Black-owned wineries account for less than 1 percent of all U.S. wineries. That’s why The Roots Fund is on a mission to support BIPOC communities and provide tools to help them thrive in the wine industry. The trailblazing organization is pivotal in changing the landscape of the wine and beverage world. To help diversify the industry, Ikimi Dubose-Woodson of The Roots Fund is sharing a few key steps any brand — or individual — can take.
Finding Your Own Career in Wine
The wine industry isn’t just about the tasting room sales. It’s comprised of many different roles, from grape growers, winemakers, and sommeliers all the way to marketers, journalists, and business owners.
Oftentimes, people have great ideas, but they don’t have the support needed to execute them. For every layer of the wine industry, The Roots Fund offers support to help people gain knowledge and feel confident in these spaces. By educating people on these different career paths, the organization helps everyone find their place in the industry.
One of their key lessons is essential: you don’t have to grow up near a Napa vineyard to enter the wine industry. One of The Roots Fund’s scholars was a culinary chef who lost his job due to the pandemic. Now, after working with The Roots Fund team, he’s a fully-fledged winemaker. They’ve seen waitresses lose their jobs who are now providing education for distributors or even have their own wine podcast.
According to Ikimi, the wine industry is all about transferable skills. Most of the people that come to The Roots Fund have a background in hospitality but have been displaced during the pandemic. But that doesn’t mean they won’t thrive in the wine industry; they just need the support. Ikimi says, “You can come into this [industry] with great skills from another sector and transform them into the wine industry and be successful.”
“I constantly reinforce verbally that they are capable, and that you just need to get the confidence. Once you have the knowledge, that confidence will slowly build. You deserve to be in the space. You deserve all the opportunities that you’ve always wanted.”
The Push Toward Younger Demographics
Although the wine industry isn’t aimed at a certain demographic, something needs to be done to pull in younger innovators. After all, they are the future of wine.
First launched last year, The Roots Fund’s high school program is an exciting initiative that’s bringing younger generations into the wine industry. Working with high schools in Chicago, Florida, California, and New York City, this program gives students the opportunity to visit different colleges and universities so they can learn about wine and hospitality. In this program, The Roots Fund also takes them to a winery and has a tasting for the parents.
What most people don’t realize is that, especially in communities of color, many adults aren’t engaged with the wine industry. So, The Roots Fund brings them into the conversation at a younger age and offers up space for Q&A. They go over questions and tips regarding FAFSA, scholarships, grants, and more to help high school students get the education needed to support a career in the wine industry.
EIkimi Dubose-Woodson , Co-founder and Executive Director of
The Roots Fund
Which Comes First: Education or Certification?
For anyone looking to enter the wine industry, Ikimi reminds us that it’s better to pursue an education before certification.
Gain knowledge first through reading. There are many free resources online that can help you better understand the industry. Before rushing to get certified, try to understand the terminology, find a study group or tasting group, and focus on the information that resonates with you. This way, you’ll find your passion and your purpose first, which is a powerful way to enter the wine space.
Founder and CEO
Celebrating her 20th year at the helm, our fearless leader Scout believes in bringing her studio’s pan-industry acumen to an industry seeking to connect with broader audiences. She was honored to judge BTI’s International Packaging Design Awards as well as the 2020 and 2021 Restaurant Development + Design Magazine Awards. Get to know Scout on our Podcast, VINTed or on her feature on Wine Women Radio.
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