Female Entrepreneur Panel
Chief Growth Officer at L'uva Bella Winery / Founder, Red Brands
Back in 2017, Founder Marisa Sergi was driving store to store across Ohio selling bottles of wine by hand with hopes someone would give her a chance, in 2018 she had the opportunity to pitch her brand at Walmart Open call, and to her surprise, they said yes, not to shelf placement, but to authorize the brand to be sold in store by store, something Marisa already had great experience doing. At the time, Marisa had her wine label produced by a winery her family started back in 2006 which produced wines for the local market. By mid-2018 Marisa had gotten her label into most regional Walmart’s, but it was challenging just selling one label, one SKU at a time. When the opportunity came up to manage the family’s distribution business where she would be able to manage not only her brand, but the rest of her family’s wine portfolio she jumped at it. It wasn’t long before the distribution business became the predominant growth vehicle for the company, but by then her parents were looking at retirement and not reinvestment. In 2019, Marisa teamed up with her now husband who had a background in operations, finance, and M&A to put together a plan to buy her parents out of the company and in May of 2020 the winery officially changed hands over to Marisa and Evan. The plan was simple, strip out the product lines that were not making money and aggressively grow the brands with the best chance of national success. Over the past 2 years, Marisa and Evan have been able to scale the business from a local winery selling products across Northeast Ohio, to a multistate regional winery on a fast-track plan to national expansion. Today, the wineries brands can be found across 9 states all the way down to Alabama selling in chains such as Walmart, Kroger, Meijer, Food Lion, Dave’s Markets, DDM, Safeway, Piggly Wiggly, Giant Eagle, and many more. The winery’s goals still remain the same, and the priorities are aligned with the continuation of national expiration as we continue to grab the attention of wine consumers new to the space, intimidated by the selection, or just our right looking for a more modern wine that better aligns with today’s adult beverage consumer.