Sourcing Seven Sisters Wine: A story of growth and opportunity
It all began at a wine festival.
In September 2005,
set up a tasting booth at her very first wine show -- the Soweto
Wine Festival in Johannesburg, South Africa. Vivian’s
family had recently begun producing wine in theSwartland winelands on the western coast of South Africa.That same day,
founder of what would become Heritage Link Brands
was inJohannesburg for a business trip and discovered that there was a wine festival nearby. She becameintrigued by its location in Soweto, an urban area in Johannesburg which had a reputation for politicalviolence and was also a former home of Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa. She decidedto spend some time in Soweto sampling wines and learning more about wine production in the country. As fate would have it,
Vivian’s booth was one of the first Selena visited th
at day. After being wowed by a few
selections, Selena asked her where she might be able to find her wines in the United States. Vivian responded that she had been having trouble entering even the localchain stores;
the U.S. market wasn’t even
on her radar. As their discussion continued, Selena learnedthat of the $3 billion wine industry in South Africa, only 2 percent of wines available were from blackfamily-owned wineries.
“I had been trying to get into the local stores,” Vivian said. “I ca
lled on some retailers at least nine times in
a year to see if they would take on my product.” Vivian
never secured a commitment from any of them,having been told by a few of the retailers that they would think about it, but she never heard back fromthem. She continued to follow up.
“I sort of almost gave up,” she said.
Vivian is one of eight siblings
seven sisters and one brother.They are from Paternoster (pictured at right), a small fishingvillage 150 km outside Cape Town. In 1981, when Vivian was 16years old, her father lost his job. The family lived in a company-owned house, and, shortly thereafter they found themselvesevicted, having little choice but to split up and move in twos andthrees with relatives and start over.
“It was all very strange to us,” Vivian said.
(To learn more about the family’s story
Because of this life-changing incident, Vivian said,
in my mind, I always wanted to make a change in myfamily
-five years later, after extensive research and a start in the winemaking industry, she saw
“a real opportunity to start with the change.”
Then I found Selena at the festival. It was my first wine show. The idea was to launch locally. America
was so … not in my
. I had no inclination or idea that I’d ever be able to have a product in the U.S.”