Meet Gracie Flanagan, founder of Sorority Girl Wine. If you haven’t heard of SGW, you’re missing out. This website-gone-brand compiles wine suggestions for those that love to try new wines on a budget. Gracie has used her background in the Greek community to connect with her audience, and simultaneously establish a positive image of sorority women that bashes misconceptions of binge drinking and heavy partying. Gracie is one hundred percent committed to the safe consumption of alcohol. She also knows that women (of legal age) love to eat, drink, and be merry without apology. Gracie has united with several partner brands to cross-promote, and build a successful brand, and is now being asked by vineyards to feature their wines. Ultimately, Gracie learned to balance her academic success with that of her entrepreneurship.
Miss Millennia: Tell us a little bit about Sorority Girl Wine and your role as founder!
Gracie: It was completely unplanned. As a collegiate sorority member, I found myself wanting to find ways to enjoy and enhance my free time and social relationships. Many stereotypes of Greek life are true: we do love philanthropy, enjoying sisterhood relationships, and enhancing our collegiate and post-graduate careers. However; there is a large misconception that every Greek member, especially sorority women, enjoy getting wasted on cheap liquor at extravagantly wild fraternity parties. Realistically, this is far from the truth, especially for me. I did not drink (at all, really) until after my twenty-first birthday. I found no part of alcohol appealing, neither the taste nor social aspects. After turning twenty-one, and as more and more of my friends did too, I found myself in social settings where it felt necessary and appropriate to have an occasional drink. In particular, the one type of alcohol I found myself able to consume without completing wanted to gag was wine. The drawback? Wine can be quite expensive and the wine products on the market are so vast, sometimes it is overwhelming to try anything new. As a collegiate woman, I wanted a place where I could go to easily find a new wine to try that wouldn’t hurt my budget. As a 23-year-old still in graduate school, I tend to make purchases when I have a few extra bucks on hand. Needless to say, I am not budgeting for large wine expenses. I was disappointed at the online sources dedicated to the wine needs of young females. Thus, I bought a $15 web domain and slowly went to work getting together information and products that I felt other ladies, like myself, would enjoy! I posted the site on my social media accounts, and boom diggity, it took off out of nowhere! And now I am here, doing interviews for other media outlets and vineyard tours to showcase new wines.
How do you find new wines to feature?
I’m a label gal. Probably not the best way to go about finding wines, but that’s the dern truth! Typically I go to different grocery or beverage stores (Harris Teeter, Whole Foods, Trader Joes, etc) and just take my time and browse the aisles. If I see a trendy label that catches my eyes, I then look at the price tag…If it fits the price range and looks cool, I most likely will take out my iphone and do a quick google search on the product. Then, if the reviews are positive, I make the purchase and decide if my readers would like it. I will also say that I have been blessed with family, friends, and now brand reps that give excellent leads as to wines they like and think would work for the site. I also have vineyards and other beverage companies that contact me with new wines they would like me to try. It’s always nice to have the wine brought to you!
What steps did you take to establish and build your brand?
Sorority Girl Wine is based primarily from my couch snuggled with my lab pup, Beau. It’s a casual enterprise that I do out of pure enjoyment and relaxation. I find that I am most successful when I truly believe in what I am doing and can motivate myself to reach further to expand and build upon current success. Although the establishment of the website (sororitygirlwine.com) was quite sudden and took off quickly, the rest of Sorority Girl Wine has been slow. I was busy getting my undergraduate degree completed (yes mom and dad, I put school first!) When I have the opportunity, I try and update the site and do research. Slowly, I took to social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc) to market the website, and utilized other brands to help spread the word.
You have some awesome partner brands including The Sporting Gentleman, Angler’s Bay, and Country Club Prep. How did you go about establishing these partnerships, and what does it mean to be a partner brand?
Basic economic principles dictate that in order to produce a profit (whether monetary or social capital), the demand for your good or service must exceed your supply. Our world is based on social media and the globalization that it enables. Thus, I knew I had to utilize other successful brands in order to reach my desired target audience. All three of our partner brands are brands that also target the young female and thus I could easily communicate and relay my beliefs to them about Sorority Girl Wine. I simply reached out via email to representatives for each, and was pleasantly surprised to get such kind and supportive responses. The partnership is truly basic: I’ll give your brand exposure and you do the same for mine.
Building a brand from the ground up often has its challenges. What kinds of challenges have you encountered along the way?
Sorority Girl Wine revolves around alcohol. My primary concern has always been (and will always be), to reflect the Greek Community and Sororities in a positive light. Combining alcohol with Greek Life is touchy and thus deserves the upmost respect. Creating a site that promotes the safe and responsible drinking of alcoholic beverages has been challenging but well worth it.
I notice you have team members including representatives at several universities! What do you look for in a member of the SGW team?
Primarily, someone that has the same beliefs and intentions in regards to Sorority Girl Wine that I do. Again, SGW is a casual brand and one where formalities are typically thrown out the window. Being Greek enables members to have access to millions of other Greeks and their own personal abilities and strengths. It would be foolish of me to believe I could create a successful brand on my own. After serving on the Executive Board of my Sorority, as well as on the Board of other Philanthropic Events, I know that delegating tasks is the only way to complete large tasks.
What advice would you give to young women that want to pursue establishing her own brand?
Don’t wait. Do it. Now. You’re going to come up with a million reasons why it wouldn’t work and the consequences that could arise. Especially if you have anxiety like I do. I’m not saying to go and attempt to start a Fortune 500 company this afternoon. I’m saying to just take that one step towards your desired goal. Whether that is reaching out to a potential employer or business partner, or simply researching brands similar to what you’d like to establish . . . don’t put off that first step any longer.
Finally (and perhaps most importantly), what is your favorite wine on your wine list?
I’ll let y’all in on a secret wine that isn’t on the list quite yet: “Rib Shack Red.” It is the most smooth, sumptuous, sultry, and sexy red blend I have ever tried. At only $12, it is now my official go-to for any red meat meal…or a pint of ice cream. That being said, it may be a harder one to find! In Raleigh NC, where I live, I have only found it at a few places. My recommendation (and if your state allows it), go ahead and order a few bottles online. This holds true for any type of wine. Let me tell you, when it is a cold and rainy winter day, having a box of wine show up at your door is perfect for a night snuggled with your favorite friend or furry companion!
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