DEVELOPING A DREAM INTO ONE OF OHIO’S FASTEST GROWING WINE COMPANIES
Marisa Sergi is a third-generation winemaker and one of the forces behind Red’s and L’uva Bella Winery. Her family, of course, lent their support and wine-making expertise, but Sergi wanted to make it her mission to understand the business behind making a good bottle of wine. So, after earning a BS in winemaking from Cornell University, she moved to California to work for the largest winery in the U.S. Upon moving back to Ohio, she launched her initial brand, RedHead Wine, now known as Red’s.
But it wasn’t always easy. Sergi started RedHead from the ground up, and she knew there was a lot she could learn. Sergi looked to the YBI, entering the Women in Entrepreneurship Program. Sergi joined our WE Launch cohort, a 10-week program where she was able to gain valuable knowledge that ultimately helped her project her brand to where it is today. Sergi saw through the entire program, pitching her business at the final meeting, and taking home a $5,000 cash prize, which she used to purchase branded boxes for her wines; a critical piece of packaging she needed before pitching her business to the executives at Walmart!
“The women who participated in the WE Launch program have been amazing and Marisa is one of the hardest working women that I know,” says Stephanie Gilchrist, director of Women and Youth Entrepreneurship at the YBI. “She stays on the road promoting and selling her product. Marisa is ambitious, passionate and willing to take risks to see her dream become a reality.”
“We are all absolutely thrilled with Marisa’s new venture with Walmart,” says Jim Cossler, digital entrepreneur in residence at the YBI. “From the very first day that we met her, we knew she was absolutely destined to take her brand onto the national stage.”
Today, Sergi’s wines can be found in Ohio, Tennessee, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Virginia, DC (and will soon be available in North Carolina and South Carolina). Due to the success of the Red’s brand, in 2020, she acquired her family winery, L’uva Bella, while still developing and executing multiple brands. This has earned L’uva Bella the title of one of Ohio’s fastest growing wine companies while also being recognized by the world’s largest retailer (Walmart) as a “Lead Supplier.”
“We just announced that we are adding a manufacturing facility that will double the current warehouse, and we’re probably going to spend about $1 million on that expansion,” Sergi says.
“Growing your own business takes dedication and a lot of persistence,” Sergi says. “I’d say my proudest moment so far was the day my business partner and I closed on the acquisition of L’uva Bella Winery in May 2020. We worked incredibly hard to make it happen, and our goal is to turn L’uva Bella into a CPG company focused on making modern wines for the everyday consumer. We want L’uva Bella to be a place where our employees can enjoy their work, prosper and support our surrounding communities with more high paying jobs as we progress in this journey.”
Marisa’s entrepreneurial spirit goes far beyond winemaking. Over the past few years, Marisa has spoken to over 50,000 aspiring entrepreneurs and continues to mentor students as an Entrepreneur in Residence at Cornell.