LOS ANGELES - In this Black history episode of Culture Conversations, we are celebrating Black entrepreneurs. Host Mimi Brown speaks to Robin and Andréa McBride, founders of the McBride Sisters Wine in San Luis Obispo, as well as David Gross, business partner to the late Nipsey Hussle.
Robin and Andréa McBride: The McBride sisters are Los Angeles natives who endured their own unique personal journey before becoming the first African American sisters to own a winery. Their company, the McBride Sisters Collection, is now the largest Black-owned wine company. The sisters were raised on two different sides of the world, and grew up without even knowing the other existed.
Robin was raised by her mother in Monterey while Andréa grew up with her mother in New Zealand. It wasn’t until 1995 when Robin was 25-years-old and Andréa was 16-years-old that the two met, fulfilling their father’s dying wish. Shortly after, Robin and Andréa soon discovered that they had more than just their DNA in common.
"We learned pretty quickly that both places are eerily similar, Monterey, California, and the area of New Zealand that Andréa grew up in, are both small for one, but also heavily based in agriculture and both were up and coming wine regions and so we both grew up with this backdrop of vineyards and winemaking families and winemakers," Robin explained.
In 2005, Andréa and Robin decided to venture into the wine industry and create the McBride Sisters Collection. Upon developing their company, the two choose to battle the feeling of being "unwelcomed" in the wine industry by creating an enjoyable community-based workplace.
"We want to change how wine is done," Andréa expressed. "The motto at McBride Sisters is 'Break the rules, drink the wine.'"
Robin also spoke on the hardships they faced entering the industry as ambitious, young, Black women. "Essentially we stuck out like two sore thumbs," Robin recalled. The sisters were often questioned about their knowledge of wine, who their superiors were and even asked to show credentials. However, they didn’t let naysayers distract them from their vision and passion to provide for their consumers.
Andréa added that these challenges fueled their mission to "transform the industry, to cultivate community to lead by example, one delicious glass of wine at a time."
One of their most popular lines, the "Black Girl Magic" Collection originated three years ago from an invitation to attend the Essence Festival in New Orleans. During the festivities, the sisters were asked to host a party for New Orleans' first Black woman mayor and the sisters decided to create the "Black Girl Magic" label to commemorate the occasion. The positive feedback from the event inspired the pair to expand on the project, with the intent of creating "exceptional wine for exceptional women."
In 2019, Andréa and Robin started the SHE CAN Professional Development Fund. This fund was based on another brand of wine from their collections, titled "She Can," which was inspired by women’s empowerment. The sisters decided to use the launch of the product to develop a fund that would serve to help women advance their careers through professional development, coaching, mentorship, certification courses, and continuing education.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Andréa and Robin decided to refocus last year’s funds to assist Black woman-owned small businesses, awarding 15 grantees with over $10,000 grants each. In addition to these grants, the McBride sisters have also awarded nearly $300,000 in scholarships in collaboration with their business partners.
David Gross: South LA native David Gross has a vision of restoring his community for the better. Originally born and raised in the Vermont Square neighborhood, Gross ended up moving to Texas at the age of 10. However, upon his return in 2016, he was shocked by the disparities between the different parts of Los Angeles.
"Almost right away, I was like, 'I want to be a part of changing that dynamic and kind of collapsing the Westside and South Central – there should be the same amenities, the same accouterments, etc.'" he said. Knowing that he couldn’t make the impact that he wanted on his own, Gross enlisted the help of Community Icon and Global Influence Nipsey Hussle.
Nipsey and Gross' first business venture together was Vector 90, a co-working space, cultural hub and incubator located in the heart of Crenshaw. Vector 90 served as an inspiration for those in the community to pursue their own personal, professional and academic endeavors. When questioning how to leverage the influence they’ve had thus far, Nipsey and Gross decided to further their community impact even more, "Let’s take our own capital, our own sweat equity and build in these communities. And then, let's let the community build with us."
Within this concept, "Own Our Own" came to fruition. Own Our Own essentially operates on the importance of the African American community owning the communities they cohabit. The documentary in progress to share this vision was unfortunately interrupted by the death of Nipsey Hussle in early 2019.
"Unfortunately, Nip never got to see the finished edit. Since shooting it and since his passing, I think there’s going to be an incredible documentary about his life, there’ll be an incredible movie around his life and this story, this small piece of his life is certainly part of that," Gross said.
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Although no longer physically here, Own Your Own honors Nipsey’s legacy of uplifting his community. The fund will invest in the housing and social infrastructure within underprivileged communities. The fund also plans to support communities in other cities including Chicago, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Miami.
Mimi Brown: Culture Conversations is hosted by Mimi Brown. She is a Segment Producer for Good Day LA and has also worked for NBC News, US Weekly, and ABC News. Brown earned her Bachelor's degree from Howard University and also holds a Master's degree from American University. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter.
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