Photo Credit: Courtesy of Ole' Orleans Wines
Meet The Mom Of Three Behind New Orleans' Newest Black-Owned Wine Company
“Being a Black woman with a wine company makes me feel on top of the world,” Kim Lewis, owner and creator of Ole’ Orleans Wines, proudly tells Travel Noire.
The New Orleans native is now among the 1% of Black-woman owned wine companies, and she did it all on her own.
As a woman who traveled often, with her now ex-husband, she found herself wanting to try the local wines created in the places she visited. One day while joking with a friend, she put out the idea to start her own wine company. As an entrepreneur at heart, who was successfully running three healthcare businesses at the time, she realized she could do this.
“I’m not an expert. But, I know what I like and what a good wine tastes like.”
Kim began researching the ins and outs of the wine industry. She tried reaching out to already established labels, but no one seemed to want to help her. What she did learn was that she could pay a consultant $20,000 to help launch her business from scratch.
“When I learned how much money it cost, I said let me see if I can complete this paperwork on my own,” Kim said. “I was able to do it, submit it, and get approved for my license on the first try.”
Next came the task of finding a vineyard to pair with. Initially, the thought was to team up with someone in the Napa Valley area, but they were very pricey.
So, Kim decided to search for a place within the south. She thought she found the perfect match in a company in Texas, but as they neared the final stages the company ghosted her.
She went back to the drawing board and found seven vineyards within Louisiana.
“I contacted them and they all said yes.”
After making the drive to Monroe, Louisiana she fell in love with and settled on Landry Vineyards. Since teaming up, they have been instrumental in getting Ole’ Orleans up and running.
In April of 2019, Kim held her official launch in New Orleans. She was overwhelmed with the support from people that came out to her intimate event. It was such a success, that shortly after she was asked to be a speaker on the Essence Eats stage at Essence Fest this past year.
Each bottle that is released by the brand will tell a story about New Orleans. Currently, there are two white blends on the market, Ole Carrollton and Tchoupitoulas. The next release will be a red and it will come in January. Kim will release a new wine every 3-4 months until she has reached 12 bottles for the 12 labels she has already created.
The wines can be found in retailers around New Orleans as well as wineries in the area. For those who aren’t local, you can purchase via the website and wines can be shipped to 40 states within about 3-5 days. For businesses or restaurants wanting to sell her brand, you can go through her distributor Republic National Distributors.
“After my divorce, I just wanted to start fresh. I knew that I wanted to shut down my healthcare businesses and create something just for me that I could build for my children.”
She works day in and day out to grow her new company and is up many nights until the early morning finding ways to make her brand even better for the next day. Everything from marketing her wines and answering emails, to visiting local retailers to check the shelves.
“I was recently asked to have my wines served at Dillard University’s 150th anniversary gala. I had the opportunity to present Patti LaBelle, who was a speaker, with a bottle after she requested one.”
We asked Kim what it means to now be among the 1% of Black women in this industry, this is what she said.
“I’m humbled. I’m thankful. I’ve even been able to inbox the McBride sisters for advice, and they help me. We all have to stick together.”
She notes that it’s important for those wanting to break into the industry to have tough skin. While you may get several no’s, there will be a yes. As a way to do her part, Kim has created a page dedicated to helping aspiring business owners in any field get started. You can find her DIY Business 101 page here.