We had the good fortune of connecting with Chelsea Stephens and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Chelsea, how does your business help the community?
Vinstinct was founded to help new, Black wine lovers build knowledge, confidence, and connection through wine education and experiences. Wine education and communication are the gateway for social and professional mobility in America. However, like many institutions in America, wine culture is elitist and Eurocentric, excluding many people of color, especially Black Americans. While Black Americans spend billions of dollars ($13B) on alcohol annually, less than 7% ($900M) of these purchases come from wine sales. This huge gap in the market exposes the clear disconnect between Black wine lovers and the wine industry. Our approach to filling this gap and diversifying wines involves the integration of Black culture into wine education and experiences.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
At Vinstinct, we help new, Black wine lovers build knowledge, confidence, and connection through wine education and experiences. Vinstinct developed as a venture between me and my friends who I met at Cornell University during my early graduate school education. We all came to Cornell with very different interests in STEM, Law, and Public Administration. After meeting each other on several occasions, we all discovered that we each had a passion for wine, and this sparked a friendship between the four of us. We would often convene at some of the local bars and restaurants in downtown Ithaca to do our schoolwork in the evenings over a glass of wine or two. During these meetups, we also enjoyed discussing all the new and interesting wines that we would try, especially from the Finger Lakes region. However, when we tried to experience wines with other Black friends and our respective families, they knew far less about wine because they were intimidated by the culture and felt othered in the space. This is why we started Vinstinct.
Unlike many wine education, subscription, and recommendation platforms, Vinstinct tailors wine education and experiences to Black culture. Our goal is to make wines more approachable for new, Black wine lovers through the integration of Black culture into wine. We are still a relatively new startup so we’re focusing more of our efforts on understanding the wine and alcohol consumption behavior of our targeted customer. Our brand is centered around making wine education easy, fun, and non-traditional! There are too many wine specialists, sommeliers, wine educators and influencers that succumb to the pressures of communicating wine in a sophisticated and pretentious manner. The reality is that most wine consumers, especially those a part of our target market, are not looking to be an expert in wine. While our targeted customer wants to better understand wine, they also want to have fun with drinking wine, feel confident in communicating wine, and connect with other Black wine lovers. At Vinstinct, we remove all the elitism and Eurocentrism from wine culture and make it our own.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Since my friends and I can have fun while going to a party or doing something educational, our itinerary would have to include both types of events. Also, I’m a family-oriented person, so my friend would have to meet/ spend time with some of my family too. On the night/ day of my friends’ arrival, we would spend the day/ evening with my family playing games, watching movies, and eating food (Let’s say Sunday, hypothetically). Then Monday, we’d spend the afternoon at Venice Beach then head over to the Santa Monic Pier to grab dinner at Seaside on the Pier and watch the sun set. Tuesday, we’d take a trip down to Long Beach for a tour of the Queen Mary, then grab dinner at a restaurant near there. Wednesday, we’d go the Wax Museum on the Hollywood Strip and then hang out at a hookah lounge for a couple of hours. In the evening, we’d then travel over to Sunset Boulevard to grab dinner and catch a late show at the Laugh Factory. On Thursday, we’d spend the morning and early afternoon with my family getting a quick breakfast at the Coffee Company on La Tijera Blvd., then we’d all drive up to Malibu beach to do a few wine tastings at the Rosenthal Wine Bar and Patio and just hang out on the beach for the rest of the day with the dogs. We’d probably end the day eating In-N-Out since most of my New York friends have never had it. On Friday, we’d spend most of the day relaxing and doing more things with my family, possibly going shopping at either the South Bay Galleria Mall or the Grove, then we’d end the night going to a few different clubs in downtown LA. Lastly, on Saturday, we’d probably do a Champagne Brunch Cruise in Marina del Ray and spend the rest of the day relaxing with my family.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’d like to shoutout my Vinstinct cofounders, Apriele, Tiffany, and Taylor, for working so hard on our company. We’re four different women with very different interests, however our passion for wine and dedication to wine inclusivity have allowed us to thrive in this venture, all while we’re pursuing other professional degrees and careers in science, law, public affairs, and medicine. I really couldn’t do this without them.
Juwan T. McIntyre