In 2019, Chrishon Lampley stood in the middle of New York’s Times Square, looked up, and saw her wine brand Love Cork Screw emblazoned on a billboard.
“That was just one of the best days of my life,” the wine négociant and Polsky Small Business Growth Program alum said. “It was one of those things where you look up and everybody else starts looking up, and I’m looking straight at a billboard with ‘We Go High,’ my rosé, on it. It was unbelievable.”
The billboard was one of a pair that Lampley received as part of a sponsorship she earned through her business’s strong social media presence. She runs successful Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok accounts, a blog, and a one-time radio show associated with the Love Cork Screw brand, with content that focuses on wine, entrepreneurship, and pop culture. Through this presence, Lampley has become affectionately known to her followers as “the Wine Lady.”
“I think my social media resonates because I’ve always been a very transparent individual,” Lampley said. “I talk about both the good and the bad, and let people see the real me. That authenticity speaks to people.”
A Universal Appeal
Lampley launched Love Cork Screw in 2013. The company currently produces seven wine varietals which feature whimsical labels such as “Be the Light” Sauvignon Blanc and “Good Times, Good Friends” Pinot Grigio that appeal to the brand’s target demographic of 25- to 44-year-olds.
“I wanted my brand to feel welcoming and not intimidating and to appeal to both the wine novice and wine enthusiast,” Lampley said.
The company distributes its bottles in 18 states and ships to 40. Consumers can purchase the wines on the company’s website or find them in local and national retailers, including Target, Whole Foods, Meijer, Mariano’s, and Jewel-Osco.
The idea for the wine brand developed after a flood destroyed the art gallery and bar Lampley had been running in Chicago’s South Loop. Lampley oversaw the venue’s wine list and worked on the sales and distribution side.
“Losing my business was devastating and I let myself wallow for a little bit, but then I asked myself, ‘What now?’” she said. “I’ve always had an attraction to wine and enjoy how it brings people together. Some of the best things happen over a glass of wine, from business transactions to family gatherings. I wanted to be a part of that.”
This story was first published by UChicago's Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.