Having a dream takes more than just talking about it. It includes having a concrete plan in place, a solid mission and most important, passion.
Although, having the financial resources to bring this all together moves along the process, it takes passion to battle the challenges that most entrepreneurs face when building a business.
The sheer determination and resilience of Chrishon Lampley is what led to creating Love Cork Screw, a wine brand that has taken off within two years of its creation. Lampley, a former gallery and wine bar owner of Chicago’s Three Peas Art Lounge, realized she had a natural ability as an unofficial sommelier.
“We were an art gallery with great wine. In 2010, we won Chicago’s Best Wine List. I’m the one who wrote the wine list — that’s how I knew I was great at this,” she said.
From 2009-2011, Lampley co-owned the intimate South Loop café where they premiered artwork from familiars such as Hebrew Brantley and began to build a list of regular clients seeking advice on wine choices. Unfortunately, a bad flood in 2011 caused Three Peas Art Gallery Café to close its doors, pushing Lampley into a cycle of soul searching.
She says some of her customers continued to stay in contact. “They were used to me telling them where to go and what varietals to drink and what to do in the city of Chicago,” At the time, she was in a dark place, feeling the combination of failure, depression the deep funk of having to close a business. Until eventually, she decided to change that energy and started to write a blog—Love Cork Screw.
Soon, the blog had close to 4,000 followers covering an array of hot topics and happenings around Chicago.
“In the ‘love’ section that I would talk about cool things that happened at 3 Peas — being a single woman in the city based on what I would see happen in the gallery. The ‘cork’ section, I would discuss my latest picks on the varietals and places to go. My ‘screw’ section would be pop culture — cool things happening in Chicago and celebrities.”
Eventually, she was on to something solid, which turned into a radio show. The show grew to net 7,000 listeners.
The idea to create her own brand of wines and the relationships with wine distributors was a tedious labor of love. She felt people wanted wine that weren’t experts but appreciated an affordability and quality.
“I’ve worked both in sales and distribution, so why don’t I do this myself? Why don’t I come out with some wine? It was my partnerships and relationships that I had with different vineyards. That’s a hard relationship to get. You can’t just walk into a vineyard and say, ‘I want my own wine.’ It doesn’t work like that.
Creating a Brand
Through her relationships, Lampley convinced them she could create a great brand, and Love Cork Screw was born. Today, she works with three different vineyards. The brand sports five different varietals which has a unique label for each one.
Cabernet Sauvignon, We’re Movin’ On Up; Pinot Grigio, Good Times, Good Friends; Concord, Hard Knock Life; Niagara,Touch the Sky; and Riesling, Head Over Heels.
Lampley grew up in the Western suburbs and attended Downers Grove South High School, where often she found herself adjusting to an environment that lacked diversity.
“I grew up in an all-white neighborhood — that is a different story. As a six or seven-year-old, I experienced true racism but developed a thick skin very quickly. She says both parents worked hard and taught her independence early in her childhood, which cultivated a sense of wisdom well beyond her years.
“As I look back, it’s amazing how much more mature I was than the average child. It was a lot of resilience. I had a backbone at a young age.” Upon graduating from high school, she attended Western Illinois University, where she pledged Delta Sigma Theta, Inc. relocating to New York City and also living in Las Vegas for awhile — eventually moving back home to Chicago.
The wine business is very competitive, and it’s not for the meek-hearted. Lampley admits it is a challenging industry. “It is hard. Being an African-American woman in this industry — I represent one percent of the entire global industry,” she said.
Passion has been a leading factor in the success of Love Cork Screw with the brand currently being carried in over 50 Chicagoland and suburban locations — including Mariano’s and Whole Foods.
“First and foremost — be taken serious but at the same time you have to put yourself out there. We become a marketing beast on its own. It’s not just me — it’s the essence of the brand. Secondly, I’m that person that said, ‘never give up’. You keep going, you keep doing what you need to do.”