Wine company of three black women entrepreneurs featured on Discovery Channel as they compete for $100,000 in seed capital
A discussion around a kitchen table prompted three women to start their own wine business, and now the three are vying for the final prize of $100,000 in seed capital on the I stop broadcast on the Discovery Channel this Saturday.
Esrever wines was founded in 2011 by friends Jasmine Dunn, Tyshemia Ladson and Ashanti Middleton, and they produced and bottled their first wine in 2018. “Esrever started at the kitchen table of Jasmine’s mother, Cheryl,” explains Ladson. “His house had been our refuge from the world since we were in elementary school, and his kitchen table became our meeting room.”
One evening, the three friends were gathered around the table to discuss the joys and sorrows of life. “We all share a love for wine, and surprisingly there was none left that night,” Ladson says. “So someone joked about wanting to ‘reverse’ the weekend before, and it turned into a conversation about making our own wine to remind us of happier times.”
Their name “Esrever” is “reverse” spelled backwards, but these women didn’t overturn their dreams – they carried on, even though it took them seven years to produce their first wine. “Early on, Ashanti learned in a college course that a creative way to name your business is to take a word and reverse it. The reverse is ‘Esrever’, and that’s how our journey began” , explains Ladson.
Since their first appearance on the I stop on the Discovery Channel, this New York-based winery has seen an increase in sales. The show has its finale this Saturday. “It affected us positively,” Middleton says. “It also increased our brand awareness regionally, as well as in African American wine culture. Above all, I would like to think that our story has given other people the hope, motivation and courage to start their own business.
The show follows the progress of entrepreneurs at six companies who risk everything when they give up their stable 9-to-5 jobs to pursue their dreams, and they are mentored in the process by three business leaders: Tricia Clarke-Stone, CEO of WP Narrative; Harley Finkelstein, President of Shopify; and Debbie Sterling, founder and CEO of GoldieBlox.
Currently, Esrever produces a blend of Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay sparkling wine and a Muscat Canelli using 100% Moscato grapes with a hint of orange zest. The three founders intend to expand their product line and distribution, with the goal of having global distribution, and they would also like to create a mentorship program to help other entrepreneurs.
“We really hope that by documenting our experiences, we can help pave the way for others to get into entrepreneurship,” Middleton says.
The show has helped boost their brand awareness, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. “The pandemic has definitely made things more complex on all fronts in terms of shipping, selling, and even creating the wine,” Dunn says. “It is more difficult to respond to orders as quickly as usual. However, if anything this year has taught us, it’s how crucial it is to be flexible and always think outside the box.
This flexibility and creativity, Dunn says, has helped drive rapid growth in online and in-store sales.
There has also been a growing awareness – and appreciation – of Esrever as a brand because it was founded by three black women entrepreneurs. “There’s been an increase in demand, in part because we’re a black-owned business,” Ladson says. “When Esrever started, the uniqueness of an all-female-owned wine brand always stood out, alongside the fact that it was also black-owned.”
“Recently, due to the current climate in this country, the stories of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, among others, have opened the eyes of the world to see black people as a whole differently,” Ladson continues. “It brought us together and inspired other races to help us succeed by supporting Esrever and countless other businesses.”