Nicole Kearney Is Making the Wine Industry More Inclusive With Her Artisanal, Vegan Line

Sip & Share Wines' CEO and founder creates safe, culturally inviting community with her custom wines and guided tastings.

nicole kearney of sip & share wines
Photo: Courtesy of Sip & Share Wines

Have you ever wondered how to turn your dreams of owning your own business into a reality? We can help. Each week, as part of our Self Made series, we showcase female entrepreneurs—as well as their quality, handmade goods—and share their best advice related to starting, maintaining, and growing your own business.

Are you a wine enthusiast? Then you and Nicole Kearney have something in common. Before the vintner founded her own brand, Sip & Share Wines, she simply enjoyed sharing a bottle of vino at get-togethers with friends during her graduate school days. Through this pastime, though, she noticed the lack of Black winemakers and Black-owned wine labels on the market: "An internet search revealed about 30 results. I started letting others know this information and they were either shocked, [questioning] 'Black people make wine?,' or [saying] 'I never knew that.'"

Once Kearney noticed this, she made it her goal to close the gap with her own line and wine expertise. "Like most Black and Brown families from the South, there was a bucket of something fermenting from the fruit grown on the land," the CEO says. "This introduction to 'winemaking' led me to make Sangria for my family and friends."

sip and share wines culture can pack
Courtesy of Sip & Share Wines

Signature Sips

Going back to August 2016, Sip & Share Wines made its debut as a home and event wine tasting company. Kearney made it her mission to introduce Black and Brown winemakers and their wines to Black and Brown wine lovers, while creating a welcoming environment for anyone who enjoys a glass of wine. However, the CEO says that the rules around wine were complex and ended up hindering their growth.

"My business coach suggested we figure out how to become a winery, as our sangrias were a huge success," she says. February 2018 marked the date when Sip & Share Winery was born, and Kearney and her team released their flagship 7 Words Wines ($153.93, just over one year later. "Opening a winery that produces our own wines that are vegan allows us to have direct quality control, maintain accessible prices, and engage our community with employment and wine," Kearney says.

Funding the Label

Kearney got Sip & Share Wines up and running by self-funding her business. "I used my savings and credit cards, and the community supported with their purchases at festivals and events around the country," the CEO says. Ever since starting her brand, she has taken the revenue and reinvested it to fund growth—and she continues this practice to this day.

"The unfortunate racial and civil unrest following George Floyd's death—after countless other Black and Brown lives being lost—and the pandemic have created additional ways for Black and Brown businesses to receive financial support," Kearney says. "We were able to get grants, win pitch competitions, and receive low-interest loans." The business owner says getting credit terms from suppliers took up to a year and has continued to assist with cash flow.

Nicole Kearney

Our mission is to center and connect underrepresented and overlooked communities of wine lovers, specifically Black, Brown, vegan, and LGBTQ+, while welcoming all to join in creating a more diverse and inclusive wine world and industry.

— Nicole Kearney

Creating an Inclusive Wine Community

Along her business journey, Kearney has never lost sight of creating community as her brand has grown. She expands her offerings beyond beverages with her SipSperiences, which are guided, interactive wine tastings put on by the entrepreneur and her team. These fun, personal events are available in person and virtually—the latter including shipped sampler sets for customers. "Our mission is to center and connect underrepresented and overlooked communities of wine lovers, specifically Black, Brown, vegan, and LGBTQ+, while welcoming all to join in creating a more diverse and inclusive wine world and industry," Kearney says. "Many Black and Brown homes don't have wine as their social sip of choice; we provide useful wine information to assist them in navigating wine while having fun in a safe, culturally inviting community."

Making the Vegan Wines

All of the sips courtesy of Sip & Share Wines are made using different takes on the grape. "Conjure Zinfandel ($21.99, is made using the Zinfandel grape," Kearney says, also noting this is one of her favorites in her collection. "Our Love White Zinfandel ($21.99, is the same grape. We limit the skin contact to provide the lighter, rose color and stop fermentation earlier for a sweeter taste." Each of Kearney's signature wines are also vegan, since they are free of animal by-products, like egg whites and pork gelatin. She uses Bentonite clay instead. "My family and friends are plant-based or conscious about what they eat and drink; hence, we only make vegan wines," the founder says. "They're artisanal, as we do the work by hand with some automation."

7 words wine collection
Courtesy of Sip & Share Wines

Since wine names can be hard to pronounce or confusing to people, Kearney made sure her brand's offerings were the opposite. "We give people wine names that are easy to read, colorful, and invoke a mood or emotion they can resonate with," she says. Take the Sip & Share Wines Sipgria ($30,, for example—which is their play on Sangria. "They're a blend of 100% blue agave (used to make tequila) wine, and a red, and a white wine," Kearney says. "Sipgria pairs with family, friends, and fun, and they're in 12-ounce plastic bottles and perfect for the beaches, backyards, pool, patio, porch, park, or boat."

A Toast to Togetherness

As Sip & Share Wines grows, Kearney wants to continue to influence the diversity and inclusion of wine lovers and the wine industry. "We want those who #SipWithUs to know wine is fun and not to be discounted due to the gatekeepers and barriers," she says. When it comes to other entrepreneurs making their way in their own industries, she has more tips, starting with knowing your numbers. She explains that you should create a cash flow projection of expenses and revenue.

Plus, she suggests using your current job as a way to build your vision and financial support when you go out on your own. From there, test your idea and attend pop-ups and other events to connect with your target audience. To keep growing her own following, Kearney is planning to launch a crowdfunding campaign before opening tasting rooms, along with going on a tailgating tour this fall featuring the Sip & Share Wines Culture Can ($40,, her canned wines, and SipBus, her mobile winery.

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