Constellation Brands is committed to investing $100 million in Black and minority-owned businesses by 2030 in the beverage and alcohol space. Donae Burston, founder of Black-owned wine brand La Fête du Rosé, is the first business owner to join the initiative and has experienced tremendous growth through the partnership. In honor of Black History month, Donae shares advice for other minority founders navigating the corporate beverage industry in a special Q&A with Lonette Merriman, Vice President, Associate General Counsel, and Kerri Joy, Director, Sales Learning & Development.
Lonette: What is one of the biggest lessons you have learned as a minority founder?
Donae: It's important for minority founders to seek advice and gain other perspectives through relationship building and aligning with industry experts. Minority founders must prioritize building and expanding their network outside of family, friends, and the office environment. By expanding your network, it will increase visibility and access to new opportunities – connecting others with your vision.
Lonette: How can new founders take the first step in networking?
Donae: New minority founders must take advantage of industry events both small and large scale. It is important to invest in participating in events and leveraging social media to build relationships. It is critical to get out of your comfort zone and reach out to those you look up to for advice.
Kerri: How can minority founders set themselves apart in the corporate beverage industry?
Donae: The real issue is that there is no pipeline for minority founders in the corporate beverage industry, therefore it is important to create opportunities to build visibility. Minority founders should consider educating the minority community and building allies through support. Many minority communities are not aware of the many valuable opportunities in the wine and spirits industry, and it’s important to bring attention to this.
Kerri: How do you believe that Constellation Brand’s Focus on Minority Founders initiative will impact the industry long-term?
Donae: The Focus on Minority Founders initiative will continue to set an example for larger conglomerate brands to showcase the value of smaller minority brands. What Constellation Brands is doing is creating a ripple effect across the industry for years to come.
Kerri: What can industry leaders do to continue the conversation for minority founders outside of Black History Month?
Donae: Sometimes I cringe when I get put into the Black founder box. Leaders need to start speaking about minority-owned brands outside of Black History Month more often, and not boxing brands into the minority narrative. Sometimes the intentions are good but, this approach only allows people to see a brand from this perspective. Leaders must continue to search for great brands that happen to be owned by minority founders and amplify them from that point of view.
Read more on Donae’s journey with La Fête du Rosé and the venture opportunity with Constellation Brands here.