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Lowellville’s Redhead Wine Lands Walmart Tryout

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Bottles of RedHead Wine will be featured on the shelves of 20 Ohio Walmart stores later this year after being selected by the retail giant as part of its Investing in American Jobs Initiative.

Lowellville-based Redhead Brands LLC was among more than 500 companies that made pitches at Walmart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Ark.

“It means a lot that we were selected,” Marisa Sergi, RedHead Wine founder and CEO, said. “My grandma immigrated here with just a suitcase and a dream for a better life for my family. Knowing that I have embraced her sacrifice and will have RedHead Red blend on shelves at Walmart shows me that the American dream is alive.”

Sergi, a third-generation winemaker and winner of the Women in Entrepreneurship program’s fall 2016 WE Launch competition, learned about the Walmart competition from Stephanie Gilchrist, director of the Women in Entrepreneurship program at the Youngstown Business Incubator.

Gilchrist said she received an email from Stuart Gibbs, business librarian at the Public Library of Youngstown & Mahoning County, with a link that informed her that Walmart was seeking Ohio-made products.

“As usual when given such information I share it with the women who participated in the WE Launch program in hopes that someone will pursue such an opportunity,” which Sergi informed her that she did, Gilchrist said.

Sergi, with William Santangelo, Redhead’s vice president of sales, participated in a 30-minute buyer meeting, during which they pitched Walmart on why the company should select RedHead. They worked with John Rossi, a professor and marketing lecturer at Youngstown State University, who was instrumental in preparing them to succeed, Sergi said.

“We had a 45-page deck of data and strategy that the national buying team appreciated,” she remarked.

“This means that we have real traction in the market,” she said. “A Fortune 500 company (Walmart) had no hesitation in accepting our product today. This showcases that we have a great team and a great strategy to gain market share. We have big aspirations and getting the buyers’ attention and approval is humbling for me.”

The winemaker’s RedHead Red brand will be on shelves in its Ohio test market this fall, she said. She will know soon the quantity of Walmart’s initial order. If things go well, the potential exists for a potential national rollout with the retailer.

“We can be a lifetime partner,” she said. “If the product launch is a success, we will remain a vendor and gain more traction nationwide. We will provide Walmart with additional RedHead items as we grow our partnership.”

By investing in products that support American jobs, Walmart is able to bring new products to its shelves that its customers want and new jobs to local communities, said Scott Markley of Walmart’s media relations department.

“Increasing domestic manufacturing will help create additional jobs in the U.S. and that’s good for American businesses. We want to find as many new products that will serve our customers’ needs,” he said.

Sergi said she definitely anticipates creating jobs though the Walmart deal. RedHead Brands has five employees now and L’uva Bella Winery, where RedHead wines are produced, has more than 50 team members. “We are proud to be able to share our wines and create American jobs while doing so,” she said.

Gilchrist and Jim Cossler, YBI’s Huntington entrepreneur in residence, were both pleased Wednesday to hear about Sergi’s success.

“The women who participated in the WE Launch program have been amazing and Marisa is one of the hardest-working women I know. She stays on the road promoting and selling her product. Marisa is ambitious, passionate and willing to take risks to see her dream become a reality,” Gilchrist said.

“We are all absolutely thrilled with Marisa’s new venture with Walmart,” Cossler said. “From the very first day that we met her, we knew she was absolutely destined to take her brand onto the national stage,” Cossler said.

Pictured: Marisa Sergi, founder and CEO of RedHead Wine, and William Santangelo, vice president of sales.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.