Bright Cellars Has a Bright Idea

A Word from My New Friends from: Bright Cellars  

A New Way to Drink Wine

Bright Cellars has discovered a new way to sell wine

Bright Cellars has discovered a new way to sell wine

The wine industry can be an intimidating place, especially for millennials. It’s been perceived as pretentious and uppity for so long that it has driven away consumers, even intimidating prospective winos out of the wine aisle altogether. But thanks to two MIT grads with a love for wine and a desire to make the industry more accessible and entertaining, a huge shift has been inspired. It began with two roommates: a vehement business student and a merlot-sipping tech genius. Enter: Bright Cellars.

Monthly Subscriptions Ain’t Just For Magazines

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Bright Cellars is a monthly subscription wine experience that matches member with personalized monthly selections. Members take a short quiz to share their taste preferences for food and beverages, which Bright Cellars then uses to design each member’s very own personalized taste profile. Based on this profile, the Bright Cellars algorithm identifies specific wines that are likely to match the member’s tastes. Bright Cellars’ slogan is literally “discover wine you love.” Not only do members get to rate and review four wines a month, but often this results in finding their new favorite wine, usually one they would otherwise never try.

Understanding the
Millennial Demographic

Bright Cellars

Bright Cellars has discovered a new way to sell wine. Wine + Custom Choices + Mail = Happy Millenials.

The subscription component of Bright Cellars is also a major score with the millennial demographic. Millennials as a group are likely to invest in products that feel personalized and reflect their personal style and brand. Bright Cellars promotes this customization through matching each member to each wine specifically. It’s as much of a wine discovery project as it is a wine education experience, with flavor and aroma profiles, and a blog that explores and explains the wide world of wine.

What Wine Can Learn from the Craft Beer Movement

Bright Cellars has discovered a new way to sell wine. Wine + Mail = Happy Customers.

Bright Cellars has discovered a new way to sell wine. Wine + Mail = Happy Customers.

“Other wine subscriptions have focused heavily on discounting and no one has solved the heart of the problem yet: There is a ton of high-quality wine out there that our members will love that they would never otherwise try, learn about, or have access to. Bright Cellars is the fun, interactive way to experience new wine,” says Richard Yau, Bright Cellars CEO. As Yau puts it,

“Millennials are ready for this. Nearly all of our new members learned about us through social media or bloggers. I think we can do for wine what craft beer has done for the beer industry.  We can help wine drinkers discover and learn about the world of wine. Gallo and Constellation Brands are looking at how to engage millennials, and I think we have that solution.”

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A Christmas Revelation

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By: Guest Author, Lorac

While I waited for my ride in the relative comfort and warmth of the historic building’s entry hall, the woman opposite me caught my eye. She stood outside, in the cave of a cold, stone entryway of the shabbier, old building across the street. The icy, unrelenting wind roared around her, swirling up her summer-weight, lavender print, ruffled muumuu revealing mismatched white athletic socks, one edged with a wide band of Christmas red, and the other with Buffalo Bills blue. Only a top button secured her dingy grey jacket, which had long lost its puffy, insulated warmth. Her size did not allow for complete closure of the coat, so she gripped the edges together over her ample chest with her bare cold-cramped, right hand. She covered her straight, grey hair with a bright red, plaid neck scarf, looped securely under her chin against the biting icy gusts. Her left arm held a faux alligator purse which held treasures known only to her … and which she frequently inspected.

My first instinct was to feel sorry this woman. Then, I started to wonder about her. Who was she? How old is she? (Since I am approaching my golden years, I always wonder if a person I meet is younger, or if I am. I have acquired this quirk as a new senior.). On I reflected … where was she going? Is she waiting for someone? What is her life like? What WAS her life like? Is she happy? Is she excited about the coming holiday season? Did she fuss before a mirror to get dressed for this outing?

As I mused, she suddenly turned and opened the streaked glass and tarnished copper door, flashing the bright, silver reflective Nike symbols on her white sneakers as she crossed the threshold into the lobby of the building. I was disappointed to see her leave without any more clues to enlighten my imaginings about her. No sooner did that thought cross my mind when she re-appeared, now with a small change purse in her left hand. With her stiff right hand, she pulled out what appeared to be a large coin, a quarter, perhaps, and flashed it to a young man who crossed the street toward her … possibly a friend. She called a greeting, smiled broadly, revealing a few missing teeth, and spoke a few words to him. Unfortunately, I could not hear what they said from the cocoon of my warm refuge filled with inviting restaurant smells and Christmas music. I could see, however, that he responded; then they both laughed, and he went on his way. She stepped back inside again, only to once again re-appear, this time stuffing something into her side pocket and gripping her change purse close to her chest. She smiled and chatted to yet another passer-by, and I realized that she seemed quite content to “hold court” in this archway. Perhaps these individuals were part of her social circle inside that forbidding (to me) old building.

I noticed heavy drapery from another era in the windows of the building, which served as a hotel of sorts. Perhaps one of the rooms I spotted a few floors up was hers, or a gathering spot for chats, bingo, and games with her family of friends. Perhaps she left this refuge to wait for a bus to take her to a long-awaited destination – a Christmas party, possibly, with a hot, nourishing lunch, treats, candy, and gifts in gaily-wrapped packaging tied with festive bows. I do not know. I can only hope it is so.

I will never see her again, or have the answers to my questions. Nevertheless, this I do know. This woman, shabby and down on her luck, at least in my eyes, has her purpose here on earth, just as we all do. Was she one of those classic Christmas Angels that you read about this time of year, who was earning her wings, like Clarence in It’s a Wonderful Life? Did God send her to stand in front of me to make me aware of the fact that His children come in all sizes, shapes, and from all lifestyles? Did she appear to make me, and perhaps you, determine to make better the lives of the people she represented?

I know what the experience did for me … it gave me a call to action. Perhaps this story will strike a chord with you and you will make something fabulous happen for those less fortunate. After all, Christmas and Hanukkah are the seasons of miracles. Three rich and powerful kings traveled, guided only by a star and a yearning, to worship a newborn baby in a stable, hoping he was the promised Messiah – and he was; and an ancient lamp burned, miraculously, for 8 days on one day’s worth of oil. Our current miracle may have happened on a frigid and blustery day in Downtown Buffalo. What do you think? Oh, listen, I think I hear a bell tinkling somewhere … do you think our lady has earned her wings?

 

About Lorac:

Our newest guest blogger, Lorac, has been writing since the 80’s when life turned uninteresting. To release the boredom, Lorac dashed off a trilogy of stories and took them to the owner of the local newspaper in their small tourist ski town in the northeast. He liked them. Lorac got the job. Over the years, writings by Lorac became a fixture as the town grew exponentially into the now famous Ellicottville, New York, home to Holiday Valley which has ranked in the top five ski towns in the north east for many years.

Lorac has created tourist materials for the town, and created an annual parade in the middle of winter, on a state highway, at night, which might give you a view into the personality of our blogger. Lorac has managed one of Ellicottville’s top restaurants, written for the top quality Buffalo Magazine through its lifetime, is a part time lay preacher, was involved with establishing the first hospice in the Buffalo NY. area, was one of the first in Buffalo to hold a NYS certified EMT card, and helped to establish the first FAST (First Aid Simulation Team) in NYS.

Lorac says there’s a funny dog story attached to this one. Perhaps we’ll read it someday. One of this writer’s favorite positions was with the Seneca Nation of Indians as a Project Manager in charge of procuring doctors and other medical personnel for the Nation’s two health centers, which involved developing, scripting a first ever video of the Seneca Nation while being taught the ancient Seneca language by one of their revered elders. A parent of 3, grandparent of 4 (tot to teen), Lorac enjoys writing, gardening, DYI projects, cooking, the smell of sawdust, chocolate, fried chicken and gasoline, and is, naturally, a voracious reader.

Guest Blog: How Do You Start a Bank?

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By Beth Alexander, Private Banker and Communications Director of CapStar Bank

With an ongoing 30-year career in banking, Claire Tucker had a terrific job as state president of a growing bank, doing what she loved and knew well. Then one day in 2007, she got a call from an old friend, a former bank president she had worked with nearly a decade earlier at First American Bank. He had an unusual proposition: Let’s start a bank.

That would mean giving up her secure current job in the upper echelon of her institution and starting to work on…a dream.

The idea for a new bank was confirmed by market research conducted to determine whether middle Tennessee really needed another bank. The research found that while very large institutions were well-served by large banks and mom-and-pops were getting the attention they needed from small community banks, there was a lack of service to the businesses in the middle—mid-size businesses and family businesses that were growing or going through transitions that required both expertise and patient listening on the part of a financial banking partner. This resonated with Claire: She believed it and believed she could sell it.

Working with her old banking friend, the future chairman of the board, they raised more than $88 million in the fall of 2007 from nearly 300 mostly local investors, people who, they hoped, would open accounts and generate buzz about the new bank, CapStar. At that time, the Dow hit an all-time high of 14,164, and prime rate stood at 7.75%.

They worked with the bank’s new board to develop an ambitious but realistic five-year plan and began hiring experts, many of whom came from the core of successful people behind First American, to build the bank—crafting its lending policies, purchasing the latest bank software, building a culture of hard work and a strong team. One of their outside-the-box decisions: hiring me, a magazine editor, to join their sales force of highly experience bankers. Scary? Yes. And exciting. During those early sales meetings before the bank opened, I had a hard time visualizing exactly how it all would come together. But our leadership team was brilliant, far-sighted and working every hour to be prepared for the day when the Fed would issue the letter that allowed us to open.

CapStar opened on July 14, 2008, between the meltdown of Bear Stearns and the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, followed the next day by the AIG bailout. By then, prime rate had dipped to 5.0% and only five months later, it sank to 3.25% where it has stayed ever since. On December 16, for the first time in history, the Fed lowered its benchmark interest rate to zero. Did I say it was scary before? What kind of chutzpa did it take to open a bank in this environment? While it seemed as if we were walking a tightrope, our timing was serendipitous. All around us, other banks experienced the softening of their loan portfolios, while we had a clean balance sheet and the capacity to lend. Because of this, CapStar was also an attractive option to those who wanted to take their gains out of the market.

Now I understand what happens when a bank is born. Claire never lost her cool or her sense of humor; she never let us lose sight of the mission to meet the needs of those underserved mid-size businesses, their executives and their workforces. CapStar adopted the tagline, We’re Listening, to reflect our single minded intent to deliver on exactly what the customer needs to fulfill a financial goal—not simply to offer a product but to find a tailored solution.

Within three years, we were operating at a profit, and today CapStar is one of only two billion-dollar banks in the country out of the more than 70 that opened in 2008. In the past seven years, we’ve purchased and integrated a terrific bank in Sumner County along with a mortgage division and added financial planning to our menu of services.

Because of Claire’s leadership and that of the other leaders around her, I’m surrounded by colleagues at every level who are not bound by a 40-hour work week. We’re available to our customers at night and on weekends, and I consider my customers and my coworkers friends. They’re also my inspiration to get a little more done each day, wherever it’s needed. We all perform whatever task is necessary to get the job done for the customer and, as a team, for each other.

It is an inspiration to work with our President and Chief Executive Officer Claire Tucker every day—a woman who is always 100 percent engaged, personally attentive and wise in many ways, not just banking, although that is no small thing. Claire says she’s a late-blooming entrepreneur, but though she may have come late to the start-up party, her years of experience, the respect she wields in the community and her personal integrity give each of us a standard to aspire to every day. I can’t imagine a more effective model for leadership.

And if any of us ever need anything from our CEO, she’s listening.

 

Guest Blog: It’s All About Passion!

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By Gina Butler, Founder and Chief Brand Officer of Gigi’s Cupcakes

Im passionate about baking and that allowed me to found Gigis Cupcakes. My entire family loved to cook and bake, so I grew up around it. My Aunt Bennie owned a bakery and catering business and I would spend summers with her. I’d help her bake, cater events, and read her cake decorating books. I loved to bake and had a passion for it at an early age, but my dream was to be a country singer. In 1994, I packed up and moved to Nashville with less than $500 in my pocket. I decided to pursue a country music career instead of going to college. During the day, I operated my small cleaning business and at night, I would sing at the bars and honky tonks near music row. In my early thirties, I realized that my music career was unlikely to take off so I decided to focus entirely on my cleaning business. A few years went by and then my brother called me while I was cleaning a home and told me that he had waited in line at a cupcake bakery in New York for hours. He said, “Your cupcakes are better than these. You should open up a bakery.” I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror and decided to go for it. I opened my first cupcake shop in February 2008 with only $33 left in my bank account. Now, seven years later and against the odds, Gigi’s Cupcakes has grown to be the largest cupcake franchise company in the nation. We just opened our first international location in early 2015 in South Korea and hope to continue to expand in other countries. summer4-600x660I think back fondly on those summer afternoons with Aunt Bennie, who is now part of the Gigi’s team, working on product development in the kitchen with me. We have over 300 recipes at Gigi’s Cupcakes and many of them have a rich personal family history originating from my grandmother, great aunts, my mother and other relatives, many of whom are bakers.

Im passionate about my company and how we do business, so when the opportunity to be on Undercover Boss came along, it was an easy YES! It was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I just couldn’t turn it down. We were one of the few small companies that they have ever highlighted. I had to do it and I’m so glad I did.

People often ask me what I was most surprised by during my experience. Two things that surprised me most were: 1) I was surprised by how many passionate and wonderful people work for us. It’s not just a job to them, they truly care about the business and the brand. 2) I was also surprised that we were consistently inconsistent. We didn’t have the exact same procedures from one store to the next. I knew we needed to address that immediately. The experience greatly benefited us! We learned a lot during my journey and we haven’t been the same since. Filming Undercover Boss was a gift that I will always be grateful for.

Guest Blog: Culture Trumps Strategy

unnamed By Sarah Schleicher Princehorn, Business Performance Advisor, Insperity

In my role, I sit down with at least 10-12 business executives every month to learn about their business. I’ve always been fascinated by the entrepreneurial mind—a person who typically risks just about everything to pour their heart and soul into an idea, with the hope that it will take off – but no certainty.

I’ve had this position for three years, but recently the way I listen to executives has undergone a dramatic shift. In January, I went through a personal crisis and instead of penalizing me for letting my personal life affect my professional persona; my company chose to INVEST in me.

I was given the month of January off to focus on my family and myself. While every company has to honor the regulations of FMLA, what Insperity did for me is unheard of.

I explained my situation to our Community Involvement team via an electronic application. I explained that over the course of the previous six months, I’d had two surgeries and been hit hard with a bout of postpartum depression. I felt like I was falling apart.

Within 24 hours, I’d been put in touch with a third-party non-profit organization, scanned over copies of all our bills for not only the month of January, but also for February, and checks were en route to my home via FedEx. My husband and I were both stunned. We were both shocked and humbled that my employer would take care of me in such a manner.

When I returned to work mid-February, I came back with a changed attitude. Obviously my work performance had been affected by my post-partum depression, but the change was much deeper than that. I was altered fundamentally, in how I interacted with the executives and in every conversation I had with them about their people.

I am now a firm believer that Culture Trumps Strategy every day of the week. It doesn’t matter who you are, or what your company is all about. I can speak from personal experience that creating a culture of support and value for your employees is well worth the investment.

As an executive, it is your role to strategize and develop a plan of action that will achieve your revenue goals, growth plans, etc. for the future. There is only one way to act on those goals- through your people. Hence it’s vital to implement a solid people strategy. Personally, although I considered myself a highly engaged employee before my leave of absence, I discovered that I had uncovered an entire new level of effort. This is known as discretionary effort- management didn’t need to ask me to put in extra effort; it came naturally and willingly. The investment Insperity made in me had not only a professional impact, but also at home; having witnessed my experience, my husband is now Insperity’s biggest fan.

Aon: Does the Customer Know Best?

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By John Byers, Vice President, Aon Risk Solutions

Insurance is not the new black. It’s not trendy, sexy or attractive. Insurance is viewed by some as a commodity. So, why does it matter if you buy it from one person or another – even one company or another? How do you differentiate a product that no one necessarily likes to talk about but certainly doesn’t want to be without when they need it? For Aon, it starts with understanding the difference between agents and consultants as we recognize that our clients come to us for the added value, not just the insurance programs, we deliver.

We know the old saying about the customer, and we know they always want to be right. But, we have all experienced walking away unsure of a product or service, asking ourselves that nagging question, “Did I make the right decision?” With more competition and more complex information than ever before, is it more important to be right or to be sure? Today, customers want to be sure that they made the right decision. In our world, the world of risk management and consulting, that’s what matters most to the people we serve.

WE SPEAK RISK

Each one of our relationships begins by talking about our client’s tolerance for risk. One Aon client recently pulled me aside and said, “Aon is a company that doesn’t talk like other companies. They spoke to me about risk first and educated me about the gaps that I had.  They provided scenarios that made me think differently about my business and then gave me options to help protect myself and my company, outlining the cost and benefit to the business every step of the way.”

Aon clients have a single point of contact to facilitate, coordinate and deploy all resources promptly and efficiently. We provide direct access to our myriad on staff resources designed to fit the needs of the client’s risk tolerance. While everyone else may have “a guy they know,” Aon has resources on staff with a global network of skilled professionals at their fingertips, nonetheless. Our model is so uniquely different than what our customers are familiar with. After a discussion, our clients leave the conversation educated and therefore confident that they made an informed decision to empower results for their company’s bottom line.

EMPATHY: A SHARED VALUE

Any conversation around customer service can be summed up with a simple idea – empathy. Our approach to clients is grounded in empathy.  Without question, part of managing risk includes managing conflict.  Managing conflicts involves being empathetic to the challenges an organization might face.

This perspective begins with the internal Aon culture. Aon welcomes and offers support and kindness to its colleagues for the betterment of its clients. Show me a company that functions with an internal culture of kindness, generosity, respect and empathy, and I’ll show you one of their customers who shares the same values.

THE REVOLUTION

What keeps Aon’s clients coming back again and again is the fact that we have built trust. Some trust may come from a distinct brand, positive Wall Street reports or a referral from a friend, but I know I have created trust when I hear a client say, “My former agent never did this for me.” Trust is manufactured and maintained within the customer’s personal experience built by complete transparency, education, understanding, helping the customer realize the questions they need to ask and delivering quickly. Aon’s motto is to be in the weeds, go beyond the front lines and be willing to get your hands dirty. It’s in these moments that we get to create the ultimate trust with our customers.

Insurance broking is experiencing a revolution, and it’s called risk consulting.  Risk Consulting is delivering sound solutions within an extremely complex and ever-changing environment. This is done in such a way that clients can choose to understand as much or as little as they desire, have a deep appreciation for as little or as much risk as they want as well as develop a complete and unique trust that they are being coached to making an informed decision. At Aon, our clients worry about many things when growing a business, but risk and insurance isn’t one of them.

Guest Post: The Mother Standard® of Care at Cancer Treatment Centers of America®

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By: Christine Hill, Guest Experience Officer, Cancer Treatment Centers of America at Midwestern Regional Medical Center

Every day I hear stories from both patients and stakeholders (our term for employees) about how they feel the presence of the Mother Standard of Care® at Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA).

The Mother Standard is exactly what it sounds like: Stakeholders treat patients, caregivers and each other as if they were members of their own family.

Would it be OK if our dad had to wait days or even weeks to get a lab or scan result back from the doctor? Would it be OK if our sister had cancer and no one told her everything about her medical condition in terms that she could understand? Would it be OK if our brother did not know every treatment option available for his disease? Would it be OK if our mother did not feel compassionate care from every one of her care providers, including culinary, housekeeping, travel and the clinical team? No, it would not be OK, so why would we provide anything less for each guest who walks through our doors?

“People may not remember what you said or did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” This is a paraphrase of Maya Angelou and something I think about every day. At CTCA, we have an uncanny ability to read our patients and caregivers. We know when they need a smile, a hug or an escort to their next appointment. We know when they need a diversion from the cancer they are fighting and provide complementary outings to the zoo, an entertainment show, the local movie theater or a fun restaurant. We know when to talk to them, and we know when to just sit quietly and hold their hand. We know when to share a funny story and we know when to provide them with more information about their cancer.

I am always amazed when I hear that our patients feel the difference at CTCA. And I hear it over and over again, so I know it is not a fluke. Patients tell me, “I feel so hopeful here” and “I feel so safe here.” Music to my ears! Those are the two statements that I want to hear more than anything else and, thanks to my fellow stakeholders, I hear them often.

I am also amazed that more healthcare organizations do not do the easiest thing in the world to improve their service: Ask and listen to your customers! We do that all the time and in many different ways, with no retribution to anyone. It is the only way any service can improve. It is the only way any service can go from good to great. Ask your customers what they want or need, and listen to what they say. Once you are good at listening, you can take the next step and anticipate. You will get better at knowing what they want before they even know it.