How One Wine Event Company Quickly Pivoted Its Business Model to Survive | Coronavirus Series

Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series that explores the impact the coronavirus crisis is having on the world of ecommerce. Explore daily insights surrounding the coronavirus crisis or check out these additional resources to help you navigate your marketing strategy during this time.

The hospitality industry has been hit especially hard during the pandemic, and some are finding creative ways to survive these circumstances. 

I recently spoke with Sam Kimball, founder of New York Wine Events, who told me how his wine and beverage event company is relying on online experiences to bring joy to his customers and followers. 

Read on to learn how Sam is navigating his business through this time and discover how New York Wine Events is continuing to engage and serve their customers through content. 

 

Marissa McGovern: Tell me about why you founded your business.

Sam Kimball: It started with a memorable bottle of wine that was gifted to me fifteen years ago. I was in the digital media business and a guy that I did business with had a large wine fridge in his office. He gave me a bottle and said, “Here. Try this.” 

I’ve always liked wine, but I didn’t know anything about it at the time. I took the bottle home and it was incredible. It was a middle-range priced $50 bottle and it tasted like nothing I’d ever had before. That was the moment. 

In doing research about that bottle, I learned that in the U.S. every year there are over 300,000 SKUs to choose from. I wanted to remember that wine and discover more. I thought others would, too, so that’s how New York Wine Events was born. 

We offer tours, events, and content around wine and food in the NY area (NYC, Hudson Valley, and Long Island). Our mission is to facilitate wine discovery and wine education. To supplement that, we built a database of all the different wine selections that turned into a mobile app called Winevento for the experience of being at a grand tasting and rating and saving all the wines you like so that you can recall them later. 

It was a natural extension of my own interest in the area of wines and so then that extended to artisanal foods like, “What is this olive oil from Lebanon? It’s superb.” Or a chocolate company that’s based in New Hampshire and has artisanal chocolate. 

The database got bigger and bigger and bigger with all the different wines, spirits, beers, non-alcoholic beverages, and all the different artisanal foods. We do business now with thousands of food and drink makers. We help people discover cool products and we help the makers get new customers.

"We do business now with thousands of food and drink makers. We help people discover cool products and we help the makers get new customers."

Sam Kimball, founder, New York Wine Events

 

Marissa: How has the coronavirus pandemic impacted your business? 

Sam: We’re in the hospitality industry, based in the New York area, so we’ve been hit especially hard. 

Whether you run a restaurant, a tourism-based company, a hotel, or any kind of hospitality or experiential non-essential product or service right now, you’re spending most of, if not all of, your time and energy planning for the post-pandemic new normal. 

You’re figuring out what you need to do to evolve your business, and how you need to transform your business model. 

All large public events are on pause, so we’re not hosting any in-person experiences right now. We’ve pivoted and we’re now hosting free virtual events to bring the wine experience into the homes of our customers and followers. 

"We’ve pivoted and we’re now hosting free virtual events to bring the wine experience into the homes of our customers and followers. "

Sam Kimball, founder, New York Wine Events

Going virtual was natural for me given my background. In the last 10 years, I spent more than five and a half years working at a live streaming company, so I understand live events on the web and live broadcasts. 

Since we know so many winemakers across the world and also food makers, we launched daily virtual tastings in April. The feedback has been strongly positive. People really like them and the makers like them because they need ways every day, every week, to get the word out about what they do. They’re still making wine, they’re still making chocolate, they’re still making the products they make. And we’re helping them get an audience of listeners so they can share their stories and goods. 

Here’s a snapshot of the brand’s upcoming virtual events. https://newyorkwineevents.com/virtual-tastings/

 

Marissa: Are virtual events something you’ll continue to do even after you can return to live in-person events?

Sam: Yes. The virtual events have helped us expand our reach. 

Before the pandemic, we were serving people who could physically come to our events.  We were, and still are, an active website destination that has always had hundreds of blog articles that anyone anywhere could read, but we were serving people for the most part who live in and around the New York metropolitan area. 

Now, we’ll be broadcasting a virtual tasting event from Tuscany and somebody will jump on the chat, say, “Greetings from Atlanta or Boston or Chicago.” 

 

Marissa: In the midst of having to pivot your business model, you also changed your marketing automation platform during the pandemic. Why did you decide to do that? 

Sam: We came over to Klaviyo in the middle of this pandemic and I’d call it perfect timing. 

Before Klaviyo, we were using a marketing automation platform that was a little more B2B-focused in terms of its product features and customer support. Klaviyo quickly impressed us with its volume of B2C customers, data-rich case studies, and recommended best practices. It just made sense. 

"Klaviyo quickly impressed us with its volume of B2C customers, data-rich case studies, and recommended best practices. It just made sense. "

Sam Kimball, founder, New York Wine Events

The platform is also more flexible and has so many native integrations with other platforms. Our in-house data integration engineer was also won over by Klaviyo and said there are endless opportunities with the platform. We’re a custom integration that requires us to use multiple APIs to bring forward events. 

The support at Klaviyo has been very helpful so far and we’re only just getting started. 

Final thoughts

The hospitality industry has been hit hard by the pandemic and is forcing many businesses to quickly transform their business model or risk shutting down. New York Wine Events used the pandemic as a catalyst to pivot its own business model to include virtual events and used Klaviyo to quickly connect with and acquire new customers as they adjusted their marketing strategy to support their new business model. 

Looking for more inspiration and insights to help you navigate your marketing strategy amid the coronavirus pandemic? Check out these resources.

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