Regine T. Rousseau is an award-winning wine and spirits educator, certified sommelier, dynamic media personality, writer, motivational speaker, lifestyle adviser, and entrepreneur. For the past ten years she has grown her company, Shall We Wine—a strategic marketing company that helps wine and spirits brands grow their reach through experiential events, digital content creation and television appearances.
With a fun, dedicated network of wine and spirits professionals who share Regine’s vision, Shall We Wine is all about creating memorable customer experiences.
Inspired by approachability and accessibility, Regine takes wine and spirit concepts and presents them to consumers in an easy, lively, and enjoyable light.
A Haitian-American, Regine is passionate and a strong advocate for diversity and equity in all facets of the wine & spirits industry. She uses her influence to empower others to reach their potential, from brands to fellow entrepreneurs. She was honored as a “Diversity in Wine 2019 Wine Influencer” and one of “40 African-American Tastemakers.”
Taking a leap of faith
Regine began her entrepreneurial journey in 2013, when she found herself at a crossroads in her career. Unhappy working for a consulting firm where she felt her talents were underutilized, she was ready for a change.
“I desperately wanted to get back into the wine industry, where I worked as a wine salesperson between 1998-2001 and where I first dabbled in the idea of a wine event company called, Shall We Wine. Although I left the wine sales industry in 2001 to work in pharmaceutical sales, my passion for wine continued,” says Regine.
Over the years, she continued to feed her passion, studying and sampling wines from around the world. Finally, in 2013, she set out to start her new chapter.
“I was blessed with a severance package in September of 2013, and used this opportunity to create a business plan that led to the rebirth of Shall We Wine.”
Regine saw a need for a wine and spirits experiential marketing company in Chicago. In addition to providing in-store demos for clients, she wanted the company to use her creativity to showcase wines on TV and create exciting wine events for consumers.
“My work blends creativity and strategy to yield reach and results for my clients. I like to say, I do the work that moves wine forward,” Regine says.
Keep your day job to fund your venture
Building a business as a woman and minority has its challenges. Regine was able to overcome many of these obstacles by leaning on the support of others in her professional network and making connections in her industry.
“There have been many obstacles in this 10-year journey. Also, many wins,” she says. “I remember when I first started, I had no clients, just an idea. I was able to reach out to past employers in the wine industry for advice, connections, and honestly, they became my first contracts.”
Similarly, she was able to survive the pandemic by connecting with her network and creating new opportunities and partnerships together.
“In February of 2020, we were projecting to have our strongest year ever. By March 11, our entire book of business was wiped out. Due to the pandemic, there were no more in-person events. I reached out to my clients, friends, and professional contacts with an idea of hosting virtual events. By about March 25, we were hosting a weekly Friday evening “cocktail hour” series featuring our client’s products.”
Another obstacle Regine faced was funding. Women-owned businesses are often less likely to get funded and funding is one of the most important aspects of running a business. To aspiring entrepreneurs she says, “Don’t quit your day job!”
“You can have a brilliant idea, however without the people and resources to properly execute that idea your business stays small or does not ever reach its potential,” Regine says.
“So, I encourage solopreneurs to think of their jobs as an angel investor. If they can use their income to hire someone and get the business off the ground while they work to grow the business and get more capital, it will save them headaches later.”
Other options for entrepreneurs seeking funding are to apply for grants and loans. Regine herself was able to get an SBA loan during the pandemic and some grants for minorities prompted by the murder of George Floyd. These additional funds can make all the difference for small business and new entrepreneurs.
She found strength in her immigrant roots
Regine’s strengths in overcoming obstacles come from her immigrant roots and her incredible ability to create and work a plan.
“As Haitian-American, like many children of immigrants and minorities, I was taught that I had to work harder and smarter than my peers. I have approached every aspect of my life and my business with the thought, ‘They can out-fund me, but they can’t outwork me,’” she says.
Experience has taught her that in order to succeed you must be strategic about everything.
“Always leave an opportunity for spontaneity, but you must have goals and a plan for achieving those goals.”
There have been times where she thought about quitting and wondered if she could make a greater impact working for a corporation. Moments where she thought her life would somehow be easier if she had a regular nine-to-five.
“The reality is, the point I always come back to is that creating this company has not just enriched my life, but the lives of the hundreds of contractors that we have hired, and the consumers we have reached. We have moved the needle for the brands we represent. Yes, there is a sacrifice, but I am living my intended life.”
Shall We Wine is now approaching its ten-year anniversary and continuing to grow.
To other women entrepreneurs going into business, she says, “You got this! It’s not easy, but we are built for this and more!”
You might be interested:
- 4 Latina owned wineries to check out this National Wine Day!
- Karuna beverage is empowering consumers to make better choices for happier, healthier lives
- 6 Refreshing Latina summer cocktail and beverage recipes to try
*This article contains affiliated links. If you use these links to buy an item, we may earn a small commission.