Shayla Varnado is a fashion stylist turned serial entrepreneur passionate about inspiring women to live the life of their dreams. Her energy, blatant transparency, and quick wit draw in audiences of all ages. As the founder of Black Girls Wine and weekly talk show Wine Down LIVE, Shayla believes her purpose is to create a space where Black excellence is celebrated. Both shows feature Black culture & excellence from the perspective of successful wine connoisseurs from around the globe. In 2019, Shayla launched the Black Girls Wine Society, the first wine sorority. Since its inception, the BGW Society successfully established over 30 chapters with over 300 members. There are currently hundreds of women on the waitlist as well. Shayla also launched a virtual chapter during COVID-19 for women without chapters in their state or the chapter is currently full to still receive the BGW Society experience.
Why is your business a business to watch in 2021?
Since the pandemic started I’ve managed to pivot, add another tier of membership, and triple our members by adding more value to our memberships and focusing on the Black women who are invested in their wine journey with us.
What inspired your to start your business?
The lack of diversity and attention paid to Black consumers in the wine industry.
How did 2020 change your business? Was it for the better?
2020 forced me to rethink how we offer wine experiences to our members. It ended up being for the better because offering virtual membership allowed us to serve more women around the world.
What lessons did you learn in your business in 2020?
I learned the power in the PIVOT. I could’ve just left membership the way it was but offering something new at the height of the pandemic was scary. It paid off though!
What kind of impact do you want your business to leave on your client or customer?
I want our members to come into this space to feel valued, celebrated, and important. This is a space we’ve created just for Black women. There aren’t many spaces where Black women can go and the focus is solely them. We give back and so much that I want this space to be about creating room for Black women to simply enjoy themselves.
Do you feel your product or service meets the needs of the market?
A membership with the Black Girls Wine Society exceeds the needs of the market because it’s not being offered to any women and especially not black women. It’s luxury and leisure specifically designed with our culture in mind.
What hurdles did you personally face in getting ready to open your business and how did you overcome them?
The biggest hurdle I faced was leaving corporate and finding the courage to make time so that I could launch BGWS.
When did you realize entrepreneurship was right for you?
10 years ago when I started my first consulting business I knew I wanted to work for myself.
Why did you choose entrepreneurship?
I like to think entrepreneurship chose me! Between my creativity and drive to build wealth I knew that there was something bigger for me.
What would you say is your most driving motivation to keep doing what you do?
The desire to take care of my parents. They’ve been so phenomenal and supportive over the years. I owe them everything!
What are you most excited or passionate about? (In both business and life or both)
I’m most excited about setting an example for girls behind me to know that whatever they dream is possible. I’m most passionate about creating spaces for Black women where they can show up, be themselves, and always feel welcome.
What are the goals you most want to accomplish in your business? What are the goals that you hold personally?
I want thousands of women around the world to find the sisterhood of Black Girls Wine Society home for them. I want the space created in BGWS to be somewhere Black women feel free from the judgement of the world. It’s a personal goal of mine to support as many women entrepreneurs as possible. My passion for business strategy allows me to see marketing and building an online business with a clarity that has allowed me to support clients in building 5-6 figure brands.
Did you have any key mentors or people who deeply influenced who you are, what you believe in and what you’re committed to in your work and life?
Tell me about them.The mentor who inspired my life the most took me under her wing when I was very young. She taught me resilience. She stressed to me that no matter what I face as long as I get back up, my journey isn’t over. That’s what motivates me to keep going. She influenced who I was simply by living as I watched take courageous leaps in her career and in business. There was never anything she couldn’t do when her mind was made up and that became ingrained in me. She’s definitely someone I would have to thank for inspiring my entrepreneur journey.
Did you have any life-changing experiences that put you on the path that led you to be doing what you’re doing today? Tell me about them.
I think getting divorced at 24 and fleeing an abusive marriage taught me to chase fearless after my dreams and let no one interfere with the goals I have in mind. I’ve always been a big dreamer and had I stayed with my ex-husband I don’t think I would’ve had room to become the entrepreneur, the leader, and the woman I am today.
What’s next for you in your business/brand? What can readers look forward to from you?
Next the Society will be expanding. We’re going international as soon as we can!
Is there anything else you would like to share with me?
I’m working on a journal for my wine friends around the world to document their growth and discovery on their journey through wine!