BEIRUT: In the midst of pursuing her degrees in agribusiness and agricultural engineering at the American University of Beirut, Vanessa Srouji decided to act upon her dream of starting her own wine brand.
The 22-year-old has always had the entrepreneurial spirit to launch and manage her own business. Alongside her innovative nature, Srouji was born into a family that already had wine expertise with her uncle owning his own winery.
“I was born in Bekaa where most of the Lebanese wineries are located. I used to run around in my uncle’s winery when I was young to eventually grow fond of producing wine,” Srouji told Annahar.
Being an entrepreneur with a passion for wine, it was only a matter of time before Srouji introduced her own wine brand: V Divino.
“The V stands for Vanessa, and ‘Di Vino’ means ‘of wine’ in Italian. It is also derived from the word ‘divine,’ which is what I want my wine to be,” explained Srouji.
V Divino was launched in December 2018 with its vineyard located in Qab Elias. Srouji chose this location for the vineyard after careful consideration to its climate and soil quality as to grow high-quality grape varieties.
“V Divino’s mission statement is ‘Divinity to the Glass Between Your Hands.' To stay loyal to our mission, we strive to offer the best wine in the region,” Srouji said.
Starting such a business while still being enrolled in university was never an easy task. Srouji strives to find a balance between her studies, her business, and her personal life.
“I have to do many things at once. I leave campus after my morning classes to work on V Divino, and then try to head back before my afternoon classes begin.” Srouji told Annahar. “It is exhausting trying to do both, but when you have a passion for something, you will always find time for it.”
Setting up any business from scratch entitles taking risks. However, in addition to the standard risks an investor faces, the wine industry in Lebanon is characterized by a lot of competition.
There are over 50 established wine brands in the country, with some dating back to the 19th century. Most of the wineries have their own loyal customer base, so trying to penetrate this market is another challenge that she needs to face.
V Divino markets its brand through two main methods: connecting with customers on social media and participating in wine tasting events. The most recent wine-tasting event that V Divino participated in was the Vini Picnic event in Zahle in which it won first place in the barrel race competition.
“When I get strangers telling me that my wine tastes better than some of the more established and historical Lebanese wine brands, it gives me more drive to keep going forward with my mission," Srouji expressed.
Convincing her parents to allow her to take the unconventional route to kick-start her career was never an issue with Srouji. Both her parents were entrepreneurs in their own right, and they have always supported her career decisions.
“Knowing Vanessa, when she sets her mind on something, she can make the impossible possible. This perseverance is why we fully supported and funded her vision of V Divino from the start," one of her parents said.
The journey has just begun for V Divino. After completing her degree next fall, Srouji is heading to France to enroll in a master’s program in oenology; which is the study of wine and wine-making.
“I want to study wine thoroughly and bring my expertise back to Lebanon to make sure that V Divino offers the best quality wine for its customers,” Srouji told Annahar.
Welcome to “NAYA,” the newest addition to Annahar’s coverage. This section aims at fortifying Lebanese women’s voices by highlighting their talents, challenges, innovations, and women’s empowerment. We will also be reporting on the world of work, family, style, health, and culture. NAYA is devoted to women of all generations. NAYA Editor, Sally Farhat: Sally.firstname.lastname@example.org
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