Alyssa Rapp, Founder & CEO of Bottlenotes, Inc. – Spotlight on a Drink Careers 101 Project Advisory Board Member
Alyssa Rapp knows what it takes to make it in the beverage industry. With a B.A from Yale and an M.B.A from Stanford, she is a tenacious entrepreneur who knows what she wants. As the Founder and CEO of Bottlenotes she reaches tens of thousands of people everyday through newsletters, interactive events and social media bringing them valuable information about wine. Alyssa has been named everything to from Inc.’s “30 Under 30″ coolest entrepreneurs in America, to one of Playboy.com’s “10 Sexiest CEOs” in America. We are pleased to present Alyssa as a member of the Drink Careers 101 Advisory Board.
What was your path into the wine industry?
Wine became a personal hobby/passion for me in my early 20’s. I had studies art history and political science in college, and wine, like art, served as a window into history, culture, and cuisine, and served as an organizing principle for travel within Europe, New Zealand/Australia, South Africa, the West Coast of the US, etc. For this reason, I ended up running a wine club at Stanford Business School. It was there that I ended up not just exploring wine as a hobby but started thinking about the industry strategically, and where opportunities lie for innovation within it.
What were the steps you took to prepare yourself for your career?
I couldn’t have asked for more inspiring or world-class training for becoming an entrepreneur than Stanford Business School. I think nothing prepares you for the rollercoaster that is being an entrepreneur besides the school of hard knocks, however. So growing up as a gymnast, dancer, and being a lifelong athlete, and running a political campaign out of college- these activities taught me to be resilient, scrappy, focused, driven, and resilient. In terms of wine, the beautiful piece about it as the more I learn, the more I realize that I don’t know, so when you feel a desire to be a voracious learner on a topic, you know you’re headed into an industry in which you have a fighting chance of becoming an expert.
What drove you to found Bottlenotes, Inc.?
First, I experienced first-hand a new generation of wine enthusiasts for whom there wasn’t an obvious “guide” in the marketplace that speaks to their needs, via the communication channels that they used. So Bottlenotes has always strived to be the trusted source of wine information and recommendations for our audience. Second, the “Internet” in 2006- and today, digital, social and mobile channels- seemed underleveraged as tools in driving sales amongst US wine consumers, Third, there did not seem to be a great way for consumers to get personal recommendations on what to try and buy for them. This is the final piece of the puzzle we hope to crack someday in the space.
How did your experiences at Yale and Stanford influence your career in the beverage industry?
There is an array of fabulous alums from Stanford who are in the wine industry, and many of them have inspired and coached me as an entrepreneur and CEO. Jack Cakebread and Pete Mondavi, Jr. are two that specifically influenced my decision to found Bottlenotes while at the GSB.
As for Yale, Bottlenotes has been built by an army of Yale interns and employees, thanks to a Bulldogs on the Bay summer internship program in which we have participated since 2007. As always, Yalies are some of the most forward-thinking, open-minded, and creative people I’ve ever met, so it’s been a pleasure and a privilege to work with each and every one of them.
What is the most challenging aspect of your work?
The challenges of being a bootstrapped entrepreneur in a highly regulated, “traditional” industry are almost endless.
What is your favorite aspect of your career?
The best part is summiting each and every hill or mountain that we as a team climb on a daily basis to keep Bottlenotes alive, well, and growing. And of course working with a great group of individuals to achieve our goals of being the leading digital media company in the wine and craft beer space in the United States, and someday, perhaps, worldwide.
What advice would you give college students considering a career working in wine education?
Get a great internship or two, learn a ton, manage the relationships well with your mentors there, and keep in mind that 90% of your expertise about the beverage industry itself will have to come from the time you put in to becoming an expert in the space on your own time.