OtherCrowdfund This: The Wine Learning Hub Will Help You Sip Like a Pro

Monica Gragg, founder of Wine Learning Hub
Monica Gragg (at right), founder of the Wine Learning Hub.

Are you one of those people who like wine, but who can’t really distinguish a Merlot from a Cabernet?

Do you stand in the wine section at the grocery store feeling bewildered?

Do you want to learn more about wine without making a fool of yourself at a tasting room?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, the Wine Learning Hub may be for you.

The brainchild of Monica Gragg, this online hub for wine education will help you gradually build up your knowledge in a fun and interactive way—so you can stride into an upscale restaurant, tasting room, or grocery store wine section with confidence.

Here’s more from Monica:

The spark that inspired the birth of Wine Learning Hub: I wanted to become an Instructional Designer of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) but needed a topic that people wanted to learn about.

A dinner with some wine enthusiast friends led to an introduction to Julian Todd, owner of BackVintage, an Australian online-based wine shop. During our lunch (with lots of wine), I was inspired by his business idea of producing his own wine without buying and operating a winery.Instead, he buys grapes from different wineries and outsources the production.

I’m learning more by mingling with other entrepreneurs than I ever did in my college days.” (Tweet this.)

So my original plan was to open an online shop, produce my own wine and use MOOCs as the primary marketing tool. Like with any concept, the more you learn, the more the product evolves and ends up being something totally different!

Now, I have a wine learning app with MOOCs and other exciting additions such as gaming, webinars, contests, and social learning. The concept has been well-received and we also look forward to launching a similar learning app for beer, whiskey and cigars this year.

The problem that Wine Learning Hub solves: Sometimes we buy wine because the label is appealing or the bottle looks expensive. We know what we like and what we don’t like, but we don’t know why. When we have a bad wine, we swear off that varietal—“I’m never drinking Chardonnay again!” Or, we stick to the same type— “I only like sweet wines.”  With that being said, we are not confident in our wine knowledge. It’s ok, wine is a difficult subject to learn and the Internet is inundated with good and bad information. There simply isn’t a go-to source that makes wine easily understood.

The Wine Learning Hub (app) will be the go-to source for wine education because it’s delivered in a way we like to learn: accessible through our phone, delivered in mini courses and games, and available when you’re ready to learn. Whether you’re on a date, taking a trip to the grocery store, or vacationing in the Napa Valley, the app is at your disposal.

We also understand the social value of wine knowledge. We’re always impressed by what people know, which is why we focused on applied learning in our app. You can test your skills and knowledge through contests, quizzes, and a variety of games. The Wine Learning Hub will be the tool to becoming an educated wine consumer.

The story behind the name: Hub is a common term used to describe communities. In an educational context, it’s often describes a community of learners. I specifically wanted learning to be a part of the name to differentiate from thousands of other wine apps and resources.

How you differentiate yourself from your competition: Imagine playing your favorite game while learning about wine. The Wine Learning Hub offers a learning experience that a YouTube video or wine blog cannot – interactivity. There are similar platforms but they don’t have that critical social component. We like the social learning, in groups or with friends. We also love incentives and rewards. The Wine Learning Hub will be the first to provide that.

The best thing about being an entrepreneur: We’re all lifelong learners and being an entrepreneur accelerates that learning. I’m learning more by mingling with other entrepreneurs than I ever did in my college days. Everyone has an appetite for learning and uses their knowledge to excel and do awesome things.

The biggest surprise in your entrepreneurial experience to date: I was amazed to see that the tech industry exists primarily because of entrepreneurs and not big companies. While exploring different products and services, I’m able to chat with providers and learn their story. In technology, it’s not just B2B but E2E. I’m able to pursue my dream because someone else had the courage to turn his or her idea into a reality.

What keeps you up at night: Wine – just kidding! Building my brand and getting noticed. I found many services I use through articles published on LinkedIn or in a trade journal or website. I’m constantly thinking of topics to write about and publish so that people will want to learn more about my services and products.

The best entrepreneurial advice you have received: Chris Kiefer (also an entrepreneur) from SkEye Studios is the first person I hired. He vigorously tried to find a venue to shoot my crowdfunding and commercial videos. When I asked him how he kept his motivation after a few rejections he said, “Don’t be afraid of rejection. In fact, expect it. That way, it’s easier to overcome when it happens.” As an entrepreneur, your emotions can run high. Chris taught me that rejection is not worth getting upset about because it will happen often and usually something better comes around as a result.

Your #1 piece of advice for a budding entrepreneur: Don’t get distracted by the new lifestyle! Work and personal life blend together because being an entrepreneur is time consuming and very personal. You talk about it with your friends and family at home and you socialize with other businesses. Find a balance. Have a morning routine and stick to the deadlines you set.

The #1 book you would recommend for a budding entrepreneur: Please read Decisive by Chip Heath and Dan Heath! Rumor has it, we make over a thousand decisions a day, from the time we decide to wake up to the time we opt for that 2,235 calorie piece of chocolate cake. In the book, you see how we make decisions based on emotions, biases, and irrationalities—both at work and in life. They use so many real-life examples of epic business failures, you’ll continue reading to learn how to make better choices.

The song that best describes your entrepreneurial journey: ‘Feeling Good’ by Nina Simone. Everyday I wake up thankful for this “new dawn, new day, new life, for me… and I’m feeling good!”

 What’s on the horizon: I’m passionate about educational technology because it makes education accessible and affordable to everyone. The success of the Wine Learning Hub and other hubs will help my company expand beyond consumer education and into professional development and community. I started my 15-year career in hospitality & tourism as a housekeeper and have a special love of travel. Tourism has an interesting DNA. It’s the largest industry in the world, generating 1.4 trillion dollars in 2013, and 1 out of 11 jobs are in tourism (www.untwo.org). It’s one of the top five exports for most countries, and usually the number one export for many developing countries.

Sadly, this trillion dollar industry relies primarily on unskilled, non-degree, low-wage workers. I want to provide affordable and accessible training opportunities for workers by building an online platform similar to Lynda or large MOOC providers like Udemy or Udacity. There are several socio-economic benefits to education, including poverty reduction and improved quality of life through jobs and career advancement.

Do you think Oregon is a good place to start a business? Absolutely! It was one of the two main reasons I moved here from Australia. I read somewhere that Portland was second behind Silicon Valley in entrepreneurship. The city is abundant with small businesses, making every purchase exciting! There are also several professional networks like OEN that provide great support and community. Since I’m not totally confident driving on the right side of the road (I’m slowly improving), great public transportation was the second reason.

Learn more: The Wine Learning Hub is currently fundraising on Fundable. Get involved here.

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