October 14, 2020

How The Great Brain Cell Sacrifice Made Wine Drinkers into Philanthropists

By Angela Oemcke

Meet Cellr’s Weekly Crush Paul Meates, who along with Thom Glover is one of the brains behind the New York wine label with a purpose; The Great Brain Cell Sacrifice. For every bottle of The Great Brain Cell Sacrifice purchased, they donate a book to help a child in an underfunded community learn to read. Sacrifice a couple of your brain cells in order to donate a book to a child in need- pretty neat idea, huh? Add to that the fact that the wine wine is made by Justin Willett at Lieu Dit winery and you have a real win-win situation for everyone on your hands. But you can find all of that, and more, out below. 

To be thoroughly entertained and keep up to date on the good work of the The Great Brain Cell Sacrifice, follow them on Instagram and Facebook! Also, check out their website to find out more about how you can donate your brain cells for a good cause, and get around some delicious wine too. 

Tell us a bit about the Great Brain Cell Sacrifice Project.

So for every bottle of The Great Brain Cell Sacrifice you drink, a book will be donated to help a child in our underfunded school system learn to read. While you may be harming a few of your own brain cells drinking our delicious wine, that loss is far outweighed by the positive impact you are making on the brains of the next generation. Thom Glover and I started the business because we are both parents with kids in the New York Public School system. Increasingly, we found ourselves spending evenings and weekends at events where parents like us try to help raise money to make up for shortfalls in funding for our kids’ schools. We looked at our underfunded schools and thought: “Maybe wine can fix this?”

We looked at our underfunded schools and thought: “Maybe wine can fix this?”

What inspired you to work with Books for Kids? 

Really it came down to the courage of their Executive Director, Robin Adelson. She embraced the idea wholeheartedly from the outset, while other charities felt the idea might be too contentious to align themselves with. 

What has been the most rewarding experience you have had throughout the TGBCS Project?

Since starting The Great Brain Cell Sacrifice, we are immensely proud to have donated enough books to fill more than 4 school libraries. Unfortunately, there are still too many kids who lack the proper resources they need to learn how to read. But if all it takes is opening a bottle of wine to get them the books they need, then we’re more than happy to keep at it. After all, it’s for the kids. 

How did you meet Justin Willet, owner and winemaker at Lieu Dit Winery and Tyler Winery, and get him to come on board to produce the TGBCS wines? 

We are lucky enough to bottle some incredible Lieu Dit wine, for a great cause. Justin’s wife is a teacher, so the cause is close to their hearts, and they both instantly fell in love with the idea.

Tell us the story behind this photo (see top of blog) 

When we first started The Great Brain Cell Sacrifice we flew out to Santa Barbara to meet our winemaker Justin Willet. We toured the vineyards and Justin talked to us about his process for making our wine, most notably “Great wine is made in the vineyard” and “…at the end of the day it’s just farming, man”. The sun was out that day.

On the Wine Market…We asked Paul to shed some light on his experience in the wine market, as a big part of what we do at Cellr is make true direct to consumer marketing easy for producers. Find out more here

What do you think it is that gets people most excited about purchasing your wines? 

We haven’t found anyone who doesn’t like the idea. So then it’s a question of what am I drinking to donate this book. Fortunately Justin has us covered in that respect, making fresh varieties, always leaning on acidity and purity. We don’t want oak and richness and all this other stuff clouding the issue. Just clean and pure.

What marketing channels do you use to engage customers to buy your wine? What do you do in these channels? 

We sell solely online, but staying top-of-mind is always a constant struggle. We have built a decent mailing list and focus on instagram as a way to update our customers on how much good they are doing collectively. We’ve tried lots of things on social, but usually a catchy line like “The first wine that actually solves problems” gets the best results. 

We have also engaged a PR agency to help seed the idea to press, and get us the reach we need given we are not going the distributor route. We have been featured in publications such as Forbes and WineSpectator and have enjoyed having the likes of Alex Delaney, Drinks Editor at Bon Appetit, champion the brand on social.

Find more quality content like this by following @thegreatbraincellsacrifice on Instagram 

What is it like being in a winery based in New York, and in what ways is the wine market over there unique? 

Both our winery and our winemaker are based in Santa Barbara, CA, while everyone else who is involved lives and works in New York. We’ve found New York to be really receptive, and is by far our biggest market. With New York being among the hardest hit by COVID, the market here has definitely changed. In quarantine, the focus has definitely shifted to having a glass of wine at home. Along with the restaurants, all the schools and libraries closed as well, leaving many kids studying remotely without a single book in their home. We are very glad to be able service both needs – to get wine to those who’d like to have a glass at home, and books to the kids who need them most. 

With New York being among the hardest hit by COVID, the market here has definitely changed. In quarantine, the focus has definitely shifted to having a glass of wine at home.

Talk to us about the wines you make, why did you choose these varietals? 

We offer 3 varietals – a Chenin Blanc, Pinot Noir, and Rosé of Pinot Noir. Overall the focus of the winery is on the varieties indigenous to the Loire Valley. The varied micro-climates and marine based soils of Santa Barbara County are ideally suited to this set of grapes. 

What has your sales strategy been? -given a large part of your business model is that you sell directly to consumers allowing you to cut out the middleman and use that money to fund your charity.

Overall our sales strategy is to turn the act of drinking incredible wine into a noble sacrifice. We openly encourage consumers to “drink generously” because it’s for the good of the next generation. We simply try to take away any excuse to not drink a bottle of wine. 

We openly encourage consumers to “drink generously” because it’s for the good of the next generation.

As we grow, we are now also looking into distribution for PR purposes. If we can distribute our wine to a few high profile placements, it will highlight the quality of the wine, and create more awareness for the brand.

In what ways is it challenging to engage with customers?

It’s expensive to reach new customers, and it’s definitely a challenge to maintain existing customers and continuously remind them of your brand and give them more reasons to come back. But you can find your brand on a race to the bottom pretty quickly with too many discounts and offers. We’ve started to target our offers more precisely, rather than always reaching out to our entire audience. There is the usual stuff like bringing a lapsed customer back with a discount, or enticements for abandoned shopping carts that we simply needed to be doing. However we are also working on a loyalty program, rewarding those who have sacrificed the most –  it is a good way to keep in contact with customers.

On Supply Chains: We asked Paul about his views on authentication and his current supply chain management. At Cellr we want to understand how producers feel about the current systems in place and make a packaging solution that is consistent with what they need. Find out what we do for brand protection and supply chain track and trace.

Talk to us about your supply chain, do you currently have visibility of your products after they leave the winery? What impact would having detailed data showing you where (in the world) and when your wine is being opened by the consumer?

We handle everything through shopify so we know where everything is shipped and where our main markets are. But it would be incredible to know when a bottle is opened. Our promise is to donate a book for every bottle you drink, after all, you have to sacrifice your brain cells for the cause. If we knew when a bottle was opened, we could thank our customers in that moment for their sacrifice. And when they open their last bottle, we could follow up to see if they’d like to restock.  

To be thoroughly entertained and keep up to date on the good work of the The Great Brain Cell Sacrifice, follow them on Instagram and Facebook! Also, check out their website to find out more about how you can donate your brain cells for a good cause, and get around some delicious wine too. 

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