In a 72,4 billion-dollar, male-dominated wine industry, Nevena Rousseva founded Ladies of Leisure to focus on women and deliver a new way of experiencing great tasting wine while
making a personal statement.
With a background in fashion design and a degree in sustainability management, not much prompted Nevena to enter the wine industry. However, an upbringing in Long Island with grandparents that made their own wine and a noticeable gap in the industry drew a clear path for Nevena to create Ladies of Leisure.
The idea for Ladies of Leisure came about when Nevena was sipping wine with her friends and coming up with fun names of wines they would buy as opposed to the ones they see on shelves. “Wine doesn’t have to be stuffy or traditional,” says Nevena. “It can be fun and
daring in names and taste and it can be used to signal something more personal- like what state of mind someone is in and what statement they want to make.”
Ladies of Leisure's three wines are Sexy Sauv, Racy Red, and Zero Fs Given Rosé. Each name captures the aliveness, rebelliousness, and excitement different experiences and emotions can arouse, turning the drinking experience into a form of effortless “liquid expression” and redefining what the act of drinking a glass of wine can mean.
During this last month of 2020, we spoke to Nevena Rousseva about self-expression since the beginning of the pandemic, what it means to be a female entrepreneur, and the ways she's navigated this past year.
Honne: Why was creating Ladies of Leisure important to you?
Nevena Rousseva: I love wine, but also, I hadn’t found a brand that truly hit the spot in the way I wanted. For that reason, I decided to create the brand I wanted by combining great tasting wine and fun labels that make you look twice. Our wines incorporate a sense of expression and freedom by labeling each bottle in order to not force our consumers to put in that extra effort into naming how they feel. I wanted to create a non-traditional brand that speaks directly to women and also delivers great wine.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Each day is a little different depending on the things I have to do. Some days I spend doing graphic design all day, other days I work on financial models, supply chain research, or work on a marketing strategy.
How has COVID-19 impacted you and your business?
It’s made me rethink everything from what I really want to pursue to who I want to spend my time with— professionally and personally. It’s made me rethink how I want to communicate with customers and what message I want to send. I want more realness and truth infused into the brand I’m building. I want to break the codes not only for myself but for my company and my customers.
What were some of the biggest difficulties you faced this year?
Learning to do everything and being my own team. I work on branding and marketing strategy, web design and building, financial modeling, PR and communication, photography, and set design all on my own. I’ve also had to adapt to an environment that’s been constantly changing.
Specifically, as a female entrepreneur, have you faced any obstacles since starting Ladies of Leisure?
Mostly in terms of my mindset, yes. Managing my doubts and confidence level around my ideas is challenging. Society teaches women when they are little girls to focus their attention inwards. Now as a female entrepreneur, when I have to be outspoken, show emotion or just generally be louder with my thoughts and words, I see the effects it has on my mindset and on my way of responding to the world. I’ve definitely been learning different tools to move through that.
Do you think this pandemic redefined leisure for people as most of us had a lot of time on our hands?
Absolutely. I think it’s made leisure an even more precious activity that many people have had to forgo in order to meet challenges. However, I do think the lockdowns presented a false sense of leisure by giving us time on our hands that we didn’t necessarily want and that splintered into stress management with activities like baking, and opportunity management with activities around self-reflection and personal growth. Leisure was taken for granted before the pandemic, and once we emerge I think real leisure will be even more important for regaining balance.
Has your mindset changed since the beginning of the pandemic?
My mindset has definitely changed. It was doom and gloom and fear at the beginning of the pandemic and now it’s about survival, looking ahead, and creating prosperity in a new set of circumstances.
Has the pandemic changed your outlook on your business and your approach to your job? How?
Yes, I’ve had to let go of business relationships that were toxic and it has made me rethink how I approach business relationships and what I want out of partnerships.
What has helped you get through this year?
Wine! And self-reflection. I’ve been on a journey of cleaning out my emotional clutter for the last 7 months. It’s been the best experience but the hardest thing to do.
Has anything good come out of this year for you?
I learned a lot about myself, my fears, and my limitations, and met my new partners for Ladies of Leisure.
What does the future look like for Ladies of Leisure? Any plans?
The future is very bright for Ladies of Leisure. My big vision is to grow the brand beyond wine into lifestyle and education, but for right now I am focusing on growing and expanding the production of our 3 main wines: Sexy Sauv, Zero Fs Given, and Racy Red.
What advice would you give to someone looking to become an entrepreneur?
Make sure you cultivate a strong, positive mindset because being an entrepreneur can be challenging and lonely and if you don’t have the right mindset, it’s easy to give up.