Our Fairygodboss of the Week founded her company over ten years ago and has since turned it into the world’s largest importer and producer of African wines. Selena Cuffe has a strong entrepreneurial spirit that she uses to create award-winning brands as well as pay it forward to those in need. Read on to learn more about Cuffe’s inspiring work.
Fairygodboss of the Week: Selena Cuffe
Founder and CEO, Heritage Link Brands, LLC
Los Angeles, CA
FGB: Tell us about your career. How did you get to where you are now?
SC: I am the co-founder, President and CEO of Heritage Link Brands, a company transforming the world’s view of Africa and its diaspora through the medium of pioneering brands. It is the largest wine importer and producer of African descent in the world.
In 2005, I married and subsequently founded Heritage Link Brands upon learning South Africa had a $3 billion wine industry, yet less than 2 percent of the industry was owned by blacks, who make up over 85 percent of the country’s population. From PBS to TIME, my company has been recognized for its innovation and award-winning brands, rooted in stories of triumph. I'm a California native and a graduate of Stanford University. I also hold an MBA with honors from Harvard University. Prior to founding Heritage Link Brands, I served as a global marketer for the Council on International Educational Exchange and Procter & Gamble Company.
FGB: What is an accomplishment that you are proud of?
SC: I'm an avid activist of global trade, education and exchange. So I'm very proud of becoming a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations and my service, generally, including as Advisor to Alcove, Face2Face Health, Stanford University’s Overseas Studies Program and the Global Fund for Widows. I am also Vice President Emeritus of the Harvard Business School Global Alumni Board and a current Alumni Advisor.
FGB: What is a challenge that you've faced and overcome?
SC: Competing in an industry where the incumbents are either publicly traded and/or multiple generations into their wealth and ownership of the wines, vineyards and brands.
FGB: What is the #1 career tip you'd like to share with other women who want to have successful careers like you?
SC: Don't start a business with your own money! I wish someone had schooled me before I founded my company!
FGB: Why do you love where you work?
SC: I wake up every day knowing that I'm making the world a better place by helping to transform the wine industry to become more inclusive of women and people of color, one glass at a time!
FGB: Who is YOUR Fairygodboss? Why?
SC: Oprah — her very essence says it all. She is transparently kind, generous and actively inspires the greater good in us all!
FGB: What do you do when you’re not working?
SC: I'm a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., a women’s empowerment advocate, mother of three young children, lover of diverse culture and food and Spanish and Portuguese speaker.
FGB: If you could have dinner with one famous person — dead or alive — who would it be?
SC: Nelson Mandela.
FGB: What is your karaoke song?
SC: “Kiss,” Prince.
FGB: What is your favorite movie?
FGB: What book would you take with you on a desert island?
SC: “Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
FGB: What is your shopping vice?
Fairygodboss is all about women helping other women - so each week, we celebrate a woman who made a difference in another woman’s career. Is there a woman who has made a difference in your career? Celebrate her and thank her by nominating her here.