Selena Cuffe

This entry is part 14 of 77 in the series

Selena Cuffe of Heritage Link Brands, LLC Selena Cuffe

Heritage Link Brands, LLC
President & CEO 

Years with company: Eight years

 

Education degrees and professional/volunteer organizations: Stanford University graduate (Bachelor in International Relations w/minors in Spanish and Portuguese); MBA with honors, from Harvard University. Certified, with merit, by Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET). Vice President, Harvard Business School Alumni Board. Member: Stanford University’s Bing Overseas Studies Advisory Council; House of Mandela Advisory Board; Director: Global Elevation Board

Mentors and how have they assisted you in your career

  •  Lillian Lambert Lincoln
  • Mary Akpovi
  • Daniel Isenberg

Both Lillian and Mary have shown me by example and continuous encouragement that it is indeed possible to be a successful entrepreneur, mother, and wife. They also constantly reinforce this message through inspiration cards, books, messages, etc.

Dan has been very instrumental in helping me see the forest through the trees, so to speak in terms of building a business from the ground up. He’s always reinforced that while this path is less glamorous and unconventional, it is more common than not! He is also a “gut check” when evaluating select business opportunities and potential partners

What are you most proud of in your achievement> Do you have a defining moment of your career to date? My proudest career achievement is that HLB demonstrates that it’s possible to “do well, while doing good!” We are transforming the way the world perceives Africa and the African diaspora, through the medium of wine. The residual effects of apartheid mean that South Africa’s burgeoning $3 billion wine industry has less than 2 percent black ownership, which is appalling considering blacks represent more than 80 percent of the country’s population. We are improving these stats, “with every sip!” By working to make our wines household names across America, we strive for more than fair wages for our producers—we are committed to expanding economic opportunity for them and for the more than 250,000 Africans in the industry.

A defining moment in my career was not succumbing to second thoughts after taking the leap of faith into entrepreneurship and founding HLB. I beat back many fears and kept moving forward. That entrepreneurial “grit” has served me well ever since!

Most challenging part of your job: The most challenging part of my job is competing against huge wine companies in one of the most highly regulated industries in the U.S. because their marketing/operations budgets dwarf ours.

Advice for upcoming younger executives: I advise upcoming younger executives to learn to trust their instincts, as well partner only with organizations whose missions align with theirs.

Hobbies: Traveling, attending jazz and food festivals, Pilates