The founder of a wine app discusses her first year as an entrepreneur and some of her experiences with all-male meetings. 

By Carla McKay (CEO & Founder, Crushed Wine App)

When I decided it would be fulfilling to be my own boss, I chose my first love; wine.

Entering the wine industry in my mid-40s, I had fewer options of places to start. but after completing intensive wine courses and traveling to many wine regions, I began my new career as a wine consultant. I was surprised by the lack of useful applications available for my clients, friends, colleagues (really anyone that I came in contact with). There was nothing available to them that helped easily organize the wine industry, which can be overwhelming (and pretentious) at times.

So many of the folks who had interest in trying new wines also lacked the basic tools to keep track of what they were drinking, making it nearly impossible for them to refer back to their favorites and make a better decision in any setting – grocery, wine store or restaurant. There also wasn’t anything readily available that allowed wine fans to learn and share with friends what they liked.

The wine industry is shifting. People are more interested in what their friends are drinking and liking than the stodgy ‘100 point’ wine scale by experts.

The All-Male Meeting

And so Crushed Wine App was born. Early on, it seemed like a fairly easy undertaking. But once underway, I knew that I was in for a wild ride, especially working in the ever-evolving industry of mobile application development. After hiring a female friend who is a designer and has experience in app design, we went from concept to app wireframes, in just a few weeks.

With that done, we began the process of researching and meeting with development firms to build the app. Of the six firms that we met with – virtually and in person – all were represented by men. No women – none!  As I said to my designer, “couldn’t they at least find one female to join the meeting?” It obviously never occurred to them that two females would not be ‘fine’ meeting with and being sold to by a bunch of men.

One in-person meeting that we had with a development firm had us feeling about two-feet tall while two men, the lead developer and sales manager, lectured us on the ‘process’. We went into each meeting with the development firms having done our homework and with a budget. We also knew the going rate for developing a more complex app like the one we were interested in building.  We were not asking for anything out of the norm and we were met with resistance and made to feel like we didn’t know what we were talking about. Two of the development firms delivered proposals to us that were close to $100K over the budget that we agreed in our meetings! Was it because we were female?

Women to the Rescue

Enter Cloudfour. We found Cloudfour on the PhoneGap referral development network. I practically had tears in my eyes when I read the firm’s bios – a female lead developer/founder and half of the firm was female. After a few discussions it was clear that they would become our partner to support the development of the Crushed Wine app. Our first in-face meeting was an all-day planning session for the app development. What a difference it was for my designer and I to be sitting with three women and one man. The working relationship that we have with Cloudfour is one of the most collaborative that I have ever experienced. Discussions are always thoughtful and everyone’s opinion matters on every subject. This bodes well for a great product.

A year after we began this process with a ‘concept’ to develop a social mobile wine application — we are two months from launch.  We launched our new site last week and are busy with the app development, business development, public relations, social media marketing – anything and everything to successfully develop a great app in the crowded world of food and wine apps.

I have loved the experience and learned more in this last year than I have in my entire life. I would never have had the opportunity to become the CEO of my own business if I didn’t have the confidence to get going and keep going when things got rough along the way. I credit two crucial mentors – my sister in-law, who is on her third business, and another female CEO that I was connected with as part of the Startout for gay and lesbian entrepreneurs. They took me under their wings early on and supported me when times got challenging. Now, I want to be a good mentor for other women.

What challenges did you face in your first year as an entrepreneur?

CarlaMcKayAbout the guest blogger: After more than 20 years in business development and sales positions for big corporations and startups, coupled with eight years of toiling on the weekends for a winery in Sonoma, Carla McKay (@drinkchikmade the leap to the wine industry by creating the Drink Chick consulting firm in 2011.