Miami Herald Makeover: YaYa Wines

emineo media yaya wines miami herald makeoverA government job, a stint in the U.S. Army, red wine from Chile and a restaurant napkin helped put Miami entrepreneur YaYa LeGrand on an unconventional path to small business ownership. LeGrand, who spent over two decades working for Miami-Dade County government, is a determined businesswoman with a lofty goal: seeing her product, YaYa Wines, on Publix and Winn-Dixie shelves by the end of next year.

LeGrand’s journey began with vacations her mother, Kathleen, took to Chile when she was a teenager. “My mom would go to Chile and bring back these red wines with interesting designs on the bottles,” LeGrand said. “When I got older, I could actually drink the wine and it was delicious.”

After a career that included four years in the military and another 20 working for Miami-Dade County in a security-management role, LeGrand retired — and was finally able to realize her dream of starting her own business.

LeGrand had already come up with a name for her new wine a few years before she retired — YaYa Wines. “The name and logo actually came out of a meal I had at a restaurant with a friend,” LeGrand said. “I started doodling on a napkin and ended up drawing three hearts on a napkin with my name above them.”

That became the label that adorns her wine bottles. LeGrand then set about creating a wine that reminded her of the Chilean varieties her mother had brought home. “After checking out vineyards in California’s Napa Valley and Sonoma, LeGrand went with Brotherhood, America’s oldest winery. Brotherhood, in Washingtonville, New York, was established in 1839.

“At Brotherhood, I was able to find the perfect wines that were so reminiscent of what my mother found in Chile,” LeGrand said. “It’s a great partnership that we have.”

In just over three years, LeGrand has grown YaYa Wines into a product that is sold in more than 60 retail locations in South Florida including Milam’s Market in Miami. But she has not reached her ultimate goal of getting YaYa Wines into Publix and Winn-Dixie.

Today, YaYa Wines generates over $65,000 in annual sales. LeGrand is hoping to triple her sales over the next year if she is able to achieve her goal of seeing Ya-Ya Wines on major supermarket shelves. To do that, LeGrand asked the Miami Herald for a Small Business Makeover.

The Herald enlisted the help of the Miami chapter of SCORE. SCORE reached out to three counselors to help LeGrand determine what she needs to do: Hilary Metz, Nora Adler and Orlando Espinosa (details in box).

At the first meeting LeGrand had with the SCORE counselors, she outlined her goal. She also explained that before working with SCORE for the makeover, she was in the process of applying to a Publix program that helps minority and women-owned businesses interested in bringing their products to store shelves. SCORE counselors worked with LeGrand to develop a plan, but first, she had to protect her intellectual property. “YaYa had a federal trademark that she applied for years earlier,” Metz said. “But she wasn’t using it. So we had to change that to make sure she was protected.”

Another problem LeGrand faced was securing reliable distribution for her product. “A big part of YaYa’s success is going to be in distribution,” Adler said. “It’s great to have her wines in a few Milam’s Markets and small liquor stores, but to propel her forward and grow the business, she needed to secure strong distribution with a company that could give her exposure to regional and national grocery store chains.”

Distribution alone wasn’t going to get LeGrand where she wanted to go, however. “YaYa is great because she is her brand,” Espinosa said. “But she needed to position herself better as the face of it, which meant getting out there and pounding the pavement to achieve the success she envisioned.”

To point her in the right direction, the SCORE team had the following advice:

Protect the intellectual property owned by the business: “One of the main things that YaYa needs to do here is start using her federally registered trademark,” Metz said. “If you look at the wine bottles, they don’t have the ‘R’ with the circle around it next to YaYa Wines, which indicates that the brand is protected. This is not a good thing and something that needs to be corrected as soon as possible.”

According to Metz, using the registered trademark symbol is important for several reasons: “There are a host of benefits that come with trademark protection that allow you to prevent others from using it and to collect damages if they do.”

Metz said many small business owners don’t know the difference between a trademark and copyright: “Copyright applies to things like songs and literary works. Trademarks apply to things like logos and symbols. In this case, the name YaYa Wines and the three hearts that make up her logo are trademarked.”

Metz told LeGrand that using your federally registered trademark also adds value to your brand. “If YaYa were to partner with a distributor or try to seek financing for her business, those companies know that they are investing in a brand that is fully protected and that they won’t be sued or entangled legally by doing business with YaYa Wines,” Metz said.

Partner with a reputable distributor to get exposure to major chain supermarkets: The SCORE counselors encouraged LeGrand to partner with a distributor she could trust with the connections to get her brand regional and national exposure. LeGrand had worked with several distributors over the years. “In the wine business, distribution is essential to success,” Adler said. “It’s important to partner with a company that has a strong track record.”

A chance posting on Facebook led LeGrand to KeHE Distributors, a company based in Naperville, Illinois. “A friend of mine posted something on Facebook about wine,” LeGrand said. “That led to me discovering that I knew someone who worked for KeHE, and we started talking about my business.”

LeGrand is working with KeHE to secure distribution in South Florida supermarket chains like Sedano’s, Publix and Winn-Dixie.

Foster relationships with wine buyers, store managers and others in the industry: Adler reminded LeGrand that even with distribution, bringing a wine to the mass market isn’t easy. “Securing distribution is really only half of the battle,” Adler said. “YaYa needs to keep herself and her brand on people’s radars.”

To do that, Adler recommended fostering relationships with wine buyers. “YaYa should not rely on a distributor to do marketing for the brand,” Adler said. “She needs to also take the bull by the horns and get her brand in front of wine buyers. The individual wine buyers and store managers are the ones who have the final say as to whether a product goes on the shelves in their stores.”

Become the brand: “YaYa Wines is a brand that centers around its creator,” said Espinosa, who met LeGrand several years ago at a SCORE workshop. “When you have a brand like that it’s important to make sure that you are out there constantly promoting yourself, and by extension, your brand.”

Espinosa recommended that LeGrand create opportunities for people to experience YaYa Wines. “I think that once people taste the wine, they will love it and tell others about it,” Espinosa said. “YaYa needs to organize wine tastings, raffle off bottles of wine for charity and get involved in high-profile events around town that will raise her profile.”

He also urged her to grow her presence on social media. “Ya-Ya has about 150 followers on Twitter and needs to strengthen her presence on Facebook and Instagram,” Espinosa said. “With a brand like hers that is fun and hip, social media is an inexpensive tool to help drive people to it.”

LeGrand is taking the SCORE counselors’ advice and working hard to make her dream a reality.

How to apply for a makeover

Business Monday’s Small Business Makeovers focus on a particular aspect of a business that needs help. Experts in the community will provide the advice. The makeover is open to full-time businesses in Miami-Dade or Broward counties open at least two years. Email your request to and put “Makeover” in the subject line.


Based in Washington, D.C., SCORE is a nonprofit with more than 12,000 volunteers working out of about 400 chapters around the country offering free counseling to small businesses. There are seven chapters on Florida’s east coast, including SCORE Miami-Dade, with more than 90 volunteer counselors. Counselors from SCORE Miami-Dade meet with small business owners and offer free one-on-one counseling as well as dozens of low-cost workshops. To register or see more, click on “Local Workshops” on To volunteer or learn more about SCORE, go to or

The makeover

The business: YaYa Wines, located at 921 NE 147th St. in North Miami, sells wines produced by America’s oldest winery. Founded in 2007, the business is owned by YaYa LeGrand, who formerly worked for Miami-Dade County government.

The challenge: Developing a plan to successfully grow the business by getting the wines on Publix and Winn-Dixie store shelves.

The experts: SCORE Miami-Dade counselor Orlando Espinosa, co-founder of Emineo Media, has more than 25 years of experience in branding and social media. Nora Adler is a marketing consultant who specializes in the wine business. Hilary Metz is an intellectual property and trademark attorney whose business specializes in helping business owners protect themselves against infringement.

The results: In just over a month, the SCORE team developed a plan for LeGrand. They showed her how to protect her brand, gain exposure to the major supermarket chains she was targeting and how to increase the buzz for her brand by attending events, hosting wine tastings and networking. They showed her how to develop a strategy to maximize her social media online presence. They also helped LeGrand figure out what she needed to do to find a reputable distributor for her products.

Read more here: Miami Herald

Miami Herald Small Business Makeover: Heywood Wakefield

emineo media orlando espinosa score miami dade leonard RiforgiatoFor Leonard Riforgiato, the path to small business ownership began in the 1990s with an abandoned company trademark and a passion for antiques.

After selling heirlooms and collectibles in storefronts around South Beach for decades, he turned his attention to Heywood-Wakefield, a vintage furniture brand his customers were buzzing about. Founded at the turn of the last century when two still-older furniture companies merged, Heywood-Wakefield incorporated unique designs and a creative use of bent wood to produce durable and stylish beds, chairs, night stands and other pieces designed for the home. Prices range from $540 for a bar stool to over $1,500 for a bed.

“I got interested in Heywood-Wakefield by accident,” Riforgiato said. “I noticed that, over the years, a lot of people came into my stores asking for vintage Heywood-Wakefield furniture.”

He researched the company, unearthing a trove of information. Heywood-Wakefield chairs and other now-iconic pieces had been made in Gardner, Mass., since 1897, continuing until the late 1970s. Gardner, with a population of 20,000, is the self-styled “Furniture Capital of New England”; in 1983, the Heywood-Wakefield Company Complex, where the well-known furniture was originally made, was added to the National Historic Register.

The company’s lineage impressed Riforgiato. “Once I found out the trademark had expired, I saw an opportunity to keep the brand alive,” he said. “I purchased it, kept the Heywood-Wakefield name and decided to go into the furniture business making these amazing pieces that people loved.”

That was back in 1992. Today, nearly 22 years later, Riforgiato no longer sells Heywood-Wakefield furniture in showrooms, instead operating solely online from his home in Miami. “The cost of operating a showroom became quite high over the years,” he said. “Real-estate costs were going through the roof, so I decided to use the power of the Internet to grow the business without having a brick-and-mortar building to show the furniture.”

Riforgiato was so passionate about the company’s history that he continued to produce Heywood-Wakefield furniture in Massachusetts. He began production in Gardner in 1992, but in 2011, he moved to a factory in nearby Winchendon.

With annual revenue of nearly a quarter of a million dollars, Riforgiato estimates that his company sells over 200 pieces of furniture per year. Relying heavily on client referrals to drive sales, he spends more time making furniture than he does on marketing it. He wanted to take the offline conversations his customers were having and bring them online in hopes of increasing sales.

To find answers, Heywood-Wakefield turned to the Miami Herald for a Small Business Makeover to help him figure out how to best incorporate tools like social media and a revamped website into a growth plan. The Herald, in turn, brought in Miami SCORE, a nonprofit organization of volunteers who have been successful entrepreneurs. SCORE volunteers use their business acumen and provide mentoring services to small business owners free of charge, putting them on the road to success. SCORE identified three counselors to turn Heywood-Wakefield’s online marketing around.

The SCORE team included Orlando Espinosa, co-founder of Emineo Media, who has over 25 years of experience in branding and social media. He has also led training programs for entrepreneurs both in the U.S. and abroad. Rosi Arboleya, a consultant and creative director at Perpetual Message, a local marketing company, has over 30 years of experience working in the advertising and marketing space. Her expertise is in Web development, social media and developing online marketing campaigns. Frank Padron is a consultant who specializes in digital marketing, online branding and SEO. He has over 20 years of experience working in digital and works with We Simplify the Internet (WSI), an Internet marketing firm in Coral Gables.

After the first of three meetings with Riforgiato, the counselors identified several issues with Heywood-Wakefield’s marketing strategy. One of the company’s immediate problems was a lack of exposure on social media. Another factor impeding sales was the company’s website. It wasn’t very user-friendly and couldn’t handle e-commerce, so customers weren’t able to buy Heywood-Wakefield furniture online. Heywood-Wakefield wanted to take the online plunge, but with a limited marketing budget of just a couple thousand dollars and orders to fill, it seemed daunting.

“Many times, small business owners are so busy running all aspects of their companies that they tend to place a low priority on things they don’t know about,” Espinosa said. “So, suddenly things that seem important to company sales like social media and online marketing are put on the back burner because the company is unsure about how to approach it.”

The counselors all agreed that by incorporating social media and a few tweaks to his current website, Riforgiato could see a significant increase in annual sales. To accomplish that goal, the SCORE team had the following advice:

•  Revamp the website

“It’s time for Heywood-Wakefield to step it up a notch in terms of its online presence,” Espinosa said. “First and foremost, the homepage needs a redo.”

For quick recognition and brand reinforcement, Espinosa recommended the Heywood-Wakefield company logo should be placed on top left of page. “The company logo was in the footer of the site way at the bottom,” Espinosa said. “But it really should be at the top. It should be one of the first things a customer sees when they log on to your site.”

Next, Espinosa suggested adding social media buttons for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others on the top right-hand side of the page for easy access. “Heywood-Wakefield does have a Facebook page,” Espinosa said. “But you can’t find it from the website. Adding social media buttons to the right of the page will make it easy for customers to connect with the brand online.”

Arboleya reminded Heywood-Wakefield that incorporating better photos into the site would increase customer engagement and time spent on the site. She recommended that Heywood-Wakefield replace static images with a product slideshow. “Heywood-Wakefield has beautiful furniture that is really compelling visually,” Arboleya said. “They need to showcase that through animated slideshows that get the customer interested as soon as they log on.”

Padron encouraged the company to track its customer engagement online using analytics. Using information gathered through analytics, Heywood-Wakefield will be able to build a long-term online marketing strategy that works. “Google Analytics provides insights into campaigns,” Padron said. “And it helps you analyze visitor traffic. Heywood-Wakefield needs to find out if analytics are on their current site.”

The SCORE team recommended using WordPress for the new website. “For easy updating, SEO and content management, WordPress sites are best,” Padron said. “With WordPress, you get the control to make quick do-it-yourself updates easily.” The team also encouraged Heywood-Wakefield to add e-commerce to their website. “The ability to make a purchase online would be a game-changer for the company,” Espinosa said. “Right now, when customers are ready to make a purchase, they have to call Heywood-Wakefield and go through the transaction with a live person.”

•  Create a blog

Because of Heywood-Wakefield’s rich history, engaging customers by posting about how the company started, where it is now and where it’s going can provide great content for a blog. “A blog for this company could be a really fun thing,” Arboleya said. “The company can post tidbits about its history, pictures of vintage pieces and share videos on a blog written by Mr. Riforgiato. He is the man behind the brand, and a blog is a great way to introduce him to the world.” The SCORE team also recommended that Heywood-Wakefield share information on industry-specific websites and forums with a link back to the blog. “Blogs are also a great way of generating interest in the latest design trend or product,” Espinosa said. “Use it to incorporate content with Facebook and email marketing. It’s also perfect for cross promoting with blog sites such as Retro Renovations.”

•  Develop branded e-blasts

Heywood-Wakefield doesn’t have a regular form of e-communication with clients. The SCORE counselors recommend that Heywood-Wakefield consider developing a branded e-blast that can be distributed weekly or monthly. “Like any business, Heywood-Wakefield wants to be top of mind for your customers,” Arboleya said. “Reaching out to them with things that can make their lives better like a sale, an interesting bit of history or even a new slideshow of pictures is a good way to stay in touch.” Espinosa said not to send e-mails too often, such as daily, and to use creative subject lines.

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Small business makeover: Social media strategy boosts online furniture business’ chances for success


US Mobile Payments to Top $1 Billion in 2013

MobileMoneyNewemineomediaDespite slower growth than previously expected, proximity mobile payments will top $1 billion in the US this year, according to new figures from eMarketer, before expanding rapidly to reach an estimated $58 billion by 2017.

eMarketer defines mobile payments as transactions for goods or services made by scanning, tapping, swiping or checking in with a mobile phone at the point of sale. Often characterized as a proximity or contactless payment, mobile payments occur in real time in the real world, and are functionally different than mobile commerce—the purchase of digital or physical goods on a mobile device.

Driven by consumers buying items like daily coffee via closed-loop payment systems, as well as an increase in bigger-ticket purchases made via smartphones, mobile payment transactions more than tripled from 2011 to 2012 in the US, eMarketer estimates, reaching $539 million that year.

Still, the market is growing slower than previously expected, as evidenced by eMarketer’s scaled back estimates of user adoption and transaction value from initial projections in October 2012. Delays and adoption issues facing numerous mobile wallet initiatives, as well as a congested landscape of competing technologies, materially affect eMarketer’s outlook on mobile payment transaction values, which will not top $20 billion until 2016. The previous forecast predicted mobile payments would top $20 billion by 2015. Additionally, low-value purchases will still comprise the majority of transactions in 2013, causing a dip in the growth rate.

These estimates are based on the following key assumptions and variables:

  • In the near term, light users experimenting with low-dollar purchases will dominate the mobile payment audience; a smaller segment of heavy users who habitually buy their daily coffee, for example, with a mobile payment system will increase over the forecast period.
  • The significant jump in total and per-user spending over the forecast period will be driven by consumers adopting mobile payments for a wider array of products and services constituting an equally broad gamut of price points. eMarketer views this diversification as critical to driving habitual consumption, which is crucial for moving mobile payments into the mainstream.
  • Increased activity among these regular users is contingent on the assumption that more mainstream merchants will accept mobile payments of some kind. For example, NFC adoption remains a wild card. On the one hand, NFC-enabled hardware continues to proliferate. On the other hand, US mobile payment platforms reliant on NFC have, so far, failed to gain traction among consumers and merchants even as other methods and technologies have picked up steam. The failure of large-scale mobile payment schemes to take root in 2012 put many merchants and consumers in a “wait-and-see” mode, resulting in lowered estimates.
  • Consumers will also need to find the experience of using a mobile payment platform sufficiently convenient and valuable enough to encourage repeat use. Integration of proximity payments with other mobile commerce activities will contribute to increased consumer awareness and use, encouraging uptake, while concerns about security and smartphone battery life will gradually ebb as consumers grow more familiar with the different systems available. Absent these conditions, the market may not develop as predicted in the model.
  • While transactions and users have increased, a fragmented mobile wallet landscape could stifle the path to more rapid adoption. In contrast, if hardware and infrastructure impediments are resolved in a shorter timeframe, and adoption clusters around specific mobile wallets or payment mechanisms, allowing large-scale mobile wallets to make inroads with consumers and merchants, the proximity payments opportunity could accelerate at a faster rate.

Numerous forecasts tracked by eMarketer attempt to quantify the global mobile payments opportunity, although estimates vary widely based on the scope of how each research firm defines what constitutes a mobile payment, as well differing methodologies and assumptions of what will drive market growth. Players in the mobile payments value chain currently operate at a country-specific level due to local regulations and infrastructure considerations, meaning that regional perspectives can be more insightful than a global aggregate view.

Most researchers expect global mobile payments will reach transaction volume in the hundreds of billions of dollars by 2017. Despite these generally optimistic projections, discrepancies in scope, as well as downward revisions of past forecasts, underscore just how much the market is still in its early stages.

Source eMarketers