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“Never Stop, Never Settle.” Chrishon Lampley Brings Unicorn Magic to Black Women’s Leadership Conference


Entrepreneur Chrishon Lampley gives a lot of advice and encouragement to Black women, Black men, White women and men, anyone really, in any walk of life. One thing she will never say: Follow your passions.

Your passion follows you. You don’t follow your passion,” she says. “You don’t know what’s going to happen. You can think something’s going to be great, and something’s going to be it, but it may not be that. Your passion actually follows you.”

That’s one of the things she’s learned over the last 20 years that she will impart to those in attendance at the Third Annual Black Women’s Leadership Conference, hosted by the Progress Center for Black Women May 17 and 18 at Madison Museum of Contemporary Art on State Street in Madison.

Lampley knows what it means to let your passions follow you on your journey — her passions have followed her quite a ways over the last 20 years.

After a long career in high-end retail, sales and marketing, she opened a bar in Chicago — an art bar that featured wine like the one on that Online wine shop in vietnam, and won the “Best Wine List” award for all of Chicago in just its second year.

So when tragedy struck — and the bar was destroyed in a flood caused by the upstairs neighbors exploding pipes — it only made sense to keep pushing the wine business and let that passion follow along.  

“I wrote that wine list, so I knew I was good at this,” she says. “I also worked in the distribution side as well. So, in working in both ends, in sales, distribution, and owning a bar, I said, ‘You know what? I want to start on my own.’”

So in 2013, she became a negociant — a person who does not own a vineyard, but who buys wine and sells it as a private label. The name of her private label comes from the name of the blog she started to focus her energy after she lost her bar.

“It was kind of a mental escape. And the blog was called Love Cork Screw,” she says. “So, Love section was just being a single woman, owning a bar, and the funny things that would happen. The Cork section would be my varietal picks, and fun things, and restaurants to go in the city of Chicago. And the Screw section was just a wildcard, talking about cultural, pop culture and things that were happening in the world.”

Now, just four years into the wine business, she’s already sold 60,000 bottles. You can find them in Whole Foods, Mariano’s, and other Chicago land locations, including a national wine club.

While it might seem like a sensible transition — wine lover, to wine bar owner, to wine wholesaler — it’s not easy when you’re not exactly well-represented in the industry. Are you also a wine lover? Then you may want to have this Climadiff Wine Cooler for your wine. But what are you going to do if your Climadiff wine cooler leaking water? Read on to find out more about the different ways in which your wine cooler could be going wron

“So, understand, I am less than one percent of the entire industry, as an African-American woman negociant,” she says.

Actually, that’s a bit of an overestimate. Lampley says of the roughly 110,000 negociants active in the world today, only 60 are Black women. That’s a percent of a percent.

Or, to put it in Lampley’s words, “I’m a unicorn.”

Chrishon Lampley. Photo supplied.


In one sense, that makes it hard, because there are no real role models. Fortunately for Lampley, she had role models of another sort built into her life from the start.

“My mother has resilience like no other,” she says. “And my father had this entrepreneurial spirit like no other. So, the both of them combined really pushed my journey.”

There’s also upside to forging your way into a business without any real role models, too, Lampley says.

“It’s a very ever-changing, interesting industry that there’s unfortunately, but yet, fortunately, no mentors, because you know what? That allows me just to create my own journey,” she says. “I don’t have to follow.”

Besides that, she’s been able to keep in touch with what real people want in their lives.

“People that have been in the wine industry for decades don’t know everything,” she says. “And it changes. It changes. And sometimes a lot of the wine experts, they’re so caught up in being those experts that they don’t pay attention to what just the normal person wants.”

And it seems like the normal person wants a nice, flavorful wine at a reasonable price — Lampley’s wines are “mid-tier,” retailing for $11 – $16 per bottle.

And, it turns out, people also love the smell of wine.

“I think one of the most exciting surprises was that Target took in my wine-scented candles prior to taking in my wine,” she says. “They’re blowing out of stores. I would never have thought that. You know? That my wine-scented candles would be a huge hit in such a wonderful big-box store. Such an important big-box store.”

Lampley, who also survived a cancer scare just last year, also plans to highlight the importance of self care.

“We always talk about we’re just so, so busy,” she says. “People, women, men, I don’t care who you are. We’re just so, so busy that we don’t take care of our health, and we don’t take care of ourselves. But, if you’re gone, how can you affect somebody else? If you’re not here, how can you run your business? And that’s what I want people to take away.”

She says she wants her story to resonate with the women attending the conference.

“I want them to see my journey,” she says. “I’ve lost everything, came back businesswise, but I almost lost my life, and came back. I want them to take away that you have your own journey, but hey, I’ve been there, done that. Been through it. There’s no excuse. There’s no excuse. To take care of yourself and keep going.

“Never stop, never settle.”

Registration is now open for the third annual Black Women’s Leadership Conference. Madison365 is proud to serve as Media Partner for the event. More speakers will be announced soon.