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Feb. 24, 2021

Doing the Work of Change w/ Ikimi Dubose, The Roots Fund

Doing the Work of Change w/ Ikimi Dubose, The Roots Fund

Creating inclusivity and change is not changing current structures. It’s about creating new spaces. Ikimi Dubose of The Roots Fund is pushing change for diversity and inclusion of the BIPOC community in wine through passion, accountability, and transparen


Creating inclusivity and change is not changing current structures. It’s about creating new spaces. Ikimi Dubose of The Roots Fund is pushing change for diversity and inclusion of the BIPOC community in wine through passion, accountability, and transparency. She tells us how The Roots Fund is more than scholarships, has been able to change lives, and is expanding its impact with a high school enrichment program, a job board, and a language program. Dynamic only marginally describes Ikimi and The Roots Fund and the impact this nascent non-profit organization is having with only a year under its belt.  

This episode is sponsored by Repour, the simple, effective way to preserve your wine...without planning ahead.  Extensively used by top sommeliers, wineries, and wine students, Repour prevents wasted wine and saves money.  Find out more at repour.com and listen to Episode 24, where CEO Tom Lutz gives us all the details on Repour.  

Detailed Show Notes: 

  • The Roots Fund supports Black, Indigenous, and LatinX in wine
  • Founded by Ikimi, Carlton McCoy (CEO of Lawrence Family Wineries), and Tahiirah Habibi (owner of Hue Society)
  • Ikimi and Carlton met as scholars of the CCAP program
  • Board includes the 3 founders currently, expanding with 2 more in 2021
  • Mission: to empower BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) in wine through scholarships, mentorship, and job placement
  • Some definitions:
    • POC = people of color
    • HBCU = historically black colleges & universities
    • DEI = diversity, equity, and inclusions
  • Diversity in wine
    • Wine is <5% POC
    • Hospitality more diverse than wine in general - more chefs are POC
    • Many people forget the ownership part of inclusivity
    • Diversity is growing
      • Support from NBA players - the Roots Fund doing some work with Dwayne Wade
      • POC make up ~11% of wine consumers, a big customer base
  • Creating change
    • Start with changing hiring practices
    • Have HR people with DEI training
  • The Roots Fund differentiation
    • “No glass ceiling” - not just scholarships for tuition/fees, but funding can include the wines and other elements needed to pursue a career in wine
    • It doesn’t stop at scholarships - mentorship is mandatory, building a community
    • Send funders synopsis and videos of stories of scholars with the impact their scholarships are having on their lives
    • The lean organization, efficient operating structure - a lot of volunteer-based work, transparent (financial statements will be available end of March), 70% of funding goes directly to scholarships (vs. ~50-60% at other non-profits), no office space
  • Scholarships
    • Types
      • Location-based (e.g., Rooted in Napa, Rooted in France) - work and study in a location
      • Stay Rooted in Education - wine business focused
      • Rooted in Education - for wine certifications
      • Rooted in Culture - for joining membership organizations
      • Rooted in Wine, a Vintner’s Story - a partnership with Naked Wines, creating a wine and product, keep ownership of the wine and brand, Naked Wines distributes 1st round of product
    • Scholarships open quarterly, targeting 20 scholars/quarter in 2021, but have ~70 applicants today
  • How to help
    • Jobs - reach out with internships, jobs
    • Mentorship - people of all backgrounds desired, mentors and scholars are matched with purpose, want mentors who can create a safe space for people with different experiences, build them up, and share their network
    • Fundraising - 2021 goal - $500k, but hoping to exceed $1M
  • 2020 Accomplishments
    • Had a $100k fundraising target (for 10 scholars), raised ~$300k
    • 30 scholars in the program working
    • Domaine Dujac and Naked Wine sponsorships
  • 2021 Programs
    • High School enrichment program
      • Take students to community colleges and universities with wine programs
      • Spend time at some wineries
      • Conduct tastings with the parents - educating them on wine and the opportunities in the wine industry for their children
      • Launching with 2 cities in 2021
    • Job Board
      • It should be open at the end of March
      • The Roots Fund pre-vets candidates, only passing along the best fits
      • It requires follow up and feedback to improve candidates
    • Language Program - a partnership with Lip Service by Cha McCoy to empower people in wine with language education
    • Gearing up for 2022 - jobs, internships, and trips
  • Other areas of support
    • Building a massive program with Lodi, California
    • Waiting for more support from Napa Valley - as the industry leader, they can change the view of inclusivity in the industry
    • We will be doing a raffle/fundraiser for Women’s History Month in Spring
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