In recent years, the term ‘influencer’ has come to mean anyone with a significant amount of social media followers. There is no denying that these people – regardless of their actual profession – inspire our purchases, style, music choices, makeup methods, and more. Yet behind of all the items we see on Instagram and hence seek to obtain, are teams of people working on strategic marketing campaigns that somehow speak to both our most personal desires and a targeted demographic as a whole. Whether we consciously recognize it, these are the true influencers of our culture. Leading this charge in the multi-billion-dollar spirits industry is Ingrid Best.
Remember when Diddy sent Dnice a full bar stocked with Ciroc and DeLeon, exemplifying the resurgence of luxury gifting during a time in the pandemic when we couldn’t actually be together the way we wished? That was Ingrid. Or, do you recall the #CIROCStands movement, which united celebrity voices from the Black community in order to encourage voting in the 2020 election and which continues to promote Black excellence today? That was Ingrid. Or, Nelson Makamo’s moving art show, an event that brought the spirits industry into the fine arts space? That was Ingrid. In her decades-long career, Ingrid has worked under renowned tycoons like Jay Z and Diddy. And through launches that have put her in the most exclusive parties and thrust her into global markets, she has seen it all – from celebs gone wild to the best fine dining worldwide.
Beyond catchy campaigns, Ingrid has influenced the spirts industry in profoundly meaningful ways. Often, she worked for liquor companies whose customer base was dominantly Black and brown people, customers she represents as a Black and Latina woman. She created ways to speak to and uplift this group, maintaining a deep focus on this consumer base. Additionally, fighting for her ideas in rooms where she was often the only person of color underscored the importance of representation inside the industry, something Ingrid innately recognized. And in her role at Combs Enterprises, she hired an all-Black, all-female marketing team, the first of its kind in Spirits. Needless to say, their success is boundless. And while Ingrid can claim creative genius for a multitude of ads, videos, posts, and placements, she names this team as her biggest contribution to the Spirits industry, and rightfully so.
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Ingrid’s influence is far from peaking, however, as her latest spirits venture is a brand all her own: iBest Wines. The brand brings South African vintages to US tables. Ingrid currently works with producers to bottle unique blends and hopes to incorporate some yet-to-be-discovered wine makers whose craft is top tier. And, since she grew up near Napa Valley with an affinity for fermented grapes, we can count on her taste to tell us what’s ‘Best’ (wink). Uniting her passions, Ingrid plans to – again – build a diverse, women-led team who will, no doubt, make this brand a household name. She learned from the best, of course. And while Ingrid carries learnings from moguls like Jay Z and Diddy into her solo venture, the truth is, she has long been a business mogul, herself. When Ingrid is influencing, we should all be ready to follow!
The biggest challenge I faced – which was also my biggest motivator – was feeling like as a Black and Latina woman first starting out, I had to work twice as hard to prove that I knew what I was doing. My ideas and my opinions on how to do business were often overlooked and it was really frustrating at the time, but it also motivated me, even more, to prove that I knew what I was talking about and that what I had to say was important and impactful.
My biggest contribution to the spirits industry has for sure been my dedication to uplifting women, Black and Brown women especially, in every position that I’ve held and finding ways to find new opportunities for career growth and development for women. When I was with Combs Enterprises, I hired an all-Black, all-female marketing team — the only one in the spirits industry. That’s something I’m extremely proud of and I hope that my work will not only continue to change the face of the industry, but it will inspire others that they can help people in the same way I’ve been able to.
I’d also like to say that although it’s my biggest contribution, it’s something I’m continually striving towards. At iBest Wines I’m building a team of talented businesspeople and marketers to lead the company. It’s important to note that it’s not about showing preferential treatment to Black and Brown candidates but it’s about casting a wide net, so all qualified people are equally represented in the consideration pool along with all other prospects.
Working with Jay Z and Diddy allowed me to see two things: 1) Know your worth, and 2) Push to get what you know you’re worth. Both Jay Z and Diddy know their worth and use it to build businesses that they’re passionate about, which is exactly what I’m doing right now with iBest Wines.
My experience is that in spirits there are a lot of long nights, and you have to be able to hold your own. Back when I was working for D’USSÉ Cognac, I took a life-changing trip to South Africa when we were working on taking the brand global. I kept the relationships I’d built from that experience and I’m excited now to launch my wine brand with a focus on South African wines – something that might not have happened if I hadn’t hosted that event!
What’s your favorite place to shop in LA? Hollywood Farmers Market for fresh flowers and food.
What’s your favorite place to go out in LA for nightlife? “No Man Curse” – Soho Warehouse
In your opinion, what makes LA nightlife unique?No matter who you are, you’ll always find something to enjoy
What’s your favorite LA restaurant? Alta – it’s incredible!
What’s your favorite cocktail in LA? 1010 WineBar – Glass of Chablis please!
What is one place a vacationer must visit in LA? I recommend a drive down PCH towards Malibu to catch a beautiful sunset.
I am a firm believer in supporting and mentoring those who come after us and are earlier on in their career journeys. Young people are our future and it’s our responsibility to pass on the wisdom we’ve gained and the lessons we’ve learned to help them to best succeed in their careers and in life. From a career perspective, having a mentor helps mentees to better understand how to navigate their industry, provides a sounding board for thoughts and ideas, and allows for the opportunity to ask questions. From a life perspective, there are so many things going on in the world from gun violence to racism, and having a mentor can help younger generations to understand how to do better and provides support that they may otherwise not receive.
Growing up, we lived basically in Napa’s backyard which is where I developed a true appreciation for wine at a young age. Then, as I mentioned, a couple of years ago I visited South Africa and their vineyards for the first time, and I fell in love – with the culture, the people, the art, and of course the wine! Since then, it’s become my mission to launch my own brand with a focus on South African wines, an underrepresented category in the industry.
What makes iBest Wines so unique is a mixture of the people who make up my brand and the type of wine that we’re making. Our company is made up of a beautifully diverse and passionate team who is both knowledgeable in the space and is equally as dedicated as I am to change the face of the wine & spirits industry to be more equitable and representative of its consumers. Additionally, as I mentioned above, South African wine holds a low market share compared to other regions in the world, and I’m excited to use iBest Wines as a platform to educate the industry as a whole on the beauty of the wine and its culturally rich background and origin.
When iBest Wines achieves success beyond my wildest dreams, it will check all the boxes that I’d imagined for the brand when I started this whole process. The goal for our brand is to become a household name, expand globally, and to eventually set up a central fund for aspiring Black and Brown people to give them opportunities to be owners, winemakers, entrepreneurs, etc. Most importantly, I want the story of iBest Wines to be impactful and an inspiration to other Black and Brown business owners so that they can follow their dreams and be successful at the same time. iBest Wines will be my legacy.
Here are three pieces of advice I would give to a Black professional starting out, and frankly advice I wish I had had when I was starting out myself:
#1 – Confidence: Confidence is everything. If you don’t believe in yourself and your capabilities, no one else will. #2 – Negotiation Skills: Knowing how to advocate for your own worth is extremely important, especially for women who have been historically paid much less than men. This also goes back to confidence – be confident in your skills and your worth and other people will take note. #3 – It’s Okay to Not Know: You don’t have the answer to every question. With each position you’re in, you’ll continue to learn something new. No one has all the answers and that’s okay.
#1 – Confidence: Confidence is everything. If you don’t believe in yourself and your capabilities, no one else will.
#2 – Negotiation Skills: Knowing how to advocate for your own worth is extremely important, especially for women who have been historically paid much less than men. This also goes back to confidence – be confident in your skills and your worth and other people will take note.
#3 – It’s Okay to Not Know: You don’t have the answer to every question. With each position you’re in, you’ll continue to learn something new. No one has all the answers and that’s okay.