Selena Cuffe, President and CEO of Heritage Link Brands, is a woman of purpose. Passionate about advancing positive images of Africa and determined to provide a legacy for her family, she has built a wine importing and brand management company that does what its name suggests: link U.S. wine consumers to the heritage of Africa and its Diaspora. Selena Cuffe started Heritage Link Brands with the vision to use wine as a conduit through which to share little known facts about Africa, improving the images of Africa and the African Diaspora.
Wine has a remarkable ability to bring people together. For several Black families in South Africa and one Black family here in the US, wine is used as a bridge to greater economic opportunity. Due in large part to the efforts of Selena and Heritage Link Brands, it has become a successful venture. “If we want to see change, we have no choice but to do this work, love ourselves, do business with each other and grow our families,” Selena told me.
While on an unrelated business trip to South Africa, in 2005, Selena took an afternoon off to attend the Soweto Wine Festival. There she met Vivian Kleynhans, one of the seven sisters of the Brutus family who founded South African wine label Seven Sisters. Selena was so inspired by the Brutus family’s story of losing everything in Apartheid to rebuilding through the creation of their own wine label earlier that year that Selena and her husband, Khary Cuffe, started Heritage Link Brands within a month of her return from South Africa.
Since 2005, Heritage Link Brands has grown significantly and charted many successes. It has been a tough road. But, the families that are interconnected through Heritage Link Brands have persevered despite the challenges to create a Black presence in the South African wine market that did not previously exist. Heritage Link Brands currently represents four black-owned wineries: Seven Sisters, M’hudi, One World, and House of Mandela. Seven Sisters has seen incredible growth since being represented by Heritage Link Brands and has become the first black-owned vineyard in South Africa’s prestigious wine region of Stellenbosch. M’hudi and One World were both introduced to the U.S. consumer market by Heritage Link Brands. House of Mandela is owned by Nelson Mandela’s children and grandchildren, and sales will formally launch in the U.S., February 2013.
The values of Heritage Link Brands embody the spirit of Kwanzaa. In my recent conversation with Selena, I asked her which of the seven principles of Kwanzaa she believes best embodies the values of Heritage Link Brands. Her answer: UNITY. The first principle of Kwanzaa reflected upon on December 26th is umoja, or unity, defined as building a community that holds together. Selena said that her family business is building a community that creates economic empowerment by working with talented people, many of whom happen to look like her, and connecting with the larger community of wine consumers who make it all possible by purchasing their wines.
As you celebrate Kwanzaa, I encourage you to do so with a bottle of wine imported by Heritage Link Brands. Cheers!