How this virtual event company took wine tasting to a new level in 2020
Alexandra Schrecengost, Founder & CEO of Virtual With Us joins Yahoo Finance Live to break down how her event company is faring during the COVID-19 pandemic.
JULIE HYMAN: It's New Year's Eve, as we've been talking about. People are getting creative, aren't they, tonight in terms of their New Year's celebrations since we will not have mass gatherings. People won't be going out to dinners, most of us anyway. You won't be going out, certainly, to see the ball drop in Times Square. And there are an increasing number of entrepreneurs who are trying to offer some solutions for these kinds of events, as well, as well just maybe a Friday night where you want to get a glass of wine with friends.
Alexandra Schrecengost is joining us now. She is the founder of Virtual With Us, which is a virtual kind of wine party company. Alex, thanks for being here. So basically what you all do is you actually send people the wine that they're going to drink, and then you hold this virtual event. So just tell me kind of how the event goes, what it looks like when people sign up.
ALEXANDRA SCHRECENGOST: Absolutely. And thank you for having me. Happy new year. So typically, how the events go is we work with retail partners across the country to fulfill, and we get wine to everyone's home. We work with a number of vendors for cheese and charcuterie and chocolates to really create a fun experience just from the comfort of your own home.
- Alex, when you think about this, are you trying to get, like-- like, are you trying to get us through the pandemic here or are you trying to build maybe, like, a new experience? So in 2024, someone might prefer this method rather than the traditional winetasting kind of experience as we knew it you maybe in the before times.
ALEXANDRA SCHRECENGOST: Well, I think it goes two ways. There is going to be an evolution to the business. But the reason that this company really started and why I was inspired to do this was my-- on the one end, my husband, who's in tech sales, was presented with a challenge. He was trying to network with his clients and his prospects and really couldn't find creative ways to do that.
And on the other end, a lot of my incredible friends in the restaurant industry-- a lot of the sommeliers were furloughed. And I thought, why not marry the two together and really create this opportunity for corporate America? The organizations that we're working with are going to maintain permanent remote status for the most part. And we have contracts through February of next year.
And so this really, I think, is something that is going to stay and evolve and progress where there's going to be an opportunity to virtually interact with everyone, and it's virtual hospitality. It's going to enliven what people might see as monotonous on a day to day. I realize the Zoom meetings are constant now, and this really creates a cocktail hour format with these amazing professionals that are used to lighting up the floor and showing you what wines that you should experience and what cocktails you should try. And it's really helping businesses maintain their business relationships throughout this. So I think it is going to stay, and it's going to be something that is going to progress in the coming years.
- How do you think your business will change as folks do get back to work? I mean, obviously not-- we're not all going back to the office. We're not all going back to the office holiday party or the cocktail party in the first half of next year. But how do you think that will change as we do go back to work next holiday season?
ALEXANDRA SCHRECENGOST: Well, I think it's going to be on two ends of the spectrum here. So I had the pleasure of speaking with a number of my clients last week, actually. And for the most part, most companies that we're speaking with, anyway, are letting go of their offices in major cities. They've realized that their overhead-- they're saving a lot of money on that end. And additionally, T&E-- it's no longer necessary to go away from your family and fly across the country to have that in-person meeting.
So conferences will come back. And we will see that, and we have plans for a marketplace in in-person context as well. But the virtual landscape and virtual entertaining is going to stay for those smaller touches where you can create a fun experience for people online and they don't have to go anywhere.
JULIE HYMAN: And Alex, your clientele, I know, is a mix of companies and individuals, although it seems like it skews a little more to companies. What are the kinds of companies that are signing up? Is it large? Is it small? And how are they using these events? Obviously there's an educational component, it sounds like, with the sommeliers presenting. But obviously there's also a social component, too.
ALEXANDRA SCHRECENGOST: Absolutely. So really we're working with Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 companies to scale their business on the sales organization side. So there's a number of different departments that we're touching. So there's the culture clubs inside organizations that are really trying to create that team camaraderie, that water cooler talk that you wouldn't necessarily experience virtually.
And then, on the other side, there's sales organizations that need their relationships to help build their businesses, to help grow. So we've been able to scale programs for a lot of these organizations because we can host multiple events in one day. We've been able to work with and lucky enough to work with over 40 sommeliers thus far and some incredible chefs, as well. Scott Conant was on last week supporting and doing a cooking demonstration. We have Charles Joly, who's a mixologist.
So we were able to really tap different talents across the hospitality industry to create these experiences that are scalable for the organization. So that they can host multiple events in one day and touch clients, current clients, prospects, and their internal team.
JULIE HYMAN: All right, cool stuff. Alex, thank you so much. Alexandra Schrecengost is the founder and CEO of Virtual With Us. Appreciate it.
ALEXANDRA SCHRECENGOST: Thank you. Happy new year.