How SYLTBAR Came To Life
The story behind our brand, SYLTBAR, is not a typical “wine story.” Instead, it is a true love story. My name is Regina Blohm, co-founder of SYLTBAR. I met my now husband, Claus, back in 2005 in Hamburg, Germany. We were both living in the same building. I was 35, single, had just moved from Munich, and was working in luxury fashion. He was 45, had just come out of a horrible divorce, was the CEO of a uniform manufacturer. Both of us were lucky; because of our profession, we had the opportunity to travel a lot to different countries. which gave us the opportunities to experience very good hotels and restaurants all over the world.
Long story short, after meeting one another, we quickly learned we had nothing in common. until we discovered that we love the same Prosecco from San Simone. Both of us had tasted this Italian Prosecco from San Simone Winery 33 years prior, on different occasions, but in the same place: the island of Sylt. Then, we at least something to talk about, and we started dreaming about a business idea. We agreed that is the best Prosecco in the world, mainly because we would never feel hungover the morning after drinking and the taste was so enjoyable that one bottle didn’t last long.
Over time, and very many bottles of that Prosecco, Claus and I eventually moved past our differences and fell in love because of our differences. It’s like the saying, “the salt in the soup.” Those differences make our love special, so we are never living a boring life. We got married in Italy in 2008. We started to travel to the US more often, and my love of Miami made us decide to start our Premium Prosecco business there. Before that, though, we tried a lot of other Prosecco brands — not only in Europe, but also in the US — just at the time when the US was becoming more familiar with the Prosecco category in 2008. We could never find anything quite like our beloved San Simone Premium Prosecco. The producers of our most loved Prosecco — who are located in Friuli, Italy, close to Venice — were very happy that they could find a partner in the US to take care of their family tradition, and bring their premium Prosecco overseas. They granted us the exclusive rights, and then we also trademarked our brand, SYLTBAR.
If you haven’t guessed already, the name represents the Island of Sylt, where we both discovered this Prosecco, and the logo is the shape of the island. SYLTBAR is truly a testament to our love for each other and for that island and the word “bar” represents how we were introduced to our best loved Prosecco.
Entering the Wine Business
“We think, drink and feel like real wine customers.”
Neither of us had any knowledge about the wine world, but as we began to grow our business, we realized that this worked to our advantage. It means we think, drink and feel like real wine customers.
It was very risky though, starting a business in an industry we knew nothing about, and in a country we were brand new to. To be honest, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into and had zero marketing plan or strategy. We knew one thing, and one thing only: that this Prosecco was much better than any other Prosecco brands on the market, and we wanted people to know about it.
Looking back, it was a blessing in disguise that we had no experience in what we were doing. We were so awkward when introducing our brand to customers — but that also made us look real. We stood out because of the fact that! The wine industry started talking about us and wondering about it, and that means free marketing, what was very good because we didn’t have huge budgets like other big companies to introduce our brand to the public. It was me and Claus at the forefront, not a marketing team, not a brand model or ambassador. It was us. Customers got to know us and realized that we were authentic and really believed in the brand and loved the taste of SYLTBAR plus the advantages regarding the low sugar and low sulfites.
We Will Always Stay Authentic
Our business strategy hasn’t changed too much since the beginning. We still believe that word-of-mouth is the best marketing tool, and that has been the driving force behind SYLTBAR all these years. We do love public attention, of course, but we are proud to say that we are the only privately owned Prosecco brand in the US market. That gives us a lot of freedom and allows us to hold onto the high quality standards that SYLTBAR is known for. Our success stems from having an amazing winery which still produces 100% natural wines. We have a very excellent team that always sticks together, even through tough times. Our core values have been and always will be authenticity and honesty.
Our friends and customers who have been with us since the beginning always comment about how hard we have worked to get where we are. We always say it hasn’t been hard for us because we love what we do so much that it never feels like “work.” The ride has been up and down, but always enjoyable and we learn something new every day. This job is never boring, and we love watching Mr and Mrs have been growing since day one and travel all over the world to meet new SYLTBAR lovers. At present time, we are available in 23 states and all of the key markets, and we are always brainstorming to develop the brand further. This is just the beginning for SYLTBAR!
What Makes SYLTBAR Stand Apart from Other Prosecco?
Lowest Sugar Prosecco on the Market
Simply put, SYLTBAR has the lowest sugar content of any Prosecco on the market. This has been proven through lab tests by the University of Miami Diabetes Research Institute. Additionally, our winery does not use any chemicals or added sulfites, the wines are vegan, and very low in calories. SYLTBAR Prosecco has been a favorite among Weight Watchers members, Keto dieters, and anyone who just wants to make health conscious choices, but still enjoys having a glass of Prosecco.
Low-Sugar, No-Added-Sugar, Vegan Wines
As we grew, our brand expanded to more than Prosecco to also include a Sparkling Rosé and four still wines: Pinot Grigio, Friuli (which we describe as the Sauvignon Blanc of Italy), Ramato Pinot Grigio and Cabernet Franc. All of these wines are also vegan, produced without any chemicals or sulfites, and lower in sugar and calories than other traditional brands. The SYLTBAR brand has a lot of personality, and because of that we give “nicknames” to all of our products that represent their characteristics. We are not working with a lot of different, always changing producers to get the best deal out of it. We stick to one winery because we want to have truly controlled production. No changing labels like you may see from many other brands that only use a bottle number on the label and make that seem like the brand is the producer, but this only shows that the wine was not made at a real winery.
Our main products are the Prosecco and Sparkling Rosé, which we call Mr and Mrs (named to represent myself and Claus, of course). Our Pinot Grigio is called White Linen for its fresh and crisp taste; Friuli is Silk for its sophistication and elegance; Ramato is Junior because of its shorter bottle shape; and Cabernet Franc is Cashmere because of its luscious and smooth feel.
Challenges in the Wine Industry
The Importance of Education
The biggest challenge for us is getting people to really understand the importance of paying attention to the wine they purchase, and why it is so beneficial to work with a private wine brand like ours. In the US, people glamorize the wine industry. Unfortunately, it has become so saturated that small producers overseas barely have the option to enter the US market because of the Three Tier System, something that only exists for big name businesses, not the small, family owned vineyards and wineries.
Educating consumers about wine is so important to us, because we really want them to make informed decisions about their purchases. There is a large gap between buyers and end consumers when it comes to making the decisions about what to purchase. Buyers are always looking for the biggest profit margin, but we have found that end consumers really do care about the quality of a product. A lot of buyers are missing the mark when they don’t think about what their customers want and only care about their profit.
Why SYLTBAR Stands Out
It was definitely hard for us to get our product in the hands of buyers and distributors in the beginning stages. In 2011, our Prosecco’s retail price was $19.99, but the average bottle of Prosecco at a retail store was around $9.99. Buyers and distributors thought we were crazy to ask for that kind of price. They also didn’t have faith that a couple from Germany would succeed selling an Italian wine in the US market. They thought our bottle label was too “out there,” but you know what? That worked to our advantage the same way our “non-strategy marketing strategy” worked out. It made us stand out! Not to mention, our 100% natural production made us stand out among other Proseccos as well.
Our Advice to Others: Have Purpose
Having an overarching purpose is what keeps you going. Our overarching purpose was the decision we made at that time to move to Miami and own our own company. Every time we were struggling with our brand SYLTBAR, we asked ourselves what would be the alternative. If we gave up everything, that would mean we would have to go back to Germany and that was for sure not the solution we were looking for. We wanted to stay in Miami, and that helped us keep going and survive the rejections we experienced in the beginning and we never lost our belief in our brand.
Lessons Learned: Make Your Mark
Not everybody has it in them to become an entrepreneur. Even if you have the best Idea in the world and would love to bring it to the market, just having a good product is not enough. You have to have what we call, the “entrepreneurs genes.” For us, this means you have the mindset that “Okay, what we’ve done is pretty good, but what can we do better?” An entrepreneur
has to constantly be developing, growing, moving forward. You must always be open to change and be willing to take risks. Standing still will not bring you further. If you only walk in other people’s footsteps, you cannot leave a mark.