Even those with the best of intentions have found themselves with a PR problem on their hands when trying to acknowledge events that strike an emotional nerve in the hearts and minds of Americans. One small business is learning this first hand.
Lieb Family Cellars is a winery in New England with 80 acres of vineyards and a product line that is found in fine restaurants throughout North America. Mark Lieb, one of the winery’s owners became involved in the wine business more than 30 years ago in California where he partnered with a friend who had recently purchased an 80 acre vineyard.
Later, Mark returned to his roots on the east coast with the intention of purchasing a vineyard in New England, an area full of prime spots for producing grapes. He found a small 20 acre vineyard for sale which he purchased and later added 30 more acres making this winery 50 acres and a business whose wines are in high demand.
Lieb Family Cellars has a series of wines that are found within their “Great wines for great causes” line. According to the business, they have been producing wines that support worthy causes since 2004 and it has become a large part of what they do but a recent addition has caused a stir.
Recently, two wines in honor of the upcoming 10 year anniversary of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks in America were introduced and this has many, including celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, upset. In a series of recent tweets, Bourdain calls these wines grotesque, vomit inducing, and exploitative. Others, including the New York Fire Department and EMS services share Bourdain’s outrage. Lieb Family Cellars say that proceeds, up to 10%, will be donated to the 9/11 memorial museum but even that doesn’t seem to be calming the critics.
The idea of selling wines to benefit good causes isn’t unheard of. Many winerys, many of them small businesses, produce limited edition wines to benefit causes like the African hunger crisis and Habitat for Humanity but even those causes don’t hit home like the 9/11 tragedy, especially for a winery so close to New York City.
Whether Lieb Family Cellars’ intentions were pure may never be known but small business owners and those who are opening the doors of their business startup soon, take note. There are plenty of ways to make money and steering clear of actions like this assure that you don’t find yourself in a situation where you don’t have the time, money, or other resources to rectify. You can always make a donation to a good cause based on sales.
Small businesses can’t often afford a public relations person to help with decisions like this which make it imperative that they stay far away from “the line.”