The food and drink industry was forced to get creative in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. While most food items can be found on common delivery apps, Ontario’s government placed specific rules and regulations around alcohol delivery. There is also controversy around delivery apps because of their unfair distribution of sales.
When Jennifer Tkachuk-Tremblay realized that there was no app to guide people in choosing the right wine based on their location and budget, she milked this golden opportunity to create one with the knowledge and resources she had. “My intent was to make wine more approachable and relatable to people. I wanted to help people to feel more confident in making a decision.
When I came up with the idea of the recommendation and paring engine, I tapped into my network right away”. Jennifer’s initial background never gave her the opportunity to explore the hospitality world like she had wanted to. However, when the timing was right to do so, she was able to draw from her network and experience to create Somm. “I had worked in the start-up and technology world for a long time, and wine is a pretty fun thing to be a part of. I got lucky that the people I reached out to were on board and wanted to support this endeavour. It was a passion project for a lot of us”.
Wine culture was designed to bring people together. While the pandemic hindered many social events, Jennifer was able to experience the same unity when creating a wine sommelier app. She expresses gratitude for the meaningful relationships she has made throughout her career in the making of somm.
“It is the best example of the butterfly effect in my life to date. You never know who you’ll meet over the course of your career. If you build a good relationship with someone, you can work with them in a way that you would’ve never imagined. I was able to lean on investors and the financial community to get the company financed. From a personnel and team perspective, I was able to bring in developers, strategists and hospitality folk”.
Jennifer was able to exercise her love for wine, people, and technology. “The pandemic made me think more creatively about the hospitality industry. Without the pandemic, its hard to say whether the emphasis would’ve been there to think outside of the box. It has helped the creation of the business model. Mainly because the hospitality industry, wine industry, and the beer and spirit industry all had to embrace technology, creating new opportunities to connect people with their favourite food and drink. With or without the pandemic, I’ve always loved the hospitality industry, so it catalyzed its release”.
As a business founded and funded by women, somm prides itself in its commitment to diversity in the workplace. When building her team, Jennifer prioritized the empowerment of women by carefully choosing investors. “The majority of our investors are women, which is unique. Rarely do you see a situation where a company is founded and funded by women”.
To exercise diversity, Jennifer hires based on skill and experience. By creating a gender-neutral hiring process, somm eliminates any discrimination when reviewing applications. “When it comes to our team, we hire by merit and on a no-name basis. We do not look at our applicants’ names or locations as long as they are located in Canada. We also write genderless job descriptions, so anyone can apply. We have a number of people reach out with interest. The bottom line is we are a merit-based company”. The approach to team building and valuing relationships created the opportunity for somm to be backed by Canadian wine sommelier Elyse Lambert. Jennifer does not take this collaboration lightly, as it adds significant credibility to the somm app.
“Elyse Lambert is one of the 5 MasterSommeliers in Canada, and one of only 2 female MS’ in the country. Empowering women in leadership positions has always been a priority to me, so it was important to get one of the two female Master Sommeliers on our team. Elyse has a close friendship with one of our current investors, and she understood what we were trying to achieve. Technology plays an active role in hospitality, especially in the midst of the pandemic”.
The integrity of somm reflects the values people developed since the pandemic began, especially the effort to support local businesses. The app partners with local wine carriers sustainably, allowing partners to collect customers and sales. “somm is not a delivery app. You can order wine at any time through our app, but our partners will be the ones who deliver it to you. The way we built the database and recommendation engine is tremendously helpful to supplier and consumer”.
Jennifer and the team at somm put the consumer and suppliers first, removing any complications and making the vast selections of wine more accessible and enjoyable. “Helping everyone pick the right wine no matter where they are or what their budget is. There is a lot of confusion that can get in the way when trying to pick the right wine. somm features a recommendation engine, so consumers can feel confident when choosing wine and also discover their new favourite”.
For more information, visit https://www.bethesomm.com/