By John Reid Blackwell, Richmond Times-Dispatch
A personal calamity put Gwen Hurt on the path to becoming an entrepreneur.
Hurt, a South Carolina native, had a successful 15-year career working in information technology, which included living in Hong Kong for seven years. In 2013, however, she was laid off as part of a corporate restructuring.
“Normally, that is not such a big deal, in the IT world,” Hurt said. Given the demand for IT professionals, “you can just look for another position.”
Things soon got worse, though, when two days after she lost her job, Hurt and her daughter Brittny were in a serious car accident in North Carolina. “It was a five-car pileup,” Hurt said.
Both suffered serious injuries. “I was lying in the hospital, just stunned that I did not have a job,” Hurt said.
As the mother and daughter were recovering, Brittny suggested to her mother that they go into business together. Hurt, a lover of fine wines, resolved to create and sell her own brand of blended wines, a goal that kept her spirits up during her difficult months of physical therapy.
“Mentally, it helped keep me from being depressed, to have something to focus on and strive for,” she said.
Hurt started the business in late 2013. She partners with various California and French wineries to make blends according to her specifications, which are dry and sweet blends for the “softer palette,” she said.
She named the business Shoe Crazy Wine because, having grown up without being able to afford more than one pair of shoes, she also has a penchant for nice shoes.
Hurt said her wines are now carried by Urban Farmhouse in Richmond and by chain stores including Total Wine & More, Costco and Kroger, along with some independent wine shops and restaurants.
Hurt’s SCORE mentors, David Grogan and Doug Carleton, have helped her with managing cash flow, and with marketing.
“What we see with Gwen is a bright, enthusiastic, terrific salesperson and marketing person, and she has a great concept with this wine,” said Grogan, a retired executive who previously owned Toter Inc., a Statesville, N.C.-based maker of wheeled, curbside carts for trash and recycling.
“The power of SCORE is that it is not just one mentor — it is potentially 50 mentors, because we can work in teams,” he said.