An Interview with Hillary Higbee, Chief of Staff for Bright Cellars

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Hillary Higbee, Chief of Staff for Bright Cellars

What is Bright Cellars, and how did you get where you are today?

Bright Cellars is the data-driven wine subscription service that matches members to wine they’ll love. You start by taking a 7-question quiz and our algorithm takes those answers and curates your first experience.

Our co-founders are 2 MIT grads who identified the fact that many people are willing to spend a premium on craft beer and cocktails, but don’t usually know the first thing about wine. It’s so intimidating. So, they set out to change that. After a few wine courses, writing an algorithm, moving to Milwaukee, completing the gener8tor accelerator program, and growing the team, here we are!

I initially joined Bright Cellars as about the 10th employee, a member of the Concierge Team. I was able to have conversations with our members daily and learn a lot about their wine journeys and pain points we could help solve. I then worked on the marketing team for two years before moving into my current role as Chief of Staff.

What has Bright Cellars done that sets it apart from other wine subscription boxes?

Our mission is to inspire and educate a new generation of wine lovers by delivering a transformative, personalized wine experience.

We want to educate our members so that they’re actually learning about the wine they’re drinking. The wine industry can feel really overwhelming. Our goal is to make it approachable and enjoyable. We go beyond delivering wine to your door, we deliver a personalized tasting experience.

How are you able to collect and employ data to best serve your customers and company?

We learn about our member’s initial tastes from their quiz answers, but what’s really interesting to us is the rating they give each match after their first order.

That data helps our algorithm learn about their personal preferences so they continue to get even better wines in their box. It also helps us identify trends which we can then apply when curating wine brands for our portfolio. We work hard to analyze the data and deliver the most effective and accurate wine palettes to our customers.

Having moved up through BC, you’ve seen a lot of different facets of the company. What has been most surprising to you?

In general, 2020 as a year has been the most surprising thing I’ve experienced! Working through a pandemic has been a totally new experience for all of us. But I think what I’ve found the most surprising (and impressive) is how quickly our team was able to shift from a fully in-person headquarters for 5 years to a fully remote workforce, basically in a day. I, of course, knew we could do it but I am super impressed by everyone’s ability to adjust and adapt so quickly.

Who have you looked up to in life?

This may be cliche, but I look up to every coworker I engage with on a daily basis. I have never met a more passionate, hardworking group of people and it’s really inspiring to be surrounded by such driven individuals.

Anything you want to plug?

If you haven’t already checked out Bright Cellars, give our site a visit and take the quiz! www.brightcellars.com/transcenduw will give you 60% off your first month.

Follow us on Instagram and YouTube for fun wine knowledge and tasting tips.

What is the most fun part of your job?

I work with wine, so it’s pretty much all fun! Wine is such an interesting product and it has such a rich history, you’ll never know everything there is to know. I feel like I learn new things every day, and if you can have fun while doing so, that’s the dream.

UW-Madison's collaborative project hub for engineers and entrepreneurs. All you need is an idea. transcenduw@gmail.com

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