Do you need more guidance when it comes to what wines to buy? You’re not alone! Meet somm, the wine app that needs to be on your radar! somm is female-founded, female-led and the majority invested in by women. If that’s not enough, the company is based in Toronto and is set to expanding nationally and internationally this year.
The app is designed to take all the guesswork out of choosing the perfect bottle of wine, no matter what your setting, occasion, budget or knowledge level is. It’s there to help enable you to drink better wine, find new wines to love, open your eyes to everything you can and cannot get at your local liquor store via their Marketplace.
somm was founded by Jennifer Stasiewich and was born out of her realization that an intuitive tool was needed to navigate, discover and appreciate the world of wine. Whether it’s for that casual evening at home, dinner with friends, date night, a corporate dinner or just when you’re out shopping, somm exists to elevate everyone’s enjoyment of wine.⠀
Jenn’s background is mainly in finance (trading, private equity and investing) but she fell in love with the bustling world of tech in 2016 when a mentor at TD Securities supported her first venture. From 2018 onwards, her career was all about innovation and in 2020 she decided to embark on a passion project, somm, that has now led to an exciting new company taking on the world of wine. ⠀
Jenn founded somm in summer 2020, and couldn’t be more excited about making the exciting world of wine more enjoyable, approachable, inclusive and accessible for everyone!
Keep reading to get to know Jenn and find out why somm is the app to download!
Angela Aiello: When was your ah-ha moment when you decided to create somm? What wine were you drinking or not drinking?
Jennifer Stasiewich: My ah-ha moment came to me in June 2020, the middle of the pandemic summer. I was actually reading the book “Windows on the World – Complete Wine Course” by Kevin Zraly, and I was reminded by all of the nuances and complexities in the wine world and in making the perfect pairing. I’ve been a true foodie and wine lover for many many years, but I, like many others who aren’t trained in wine or have a sommelier on hand, struggle picking the right bottle. I figured there must be something on the market that solves this overwhelming guesswork problem that many of us face, and there wasn’t. There’s of course other wine apps out there, but none that are designed to work the way people are naturally wired think (where am I, what am I doing, what am I eating, how much do I want to spend), and none that are locally connected with independent wine shops, restaurants, wineries and agencies.
From there, the idea for somm was born, starting first with the recommendation engine. I brought together an amazing team (ex Alo, Langdon Hall, a Master Sommelier, and technical folks from Shopify, Wealthsimple and Delphia), and we got to work. Then, marketplace organically happened too, as the retail consumer longed to discover choices beyond the big box. It was all somewhat unexpected, but it turned out to be a wonderful moment in time to create somm since consumer behaviour was changing (we’re all digital natives now), hospitality embraced technology (thanks to COVID mainly), and regulations were finally seeing some positive change. Thank goodness.
As for what wine I was drinking that night… if I had to guess, it was probably a Gamay. If I’m in the mood to sip while working at night, I tend to pick a lighter red.
AA: If people had one moment when they thought about the somm app, what or when would it be and why?
JS: Well, hopefully, people are thinking about the somm app much more than 1 moment. We want to eventually be part of people’s lives and lifestyles in a much more fun and immersive way. For now, I want people to think of somm when they want to buy wine or pick a wine. When your cupboard at home is running low on wine, head over to the somm app to access amazing merchants all in one place. Or when you don’t know what to pick, go through the somm app to get really fast, credible, recommendations.
AA: What type of person would you say would benefit from this type of app?
JS: We’ve tried to design the app to appeal to everyone. Wine is such a universal and inclusive thing that there’s no reason, in my mind, to single out anyone specifically. If you’re a Sommelier or aficionado, then hopefully you like the convenience of being connected to amazing shops, wineries and agencies from 1 place. If you’re an everyday expert, chances are you still need a bit of help making that selection and you want to discover wines outside of the LCBO. If you’re a novice, then the recommendation engine is even more helpful. Everyone also values convenience – time is money – and all orders from Marketplace are delivered to your home!
Regardless of the demographic, the notion of discovery and being exposed to merchants or varietals that you may not have thought of yourself is key. Everyone benefits from that too.
AA: What type of trends do you see from the current consumers using your app?
JS: People love discovery – both learning about themselves and being exposed to products they maybe didn’t think to try or even know about. The other major factor that has been validated is just how inaccessible the world of wine is to so many people. The fact that now, finally, wineries and agencies, for example, are at the fingertips of the retail buyer (many of whom, especially in the Millennial demographic, didn’t even know existed) is also coming through as a great trend and benefit.
AA: How does the somm app help with food and wine pairings?
JS: So the app is all about helping people elevate their culinary experience, and doing so in a simple and approachable way, first with wine. A well-paired wine makes both the food and the wine better. And even if you’re not eating, then you want to make sure you’re loving your experience just relaxing and sipping. The app helps with both situations. The pairing side of the app is getting both more specific and granular (a lot more specificity on cheeses for example) but also even more simple (take me straight to ‘pizza’), which is ultimately designed to make pairings more even more approachable and fast.
AA: How or why somm is different from other similar apps out there. Why people should switch over to it?
Somm is focused on helping the individual make the selection in a really intuitive and disarmingly simple way. With us, because we’re integrated with menus and inventories, there’s no need to be snapping photos and learning about the bottle hoping it’s what you want or need. Just work directly with the app and find what you need, no matter where you are. Secondly, our design, aesthetic, and user experience are much more tech-savvy and tuned in to what the younger generations expect.
Additionally, we really focus on recommendations and pairings and this is not something that similar apps have focused on. Lastly, we don’t focus on peer reviews. Given how few people know the wine space, we don’t see the value in taking advice from other people who are also not credible. You can, however, rate and save your own wines for yourself.
Our app is beautiful, simple, and straight to the point. We’re a one-stop-shop, locally connected, and we’ll help you take the guesswork out of picking the right bottle in a way that works for how you actually behave. We’re young and growing and there are a tonne of amazing things coming down the pike that are all designed for how we actually live our lives. It’s a really fun journey and we would love for everyone to join us.
AA: How do you see somm changing in the next year?
JS: First off, we’re going to be all across Canada. That’s already starting. And it’s likely we’ll be in some cities in the US. We’re soon going to be releasing our two membership levels in the app which will give our members really cool benefits and perks across our partnered establishments. Stay tuned for more details on that. Plus, the app itself will look much different. We’re currently 7 months old and every two weeks more features and more updates will be added to the app. The pace of change and evolution is going to be really exciting to watch and be part of. Lastly, we’ll very likely be doing much more than wine.
AA: Where do you see somm in 5 years from now?
JS: Aside from being global, I have a pretty big master plan for somm. I ultimately want somm to become an extension of people’s mindset… the default thing people naturally think about and use anytime there’s a culinary experience to be had.
Here’s what I mean: I want somm to not only help people discover more of what they know they like but also discover things they never would have thought to try on their own. I want sommTM to be the digital community where they buy wine and other foodie products.
Life, to me, should be all about maximizing enjoyment, creating memories and sharing great experiences with friends and family. And that is exactly what good food, beverage and wine enables. It’s a big plan, but this is my ultimate, long-term vision for somm.
AA: Could you pick the top 5 wines that are available via your portfolio right now and where they are available and how to buy
JS: I love all our partners and their portfolios. Basically, if you open the app and go to “Marketplace” you can’t go wrong. That said, here are my favourites:
- Anything from Pearl Morissette
- Anything from Cosecha (I love Spanish wines). They just released their Spring Mixed 6 pack.
- The Women in Wine Mixed Case from Le Sommelier is fantastic.
- The Paradise on Bloor / Osteria Rialto guys have curated one of the best bottle shops I’ve seen, check it out on our app too. They feature a lot of Tawse wine, which is super delicious. The Ascari bottle shop is also excellent.
- If you’re into natural or organic wines, The Living Vine and Boxcar Social have really nice selections.
- I also really like The Vine (they have some great Ontario wines too), and the Grange is this amazing mother-daughter run winery in Prince Edward County.
- Noble Estates has one of the most diverse portfolios and Craig has been really helpful to us as we’ve grown.
- The team at Nicholas Pearce is also amazing and their portfolio is equally impressive. They also have a number of different price points within their portfolio!
Literally, you can’t go wrong with any of these. Everyone delivers within a week and it’s all super tasty.