A Houston nonprofit has worked hard to increase the diversity of the wine world. The Southern Smoke Foundation has partnered with the Roots Fund to set up a $ 80,000 scholarship fund for BIPOC who want to improve their wine knowledge.
STEP (Study, Taste, Educate, Prosper) awards annual scholarships to courses run by the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET), a UK-based non-profit that sets qualifications and courses in wine education. To be eligible, a person of color must be a legal resident of the United States, at least 21 years of age, and ready to enroll in a WSET certification program between October 1, 2021 and December 24, 2021. Applications for the scholarship will be available on September 6 -24 on the The Root Fund and Southern Smoke Foundation websites.
The Root Fund aims to get people of color more involved in wine through education, scholarships, mentoring, and job placement. According to the organization, only five percent of America’s 10,000+ wineries belong to someone who identifies as BIPOC, a situation that programs like STEP are designed to improve. To date, 99 percent of Roots Fund attendees have passed their certification exams, which enable them to advance in wine-related careers.
“The STEP program will provide WSET scholarships to more than 89 scholarship holders, which will enable them to excel in the industry and remove a financial barrier,” said Ikimi Dubose, co-founder and director of The Roots Fund, in a statement. “STEP will continue to build bridges for people of color in the wine industry. It is important that we, as powerful nonprofits, continue to work together, uniting our visions, and helping our communities. “
Although the Southern Smoke Foundation is primarily known for its Emergency Relief Fund, which provides financial assistance to restaurant workers in crisis situations, the organization offers other types of assistance as well. Both The Root Fund and Southern Smoke intend that STEP will be a long-term partnership.
“With BIPOC experts making up such a small percentage of the wine industry, it is evident that a significant amount of support must be devoted to making the necessary change,” added Kathryn Lott, executive director of Southern Smoke. “The diversification of the wine industry will grow and enrich the entire food and beverage business, the people who work in that business and the people it serves.”