What’s Her Secret: Erica Blumenthal and Nikki Huganir of Yes Way Rosé

After moving from Baltimore to New York City to pursue careers in the fashion industry, childhood besties Erica Blumenthal and Nikki Huganir fell in love with rosé wine. They loved how refreshing, versatile, and accessible—not to mention how pink!—it was and the beverage was soon at the heart of so many get-togethers and inside jokes. They began documenting their love of rosé on Instagram as @yeswayrose in 2013, and the account quickly developed a large following and evolved into an entire lifestyle brand.

Nowadays, they oversee a pink empire of branded products such as sweatshirts, rosé scented candles, tote bags, their own line of rosé wine, and the latest addition: a hardcover book titled Yes Way Rosé: A Guide to the Pink State of Mind.

In a culture in which female friendships are often portrayed as catty and competitive, Nikki and Erica’s brand puts the spotlight on collaboration and positivity, and I knew I needed to get the inside scoop on their business. I chatted with them over the phone from their office in Brooklyn—which, they tell me, has white walls, a big window, and lots of pink things in it—all about their business, Instagram tips, why rosé should not be seen as just a summer drink, and how their friendship evolved when they joined forces to launch Yes Way Rosé.

Let’s start from the beginning. How did the two of you meet?
N: Erica and I met in 8th grade in Baltimore. We grew up together. We both ended up after college in New York City working in fashion. I was doing graphic design for magazines and Erica was a writer in fashion. We became best friends, hanging out all the time.

E: Yeah! We always had an easy-going rapport and we have always been friends. And it was during that time that we were working for magazines that we discovered our passion for rosé.

Why did you decide to launch @yeswayrose on Instagram in 2013?
E: When we’d go out prior to that, we’d order the house white, the house red, and we didn’t know anything about wine. And then we started drinking rosé and it changed everything. It was so beautiful, and it was inspiring so many inside jokes in our lives, and so much joy, so we thought that others would really appreciate it too. Instagram was taking off at the time, and it was the perfect place to match the beauty of rosé with our humour.

And what about you, Nikki, what is it about rosé that you loved so much?
N: I think, as a designer, I’m a very visual person, so the fact that it’s so beautiful definitely helps—the colour, how it photographs, and all of that. Also, it’s kind of a gateway into the wine world. I think it was something that got me interested in wine and learning more about that was exciting.

What do you guys think it is about rosé that millennials love so much? It seems like it has had a bit of a renaissance over the last few years.
E: Well, I think that the colour is definitely something that has allowed it to be so popular and pervasive, because as Instagram has blown up, and it’s so beautiful. That was initially what drew us to it. We couldn’t believe this colour existed. It was the perfect peachy pink that you wanted to wear. It’s the colour you turn when you’re blushing. I think that millennials, as we’ve learned, are really drawn to those photogenic moments and rosé makes it easy. And it’s also a very accessible luxury. So, it’s kind of like a lipstick in that it could be $15, it could be $20, it could be $30, but it’s still makes an entire situation feel more fabulous.

How did Yes Way Rosé evolve from an Instagram account to a full-on lifestyle brand?
N: Well, from the beginning, the same summer we started the Instagram, we also started making some products. I designed the logo for a tote bag that we made. We started selling them and that really took off. People would stop us on the street and ask us where we got our bags and so we started selling them online. Then we expanded into tee-shirts, hats, and all of the above.

E: We drank rosé in person, and Instagram was a digital thing, and we wanted what we were doing to exist in real life too. So, it very quickly became a brand because we wanted something tangible to express all of these feelings we were having for rosé. Kinda like wearing a team jersey or something. Like being of the rosé appreciation society.

So how did you break into developing your own rosé wine?
N: When we first started the Instagram, we never thought that we could actually have our own wine, but it certainly was a dream. We were researching all the different ways to make it and how that would work. We found a really amazing partner that was able to help us and make this beautiful rosé from France that we’d always wanted.

Erica, was there anything that surprised you about the wine-making process?
E: When we started Yes Way Rosé, we didn’t have that much knowledge about wine in general, but we wanted to become experts because we had this rosé Instagram and people were asking us for recommendations. So, I think the biggest takeaway early on was that rosé can be made anywhere in the world where red wine is made, and it’s made with grapes for red wine in almost all cases. We were having rosé from Argentina and Australia and New Zealand and everywhere. So that was really incredible because we were initially very drawn to French rosés, but it has opened our eyes to all the places around the world where rosé comes from. It has guided our travels.

Do you guys visit these places yourselves? How hands on are you with the process?
E: We’re very hands-on. We travel to the south of France during the harvest and work with our wine-making team on the blend. And it’s based on the flavour profile that we bought. So, we’re there to really decide what is Yes Way Rosé, and that’s what we bottle.

What are your favourite products from the Yes Way Rosé line?
N: I love our cans that just came out in Target over the last couple of weeks. We introduced our new logo symbol and a new monogram rose symbol which is printed on the cans. So that was really fun to design. And their just so fun and they photograph so well, and they taste delicious. It’s the perfect summer drink—I can’t wait for it to warm up so I can throw some in my bag and go to the beach.

E: I would say our sweatshirt. I wear it every day, pretty much. I love it so much. It’s so soft. It’s cool. It lets you wear our logo, but I don’t feel like I’m wearing a logo tee. I feel stylish.

As a company that owes its foundation to Instagram, could you tell us a few of your tricks to building a digital presence/brand?
E: This is actually something we talk about in our book. We have elements of Insta-style. One thing is definitely consistency with the voice. So obviously the photos are a big deal, but it’s also the captions. With our own Instagram, our one rule is always that we try to make each other laugh. That’s like our barometer. So, if we can at least get a giggle out of the other one. Or sometimes we need to be relaying information and that’s a whole other story, but that can be consistent with your voice too, and that part takes a lot of effort. Sometimes an on-brand joke doesn’t just roll off the tongue.

N: I think something that we do that has been appealing to other people is the authenticity of it. It’s very natural. It’s based on my friendship with Erica and how we talk to each other. And so, I think it’s very relatable because of that, and that comes through in our photography and through our voice, as Erica said.

E: Also, stylistically, we prefer natural light and not too many filters. Luckily, rosé is a beautiful muse, so we think that you’ve nailed a good picture if you don’t need to doctor it up too much.

What are your top productivity and time management hacks?
N: I like to listen to music and put my headphones in. When I need to design something, I really need to tune out everything else, not check my email—we get a lot of email, and it’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day things of running a business. So, I really need to carve out that design time for myself when I put my headphones in, put my feet up, and just get into it.

E: When we have a lot going on, I really like to work on the weekends and get ahead. So, when there are no emails coming through and I have quiet, that really helps me focus and be as productive as possible and start the week off strong.

How do you both define success? And do you feel like you’ve reached your idea of success with Yes Way Rosé, or do you still have a lot of goals to reach?
E: I think we have always had very ambitious goals for Yes Way Rosé, so it’s definitely a work in progress. But I think that especially with this year, we feel like we’ve reached success—last year we introduced our Yes Way Rosé wine, the book came out, the can is such a joy, and all these pieces that we had worked towards are coming together and it’s been such a beautiful journey that we get to be on together. So, I think we define success by just being able to come to our office every day, travel together, and get to do this. I mean, it’s a dream business to get to work on.

N: I think there’s two things: one, having an idea, and two, seeing it come to life and seeing other people enjoy it. It definitely feels like a success. And then in the larger sense, just being our own bosses and running our own business and having this as what we do full-time it’s pretty incredible. That feels pretty good.

Let’s turn to your new book. It’s really beautiful! Tell us a little bit about it. In a nutshell, what’s the book all about?
E: Yes Way Rosé: A Guide to the Pink Wine State of Mind is a lifestyle book that captures all of the different ways to enjoy rosé and incorporate it into your life with a sense of humour and playfulness. There’s rosé 101, there are cocktail recipes, astrologé, and lots of food pairing suggestions and specific wine suggestions as well.

What inspired you to write it? Where did the idea come from to write the book?
N: We wanted to write the book that we wanted to read or that we wished had been around when we discovered rosé. We wanted something that was accessible, that had some wine knowledge in it, but not too intimidating. Something that really captured the whole lifestyle and rosé vibes, as we call them, that were so enticing to us about the wine. And then, being such a visual brand and starting on Instagram, it was really awesome to be able to create all the photography with a professional team and make that come to life.

E: I think that there are so many people that love rosé, but they don’t necessarily know why. I think we give every answer for why you love rosé in this book.

Who is your reader?
E: I think that the reader is anyone who wants to incorporate more rosé vibes into their life or is like us and can’t get enough of rosé.

What is one thing that would surprise people about the history of rosé that you talk about in the book?
N: We have a fun fact in there in a little sidebar called Ancient Historé. In the year 600 BC, the ancient Greeks in France were making wine, and the wine they were probably drinking was rosé. I thought that was pretty cool to think about.

One of the things that I love about your brand is that your friendship is at the centre of it all. How do you feel that your friendship comes into play in your business model and branding?
E: We have a very sisterly relationship, so there’s a lot of trust. Like any relationship, it’s one that we work on. I think we want to carve out time to be friends and enjoy our friendship. We have to be founders and business owners together as well. We are finding that balance that works for us. We’ve learned a lot about each other along the way. It’s a marriage of sorts.

N: I think it comes back to what I was saying earlier about the authenticity of it all. Our friendship is really at the centre of it. And so many people enjoy rosé with their friends. It’s something that you sit around and open at a party, or at book club, or whatever it is. So, I think rosé and friendship pair really well together.

How has working together made your friendship grow?
N: It definitely changes things to start a business with your friend, for sure [laughing]. I think we’ve learned a lot about each other, about how we work and how we’re different, and how we need to work together. So that’s been a fun challenge.

E: The best part though is that we’ve known each other for so long, so we can be in a serious meeting or there could be a lot going on and someone we see will remind us of someone we went to high school with and we can just crack up. So sometimes it’s really serious but we can always lighten it up and bring our friendship back into it.

Have there been any challenges you’ve faced working together? Anything that should be on our radar, particularly for those of us who may be considering joining forces with our besties?
E: I think that you have to expect that your relationship is going to evolve, and you have to be open to that. Our relationship is so different from what it was from when we started Yes Way Rosé and we made a commitment to each other that we were in it to win it and that this is our work and our business. You know, sometimes you’re friends and sometimes you’re business partners. And sometimes it’s not the same thing.

What would you say to people who find the whole wine world a bit inaccessible?
N: I would say pick up our book [laughing]. I think rosé is really an accessible wine. You can get really good rosé for under $20. It’s easy to drink, it’s easy to understand and enjoy, and it’s not too serious. I think if you like rosé and you start there and you start learning about it, then you learn about the wine-making process, and you learn about what’s different about red and white wines, and then you can develop your palette, taste different wines, and go from there. But definitely just tasting different rosés from different parts of the world made from different grapes—you’ll be surprise by how much you can learn.

When at the store, staring down rows and rows of bottles of rosé, what should we look for? Do you have any tips for picking a good rosé?
E: If we’re standing in the grocery store, I think we’re drawn to starting with a dry rosé. One way you can ensure a rosé is dry if it doesn’t say it on the label, or if someone is not available to help guide you with your selection, is to look for a light-hued pink colour from the south of France or the Provence region. That would probably guarantee that you’d start with that very classic dry rosé that’s crisp and refreshing and a pure joy to drink.

I read that Drew Barrymore is your “guardian rosé angel.” What was that about?
N: So, Erica once asked me, probably back in 2013, who I thought would be our celebrity brand ambassador. Just like, you know, having fun. And I was like, “what are you talking about?” She said: “Drew Barrymore. I think she would get it; I think she just fits the vibe.” I was like “Okay. Awesome.” And then I don’t even know how long later, but just months later, Drew Barrymore started following us on Instagram. I kid you not. So, Erica is a little physic. But also, intuitive. So, one of her people reached out to us and said they really liked what we were doing, they wanted to know more, and we sent her a sweatshirt. Then she wore it on her Instagram. Drew has her own rosé, so she’s a huge rosé fan. And she’s just always been really supportive of us as female entrepreneurs and wine makers. So, when she posted a picture of herself wearing our sweatshirt and holding her rosé on her Instagram, we got so many followers and sold so many sweatshirts from that one post. It really did change our business. She posted about us a couple times, and that’s been really amazing.

Since rosé is typically known as a summer drink, how can we live in a “pink state of mind,” as you guys would say, all year round?
N: We like to say, “no way seasonalité.” We drink rosé all year round. We think everyone else should too. It seems to be catching on and taking its rightful place alongside red and white as sort of a standard category. But we think opening a bottle of rosé in the winter can really transport you to a better place. We highly recommend breaking out rosé bubbles for Thanksgiving or the holidays or Valentine’s Day. It’s always an occasion for rosé.

Do you have a favourite way to drink rosé? Do you have any top pairing tips?
E: Rosé is so versatile that it pairs as well with pizza as it does with oysters. I really like sparkling rosé with a New York City pizza on a friend’s roof. And I love drinking cans of rosé on a warm summer day by the pool. I love to incorporate rosé into cocktails or frozés, making rosé ice cubes, and then using it to chill down a glass of rosé.

I love that the book has all sorts of recipe options. Do you guys have a favourite recipe?
N: One our favourite drinks has always been an Aperol Spritz. And so, in our book we have a version that we call Spritz in the City. It is basically an Aperol Spritz but we make it with our Yes Way Rosé Bubbles. It’s quite delicious and refreshing.

E: They say that the Aperol Spritz is the rosé of cocktails, so it’s a hybrid of rosé and the “rosé of cocktails.”

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