July 2021

How the pandemic forced this Black small-business owner to pivot

Courtesy of Columbus Business First
By Hayleigh Colombo
July 5, 2021

Columbus resident Sonya Trent-Pellom’s fledgling small business, Exquisite Wines & Cigars, had just hit its stride before the pandemic.

After a career as a legal secretary, Trent-Pellom began working as a boutique wine distributor. She then transitioned into hosting wine and cigar events throughout Central Ohio, and was on the verge of opening a brick-and-mortar space for events and retailing in January of 2020.

Then Covid-19 hit, throwing her a curve ball.

“We couldn’t do tastings because of all the restrictions,” Trent-Pellom said. “We couldn’t do consultations. We couldn’t put on events. I said, ‘If we don’t pivot and pivot quickly, Exquisite will be no more.'”

Trent-Pellom decided to rebrand as an online retailer of high-end boutique products, from wines to cigars to coffee, tea, olive oil and gourmet foods. She offers subscription boxes and delivery and hopes to still open up a retail location in Columbus.

“It took some time to reimagine a rebranding,” Trent-Pellom said. “I’ll say that experiencing Covid-19 gave me a new outlook on not being limited in business. It opened up my creativity. It sparked in me that need to learn.”

Trent-Pellom was recently selected as one of 30 Black-owned businesses that is part of a new partnership between the Columbus Urban League and the Columbus Chamber of Commerce.

The partnership has provided her with a chamber membership and other services to help grow the business.

“They’ve been wonderful,” Trent-Pellom said of the chamber. “I’ve met so many different people, and gained insight into a whole different demographic.”

Trent-Pellom said she is trying to be open-minded about the future of her business and what it could morph into.

Along with being a retailer, she hopes to go into the wine education space.

“I don’t now what the future holds for Exquisite,” he said. “I think we undermine ourselves by being short-sighted. Sometimes our sights are set on things that are way too small, and what’s really planned for us is bigger than what we can imagine.”

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