Marisa Sergi: Embracing Who She Is

Name: Marisa Sergi


Year: Senior Class of 2015

Major: Enology and Viticulture

Hometown: Lowellville, Ohio

Favorite Quote: “Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.” – Unknown

Favorite Color: Green

In what are you involved on campus?

I am the President of the Cornell University Enology and Viticulture Club. I am a sister, an Assistant Philanthropy Chair in Alpha Chi Omega, and a member of the Hotelie Entrepreneurship Club.

What encouraged you to join Alpha Chi Omega?

I joined Alpha Chi Omega because everyone is so easygoing and for the social aspects.   Some of my best friends are sisters.

What is your favorite part of being a sister in Alpha Chi Omega?

We have the same standards and share the same interests. We have had a lot of fun together.

What else are you involved with?

I designed a brand of wine, RedHead, and have been working on its distribution.  I have competed in several business planning competitions, pitching the ideas of growing the company.  Also I was awarded the title of Miss New York Collegiate America 2015. Through this organization I promote the national platform called B.R.A.V.E. — Building Respect and Values for Everyone. It’s an anti-bullying program focused on combating bullying in schools and communities. I am proud that my sister and I cofounded a philanthropy called Meritage of Miracles.  Funds earned from the charity events go toward a palliative care program for terminally ill and disabled children at the Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley.

How did you get involved with Miss New York Collegiate?

The national platform, B.R.A.V.E, was something I wanted to support.   I am very sensitive and was a target for bullies. It took me a long time to realize their hurtful actions and words they did not define me.  I am proud to use this title to have a larger voice— to inspire those who may be victims of bullying by sharing my story.  I have learned to embrace what makes me different and have learned that this is what makes me unique.

You represent, New York, right? Will there be a national pageant?

Yes, the national pageant is June 30th through July 5th at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. I am honored to represent the State of New York and Cornell University at this competition!

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Being the CEO of a successful national company called RedHead Wine.  Also seeing positive changes in communities as a result of my charity activities.

So tell us more about your business.

I started RedHead as a capstone project for Cornell’s Viticulture and Enology major.  A combination of realizing the current wine labels did not appeal to me and using my story, I developed the brand RedHead.  With the confidence I obtained from attending Cornell University, I embraced my insecurities and who I was. I was bullied because of caring about my studies and for having red hair.  My message is "you should embrace who you are and go after your dreams."

Tell us more about the wine itself. Do you do everything from start to finish?

I worked with another winemaker on the blend to match the branding.   My tagline is, “RedHead: For Life’s Sweet and Spicy Moments.” Recently, RedHead wine was awarded a silver medal at the 2015 Finger Lakes International Wine Competition.   As a result of meetings with a distribution company and a few store owners, you can now purchase RedHead wine in Ohio.   

How do you run the business while you’re at Cornell?

L’uva Bella Winery produces RedHead.  From Cornell, I use social media and continue to discover ways to promote my brand.

Would your dream job be to expand the brand?

Yes, my goal is for national distribution.  I will be looking to add other wines and line extensions.

Is this common for someone in your major to get started so early?

My family, friends and faculty members of Cornell University have been so supportive.  They inspired me to become motivated and driven to make an impact. 

What are your hobbies?

In discovering myself I learned I love designing everything from jewelry to clothes.   On the side I model and act.   I starred in a music video and landed small acting parts in a couple of short films.

How did you know that you wanted to be a Viticulture and Enology major?

My grandfather and father are winemakers.   When I learned I could turn this family tradition into a career, I was in.

Who is your role model?

My role model is my dad. He is such an innovative intelligent businessman.  He has pushed forward with new expansion ideas to grow his own company which now distributes to over 9 states.

How many tasks on “161 Things Every Cornelian Should Do” list have you already achieved, or which one are you most looking forward to, or which is your favorite?

It is sad to say I haven’t done a lot, but recently a few friends have pointed out that I should do as much as I can before I graduate this May.  One thing I am planning is to climb the clock tower.

Do you have any advice for new students?

It might be cliché, but "Go after your dreams.”   Do not miss out on doing something you love because you fear that you will fail.   “The answer is always ‘no’ if you don’t ask. “

Follow Marisa on Twitter and Instagram: @MarisaSergi