Senior Manager, Communications and Strategy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
January 26, 2024
TJ and Hadley Douglas, owners of Urban Grape wine store in Boston, were the 2021 winners of the U.S. Chamber’s annual America’s Top Small Business Award (formerly Dream Big Award). TJ and Hadley are members of the U.S. Chamber’s Small Business Council and Urban Grape has been named one of the best wine shops in the U.S. by Wine Enthusiast.
Urban Grape continues to expand. In January 2024, they opened a new location of Urban Grape in Washington D.C.’s Shaw neighborhood with a ribbon cutting ceremony attended by Rick Wade, the Chamber’s Senior Vice President of Strategic Alliances and Outreach.
“It’s a real honor to welcome our U.S. Chamber family members T.J. and Hadley Douglas and Urban Grape to Washington D.C.,” said Wade at the D.C. grand opening. “From Boston’s South End to now D.C.’s Shaw neighborhood, I want to thank TJ and Hadley for ‘lifting as you climb’ – for your commitment to work with HBCUs and provide scholarships to students of color who want to pursue careers in the wine industry.”
The D.C. location will allow Urban Grape to be able to ship nationwide for the first time and will function as its main distribution hub. The move fuels their goal of becoming the biggest Black-owned wine retailer in the U.S.
Urban Grape is committed to improving diversity in the wine industry and provides mentorships, certification courses, and internship programs to people of color. Their new location is ripe for opportunities to continue that mission in a historically Black area near Howard University.
A year after they won the America’s Top Small Business prize, we caught up with TJ and Hadley to hear about their venture to create a wine label called Progressive Wine Company.
The following has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Q. Congratulations again on your Top Small Business win - $25,000 is a huge prize! Tell us how you have used the money.
TJ: It has been amazing. We were able to put the money toward creating a new company called Progressive Wine Company. It's a Massachusetts company, but we're buying grapes and working with a winemaker near the Russian River in Sonoma, California. In the wine we’re creating, we’re simplifying what people are feeling and tasting so that wine is accessible to all. We're also donating $1 for every bottle sold and for every piece of merchandise sold to a Foundation we're creating to support BIPOC students in pursuing the wine industry.
Hadley: Check it out at @ProgressiveWineCo on Instagram and progressivewineco.com online.I loved starting Urban Grape, but this was the most fun project I've worked on.
Q. What did winning America's Top Small Business mean to you?
TJ: It was validation that Hadley and I run a tight business and all the work that we've done for the last 12 years has really paid off. It lit that fire of entrepreneurship and turned that flame up a little bit.
Hadley: It inspired us to dig even further into our business and think about expanding, other opportunities, and how to grow our business. It gave us a lot of confidence. It was not only great to have the recognition externally, but internally we realized that we can take that next step in our business.
Q. What is your advice to small business looking to enter the America's Top Small Business contest—or any small business looking to grow?
TJ: Going through the process really makes you take a deep dive into your own business. It makes you see your business in a different light, encourages you to stay on your path, and reinforces your mission of why you created your business.
Hadley: The programreally shows the whole country what you're doing. I think the U.S. Chamber is working so hard to find businesses and promote businesses that are looking at business in a different way and bringing new solutions to the table. Often, we aren't the businesses always getting the first access to funding, and to have the U.S. Chamber show this type of support is important.
America's Top Small Business
Celebrating small businesses who drive economic growth and stimulate their local communities.