Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Jesse Bongiovi, co-founder of Hampton Water, the award-winning rosé he created with dad, the legendary Jon Bon Jovi.
Jesse Bongiovi launched Hampton Water, which was named the top ranked rosé in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2018, in January 2018 one year after graduating early from the University of Notre Dame with a degree in Political Science and minor in Business Economics. A New Jersey native, Jesse has spent nearly every summer of his youth vacationing with his family in East Hampton, New York. This is where his love for the bon vivant lifestyle was born. His lifelong affection for the Hamptons is what motivated him to create Hampton Water.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
My story starts in the Hamptons, on the east end of New York. My college roommate and I had been going out there since we were young, and the running joke was that now that we were of age, we were drinking more rosé than we were drinking water. One late night, my dad, Ali, and I were hanging out on the back porch of our house when my dad offered us one last glass of “pink juice” before calling it a night. We explained to him that no one calls it “pink juice” anymore, it is Hampton Water now. My dad laughed and said what a great name that would be on a bottle. That late-night conversation turned into a business over two years later.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?
We had launched Hampton Water and were starting to gain some traction from wine critics. Ali and I got invited to the Wine Spectator Wine Experience, which consists of 250 of the world’s best winemakers pouring their highest rated wine. We were walking around the auditorium and stopped at another rosé makers table. After talking for a little bit the man behind the table asked us what we did and we told him about Hampton Water. He laughed and said he had never heard of it. We walked away feeling defeated. About an hour later, we walked back past that same section, and his boss, the founder of the company and head winemaker, called out to Ali and I by name from across the room. We were shocked. He then came over, shook our hands, and said he wanted to meet the two young men who were taking so much of his business.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I think our approach to every aspect of Hampton Water makes us stand out. When we first had the idea, we wanted to create a product that was more than a wine. We envisioned creating a lifestyle brand that was focused on the aspirational lifestyle of the Hamptons and make it accessible.
We wanted Hampton Water to challenge the norms of the rosé market and shift perceptions that rosé was consumed by females, in warm weather months. Our goal was to establish Hampton Water as the go-to year-round rose; a brand that challenged “traditional” gender roles through our ‘Pink Bottle Boys’ brand extension. Real men drink pink!
We also wanted to make a label that would jump off the shelves. Our diver is our Nike swoosh, and we have spent the last year establishing it as such to the point that Ali and I got it tattooed on our arms.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
My dad has been a tremendous help throughout this entire process. Not only helping us get the idea off the ground but also helping to mentor me as the co-founder of a business. I had never done something like this before, and he has been by my side every step of the way offering guidance.
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
Hampton Water has all of my time right now. We are focusing on Hampton Water and continuing to deliver the quality it has become known to provide. I’d really like to work on getting more sleep!
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I think that any time friends and family can come together, the world becomes a little bit of a better place. We wanted to create a company that focused on good times and bringing people together, and what does a better job at that than a bottle of Hampton Water?
Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?
I could not put down Grit by Angela Duckworth. It is a great book that I think everyone should read.
It’s all about how in life there are no naturals, everything is earned, and anything can be accomplished through hard work and dedication.
Can you share 4 of the most difficult and most rewarding parts of being a “TwentySomething founder”.
Not “looking the part” because everyone else in the space is above a certain age
- Proving people wrong
- Challenging expected norms
- Building a team that kicks ass
What are the main takeaways that you would advise a twenty-year-old who is looking to found a business?
It’s going to be 100x the amount of work you initially thought. Even if you know in your heart is in it, it’s going to be a challenge to get started, and it’s going to be far more challenging than you thought, and at times even harder to keep going. You’ll have many sleepless nights, and at some point, everything that can go wrong will.
Despite that, and through all of the stress, it never feels like work, it always feels like an adventure. You put your heart and soul into it and the first time someone mentions your product to you or says they’ve used it and loved it, you’ll be over the moon, and even hungrier for success.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
I’d want to have breakfast with Tom Brady. I’ve always loved his story, and he is the example of hard work paying off.
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