Hot off the heels of selling her renowned wine empire Bottlenotes, the wine and craft beer industry’s leading interactive media company, Alyssa Rapp shares her secret to success with FIT+LOVE. You guessed it: Athletics!
We caught up with Alyssa to find out more about how her early training as an athlete has organized her life, fueled her passions, and cultivated her entrepreneurial strength and resilience.
Wine has been a hobby and passion for me since my early twenties. I was an art history and political science double major in college. Upon graduation, the "study" of wine seemed to fill the intellectual void that art history had left, where wine labels, like art, are the windows into culture, cuisine and historical context. It's one of the few things in life where the more you learn, the more you realize you don't know. So, if you have an insatiable appetite for learning, wine is a tremendous life-long hobby.
How has athletics helped you succeed in life and career?
My identity as a child was inextricably linked to my life as an athlete, growing up as an ice skater and then gymnast and contemporary dancer. Athletic experiences have shaped my drive, determination, resilience, and goal-orientation throughout my life. A shared love of athletics has been the point of connection with several of my closest friends, clearly impacted my choice in a life partner. My husband Hal is a World Series Champion baseball player, for whom I have the deepest respect as an athlete and athletic talent evaluator, and is someone with whom I've always loved to workout. Our mutual interest in sports has served as an organizing principles for innumerable family vacations (hiking, skiing, etc.). Athletics has been one of the fundamental building blocks of my entire life.
I was introduced to boxing by a close friend and workout partner who had been boxing for years. When our coach Abdul Sillah left the country to train some professional athletes for 6 months, I joined her and coach Stephanie Rahm for weekly boxing sessions. Having recently had my second child and simultaneously facing some professional transitions, boxing became a wonderful outlet to build back strength and release professional stress. Having a great coach has also always inspired my love of any athletic activity, boxing included.
On Kilimanjaro at Thirty….
Climbing “Kili” at thirty was a wonderfully inspiring yet ironically serene adventure. The time on the climb itself and on the subsequent brief safari in the Serengeti with my brother Jeff is one of my fondest sibling memories. The journey of training for the climb brought me back to my athletic roots, having gotten more engulfed in start-up life than I realized. I highly recommend both the climb and our terrific guides at Alaska Mountain Guides.
What lesson have you learned from athleticism and fitness that apply to entrepreneurship and life?
Entrepreneurship can be like boxing - exhausting to your core, requiring the triumph of the mind and spirit over body to survive and ultimately win. For me, fitness is the key to maintaining a healthy mind in entrepreneurship and in life. The physical health benefits are simply positive externalities of a fit and active life.
Alyssa currently serves as the Managing Partner of AJR Ventures, a firm providing strategic advisory services to companies ranging from start-ups to Fortune 500’s in the technology, beverage and luxury goods categories. Previously, Alyssa served as the founder & CEO of Bottlenotes, Inc., the leading interactive media company in the U.S. wine industry (sold to Peak 6 Investments). She is the author of Bottlenotes Guide to Wine: Around the World in 80 Sips®. In 2014, Alyssa Rapp joined the ranks as a lecturer in management at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, annually teaching a course on the Global Dynamics of the Wine Industry.
Alyssa was named in Inc. Magazine’s “30 Under 30” coolest entrepreneurs in America” and is consistently named one of the wine industry’s top 100 most influential people by Intowine.com. Bottlenotes received the “People’s Choice Award” at the Empact Showcase at the United Nations, honoring the top 100 companies with founders under 35. Alyssa frequently serves as contributor to national print publications and television networks (Forbes, The Today Show, etc.) as an expert on wine and entrepreneurship. Alyssa earned a B.A. in Political Science and the History of Art from Yale University in 2000 and an M.B.A. from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business in 2005.
Alyssa serves on the Board of Trustees for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, the country’s preeminent contemporary dance company, on the national Board of Directors of Spark Program, a non-profit that provides life-changing apprenticeships for middle school students, and is a gubernatorial-appointee on the board of the Illinois Housing Development Authority, dedicated to providing affordable housing throughout the state of Illinois.
When not immersed in entrepreneurial and civic life, Alyssa loves to run track, do yoga, ski fast, and try as hard as possible to decipher a slider from a curve ball from her husband, 1990 MLB World Series champion and Director of Professional Scouting for the Los Angeles Angels, Hal Morris. Alyssa & Hal are the proud parents of Audrey Margaret Morris (born: 9/12/12) and Henriette Daniella Morris (born: 3/16/15).