Wine Winks Owner Heather Thomas on the Inspiration behind Her Brand

Local entrepreneur finds niche in the gift industry with state-centered designs.

“You’ve always got your girls and a bottle of wine,” owner of Wine Winks Heather Thomas says. She created the business in 2015 after years spent searching for the perfect hostess gift. The Bryn Mawr resident is CEO of the retail and online business, selling accessories made with a bottle of wine in mind.

Thomas jokes that inspiration was found at the bottom of a bottle, but a background in sales and marketing coupled with creative vision and the right team helped bring her concept to life.

“My staff have a passion for wine and a passion for creating gifts they’d like to receive,” Thomas says. “They’re wonderful to work with. I could not be anywhere without my team.”

The team is tasked with helping Thomas turn her ideas into reality, including glasses, coasters and flour sack totes designed and produced in Minn.

Sayings like “point me to the wine” and “for the love of the rosé” are just a couple of the fun turns of phrase Wine Winks is known for.

“I’m not a gifted artist, but I can do chicken scratches that my graphic artist puts together,” says Thomas of the design process.

“I think I talk to [my graphic artist] more than my husband.”

Thomas has been carving out a niche for Wine Winks in an already competitive gift industry. Recalling a business trip to Las Vegas, Thomas realized how expansive the competition is. “I got there and was so humbled by the amazing creativity and gifts,” says Thomas.

“At first you think you’re a superstar and then you realize you’re not in Kansas anymore.”

Wine Winks’ biggest seller in Minn. and Calif. is the signature State Collection, which features state silhouettes created out of wine glasses. Because, as many a North Star State resident can attest to, we have no shortage of pride. “Especially here in Minn. when we’re inside for nine months, I find most bottles and memories are in people’s homes,” Thomas says.

“We have over 70 vineyards in Minn. It’s been really successful, and we have such state pride and love our wine. It’s very synergistic,” she says.

Local wine lovers can find Thomas’ products at the downtown Minneapolis and Golden Valley Lunds & Byerlys locations, as well as Nothing Bundt Cakes, a national bakery chain.

“It’s fresh, fun and not something you see everywhere,” Nothing Bundt Cakes’ Jessica Johnson says. The operation manager of the Eden Prairie location came across Wine Winks last June, and since then, the products have become one of her most frequent reorders.

“There are a ton of people who tell us, ‘We aren’t wine drinkers but we love the logo on there and they make great gifts,’” says Johnson.

Thomas and her team are constantly creating new designs, but the love and intention behind the products remains the same.

“When people look at our products and smile because it’s a wine gift, that’s rewarding. We’re having fun with wine. Just to see someone smile is the only gift I need,” says Thomas.