Eight questions with Natalie Dean, Founder of Whine & Cheese Inc.

March 11, 2016 
By Monica Peters

headshotWhat inspired this concept?

In February of 2011, I was in the midst of some life-altering events. I was trying to define my role in a new position at work, adjust to living in a new city, excel in my Masters courses, and purchase my first home. These were all blessings, but I was stressed out to say the least! I wanted to vent, cry and pull my hair out all at the same time and I confided in my closest girlfriends to reel me back in.  I had several different circles of friends, but most of them were scattered in different cities and multiple time zones. I knew I needed a local group of like-minded women that could not only empathize with me, but encourage me as well; a group of women that could hug me and hold my hand. This is what spawned Whine & Cheese, Inc.

I developed the concept for Whine & Cheese with a mission to bring together like-minded women in an intimate setting where they can whine about the stresses of life and cheese (smile) about their blessings. This is not a pity party or your typical girls’ night in, but an opportunity to acknowledge the good even in bad situations. 

In five years, we’ve established 20 branches of women in more than 10 cities across the country, including seven branches in the Philadelphia area. In addition to women being able to congregate in small local groups, there’s also an option for general membership, where women can connect with us through our online platforms and scheduled teleconferences.

And then, once every year, we all meet up for a weekend gathering known as Relax. Relate. Retreat. The event features building workshops and bonding activities that are both insightful and impacting.

Why did you think it was necessary to start this type of organization?

It seems women have been conditioned to mask the truths of their lives, even to their closest friends, because for some reason we feel it is too risky to be authentic and honest with one another. We don’t want to reveal our problems because that signals we are weak and vulnerable. During my individual conversations with girlfriends, I discovered I wasn’t alone and while the situations may not have been identical, the emotions were and they provided the foundation for us to open up with each other and support one another.

How would you describe the demographic you cater to i.e. single or married women, professional/ women, blue collar or anyone who enjoys Whine & Cheese? (smile)

Membership in Whine & Cheese is available to all women of diverse ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds between the ages of 25 and 65. Our members are open-minded, supportive and non-judgmental and they understand the importance of confidentiality. Whine & Cheese is for women who are strong enough to say, “Things may not be perfect, but I still have reasons to be happy and fulfilled.”

Can you give us a sneak peek into Fall 2016 Relax. Relate. Retreat.?

Absolutely! Any woman who registers as a member of Whine & Cheese will get a sneak peek of “Relax. Relate. Retreat. 2016” delivered to their email address this Spring. They will also get to take advantage of early-bird and discounted registration. This year’s retreat will be our third and best one yet! Visit foreverywhine.org/retreat to see recaps of our first two retreats held in Northern Virginia and Philadelphia.

Do you have other events, gatherings lined up this far?

As a non-profit organization, we are planning to host two fundraising events this year, in addition to the annual retreat, that will be open to the public. Anyone interested in helping us expand this concept nationally as a safe haven, sounding board and support system for  women can donate any amount by visiting foreverywhine.org/donations. We will also begin offering virtual prayer partners this Summer. Details will be available on our site.

Tell us a little about yourself. Are you from Philadelphia?

I am a proud Philadelphia native, having earned a degree from the 261st graduating class at Central High School before moving to Atlanta, GA to get my undergraduate degree in Public Relations at Clark Atlanta University. After graduation, I moved back to Philadelphia to practice corporate and multicultural public relations before relocating to the Washington, D.C. area — the place I’ve called home for the last eight years and where I earned my masters’ degree in Corporate & Crisis Communications at Georgetown University. Without a doubt, I proudly sport my Eagles, Phillies and 76ers paraphernalia every chance I get, even in enemy territory!

What are some of your favorite things?

I guess it’s no wonder I founded Whine & Cheese because I really do enjoy entertaining friends at my home. I also love to travel. I’m confident that my vacations are just a preview of the life I’m really supposed to be living (smile).

What advice would you give women single, married, entrepreneur or in the workforce on how to balance it all without losing themselves?

Listen to me, ladies. You must put yourself first. There is a reason, when on a plane, the flight attendant instructs you to secure your oxygen mask before assisting others in the event of an emergency. You cannot be the best wife, sister, friend, daughter, employee or entrepreneur if you are not first the best YOU. If you are continually pouring into other people, and not allowing yourself to replenish, eventually, you will find yourself trying to pour from an empty cup and that is impossible. Incorporate a daily, weekly or monthly ritual that focuses on you and you alone. Within Whine & Cheese, we celebrate “Me Monday.” A day most of us typically dread, we set aside to spend as much time as necessary replenishing our minds, bodies and spirits. Self-care is NOT selfish, but necessary. 

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