In 2011, public relations guru Natalie Dean found herself working in a dead-end career. As a graduate of Clark Atlanta University with a Master’s from Georgetown University, Natalie knew that her talents were worth more. In the midst of dealing with the stress of her job, daily complaining became the norm. Every evening, the man she was dating would patiently listen to her complaints. Afterward, he would sweetly ask, “Do you have any cheese to go with that whine?” This opened Natalie’s eyes. Something had to change and it would have to start with her.
Incorporating a positive new energy, Natalie gave herself a six month deadline to “figure things out.” During her time of reflection, something clicked. Knowing that she could not possibly be the only woman who needed an emotional outlet, she decided to turn her struggle into Whine & Cheese. Her mission would gather like-minded women in an intimate setting where they were supported as they whined about the stresses of life and cheese (smile) in acknowledgement of their blessings. She envisioned her concept serving nationally as a safe haven, sounding-board and support system for women across the country and from all walks of life.
Whine & Cheese is now a 501(c) 3 charity, with 10 branches across the country. Founder and CEO Natalie shares her thoughts with us…
What inspired you to boldly move into your career?
I didn't consider it a bold move at the time, but it was a move I was forced to make. I was incredibly unfulfilled. I was no longer passionate about the work I was doing. My unhappiness at work started to spill into my personal life and began to affect my well-being. At some point, I realized that I couldn't blame anyone because I was the one in control.
As women, we are programmed to keep it moving no matter the circumstances. No matter the amount of internal chaos, we have to keep it together on the outside. Well, trying to hold it all together will make you lose your grip unless you have a support system for help. I realized that other women might need an outlet, too. That's when I thought of the Whine & Cheese concept. And after talking to a friend, she agreed that this organization needed to be made available for women everywhere.
Face-to-face interaction is something of a lost art these days, with social media and other technology, so I reached out to girlfriends locally to establish the first branch. It was important to form a group where women could hug each other and even hold hands in prayer—something you can't get via a phone call, text or even Skype.
What was the greatest obstacle you had to overcome to make your bold career move?
I was my greatest obstacle. It’s easy to play the victim, but you have the power to change your circumstances. You can relinquish, or step up and hold yourself accountable. Things aren’t always perfect, but I try not to let those issues take precedence, and neither should you.
“The only thing you can give and still keep is your word.”
What constitutes success?
Success is accomplishing things that even you didn’t think were possible. When I can push through and go above and beyond, it’s a great feeling. Not only do I prove my success to others; more importantly I prove it to myself.
How do you feel you have evolved during your career?
Since establishing Whine & Cheese, it has become second nature now to look for the silver lining in every seemingly bad situation. Whereas before, when challenged, complaining was the easy option now, I immediately count my blessings.
What’s your favorite book?
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
What song do you listen to when you need inspiration?
“Go Get It,” by Mary Mary
For details and more information, or to attend the annual retreat, visit foreverywhine.org.