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Mouse and Grape, founded by Jessica Summer, caters to wine and cheese enthusiasts with thoughtfully curated hampers and tasting events featuring the world’s best wines and cheese pairings from independent producers.

How did it all begin?

It all started during a challenging time when I lost my job in the property industry at the beginning of COVID-19. I’ve always had a love affair with cheese and wine, fostered through countless wine and cheese nights with friends and family. This passion, combined with my diverse background in hospitality, PR, and property, laid the foundation for my dream. When I launched the Mouse & Grape Instagram account in July 2020, it was my first step into turning this dream into reality.

The response was more encouraging than I could have imagined, and it became clear that there was a gap in the market for a business that celebrated cheese and wine together. With determination, I pursued further education in the field, achieving qualifications such as the Level 3 The Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) and the Academy of Cheese Level 2 certification, all supported by The Prince’s Trust Enterprise programme. By December 2021, Mouse & Grape was officially launched.

What sets your business apart?

The personal passion and expertise behind it. Unlike others, we specialise in pairing cheese and wine with equal emphasis on both, rooted in my own journey of discovery and love for these fermented luxuries. My venture is built on a foundation of in-depth knowledge, from working as a cheesemonger and in wine shops to achieving significant qualifications in wine and cheese. Mouse & Grape stands out for its dedication to curating exceptional pairings that educate and delight, backed by recognition in major publications and industry accolades. It’s not just a business; it’s a culmination of my passion, aiming to share the joy of perfectly paired cheese and wine with everyone.

What is the concept behind your business or the problem you’re solving?

Mouse & Grape addresses a specific gap in the culinary market: the lack of specialised focus on the intricate art of pairing cheese and wine. This venture stems from a personal passion and a recognition of the problem that, while many appreciate cheese and wine individually, there’s a scarcity of platforms or businesses dedicated to exploring and enhancing their complementary nature.

There’s a need for education and guidance in pairing cheese and wine, an area that can often seem daunting to enthusiasts and novices alike. Many people enjoy cheese and wine but lack the knowledge or confidence to experiment with pairings. By providing expertly curated hampers and hosting tasting events, Mouse & Grape serves as a bridge between the complex world of cheese and wine and those eager to explore it, demystifying the pairing process.

The market is flooded with generic offerings that overlook the potential of pairing. Mouse & Grape addresses this by selecting the finest artisanal cheeses and exceptional wines, focusing on their unique characteristics and how they complement each other.

Where to next/What is your brand vision?

The future of Mouse & Grape is bursting with potential and excitement. I envision transforming it into the premier destination for cheese and wine enthusiasts, known for our exceptional pairings and expertise. By introducing subscription boxes, we’ll offer a gateway to monthly discoveries right at our customers’ doorsteps. I’m keen on expanding our product range to include more unique, artisanal finds, enhancing our curated selections. Bringing in industry experts for events in different locations will elevate the learning and enjoyment for our community. The journey ahead for Mouse & Grape is paved with endless possibilities. While I have grand aspirations, my commitment remains steadfast towards sustainable growth, ensuring the essence of our brand remains intact for the long haul.

Jessica Summer

Founder of

Mouse & Grape

What do you feel passionate about/what drives you?

I think from my introduction it is obvious I have a passion for pairing cheese and wine! This passion for creating wine and cheese combinations extends beyond a personal interest; it’s a way for me to connect with and explore different cultures, each with their unique winemaking and cheese-producing traditions. I love travelling, food, cooking, and dining out, and find that the wine industry aligns perfectly with these interests.

Share an example of early life that has shaped you?

I learned the importance of hands-on experience early on, embracing every opportunity that came my way, from working at multiple PR firms during school holidays to a year-long industry placement – all without pay. These experiences solidified my belief in the power of diligence, perseverance, and the humility to start from scratch.

Fuelled by this philosophy, I sought roles that connected me with the essence of my passions. Working as a cheese monger and in a wine shop, coupled with pursuing relevant qualifications, was more than resume-building; it was about establishing a robust, informed foundation for my future business.

Highlights of your business journey so far?

My business journey with Mouse & Grape has been filled with incredible milestones that still feel surreal to me. One of the absolute highlights was appearing as a guest on Saturday Kitchen as the cheese and wine pairing expert. Sharing my tips on crafting the perfect Christmas cheese board on such a respected platform was a “pinch me” moment. It validated my expertise and passion in a way I had always dreamed of but never fully believed would happen so soon in my business journey.

Key lessons you have learned along the way?

In my journey with Mouse & Grape, I’ve learned some key lessons that have profoundly impacted both my business and personal life. Firstly, finding balance and taking time out is crucial; experiencing burnout taught me that I need to pace myself and understand that progress sometimes happens behind the scenes. Secondly, resilience and perseverance are essential. The road to success is filled with challenges, and staying the course is vital. Lastly, learning from others who have gone before me has been invaluable. Their experiences and advice have helped me navigate my path more wisely. Together, these lessons have shaped me into a more balanced, resilient, and informed entrepreneur.

Best piece of advice you have received?

The best advice I’ve embraced is to “stay in your lane, focus on what you are doing, and don’t compare your today with someone else’s,” coupled with the wisdom of “always do your best” from “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz.

Advice to an aspiring entrepreneur or woman just starting her career?

My advice to any aspiring entrepreneur, especially women just starting their careers, is not to wait for the perfect moment or for everything to align before you begin. The concept of “perfectionism paralysis” is real, and adopting the mantra “done is better than perfect” has been crucial for me.

Moreover, it’s vital to start a business or pursue a career in something you truly love and are passionate about. This passion not only fuels your perseverance through challenges but also ensures that you find joy and fulfillment in what you do.

What funding route have you chosen for your business and why?

For funding Mouse & Grape, I was fortunate to receive investment from my family, which, combined with a ‘Will It Work’ grant from The Prince’s Trust, provided the essential capital to get my business off the ground. Looking towards scaling the business, I expect that external investment may become necessary at some point.

Some of the challenges you have faced and how you overcame them?

Facing challenges as an entrepreneur has been an inevitable part of my journey with Mouse & Grape. Outside of the logistical challenges, having to constantly learn new skills and to organise by time as efficiently as possible, the biggest challenge was with burnout.

The turning point came when I activated my out-of-office in March 2023 for the first time since launching in December 2021 and took a week off. This break allowed me to focus on self-care, including walks, cooking, exercise classes, and quality time with loved ones, alongside seeking professional help by visiting a doctor, starting medication, and beginning therapy to navigate past challenges and mental health struggles.

Why is it important to support women-led business?

Supporting women-led businesses, like those in the cheese and wine industry, is not just beneficial; it’s transformative. These enterprises contribute significantly to economic growth, innovation, and diversity within this niche yet expansive market. Women behind these ventures bring unique perspectives that drive gender equality, offering fresh, innovative approaches to pairing, sourcing, and presenting cheese and wine. Their success challenges traditional gender roles in the culinary and business worlds, inspiring future generations of female entrepreneurs.

60

Seconds

with

Jessica Summer

My inspiration is...

My mum, who is not only a successful business owner but also embodies strength and resilience.

My greatest fear is...

I really don’t like spiders but deep down, what truly terrifies me is the thought of losing the people closest to my heart.

The most courageous thing I’ve ever done is...

Setting off alone to explore Asia for seven months at the age of 23 and then moving to Canada for a ski season.

Guilty pleasure?

All food related, particularly salt popcorn, salmon sushi, Tony's Chocolonely pretzel and toffee dark chocolate, and Sainsbury's feta dip - I could easily polish off the entire tub in one sitting!

Mantra you live by?

Embrace the journey, trust the process.

Female role model?

Sara Davies.

Women-led brand you love?

Charlotte Tilbury.

Top productivity tool?

Trello.

Mouse & Grape has created a SPECIAL OFFER exclusively for Women's Chapter Members

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