Meet Tim Chan, Co-Founder of So Gay Rosé
By: Valeria Ramos
Tim Chan, the Co-Founder of So Gay Rosé, created a wine company with a mission to support the LGBTQ+ community. He recently joined our Office Chats podcast to share what inspired him to create a meaningful brand and how he balances entrepreneurship with his role as Senior Director of Commerce at Rolling Stone.
Along with his Co-Founder Josh Campbell, Tim has taken on an exciting wine venture that redefines the meaning of the phrase, “That’s so gay.”
How did you and Josh come together and come up with the idea for So Gay Rosé?
Josh and I are both Canadians that met in Los Angeles and became fast friends. We were drinking wine at a rooftop bar one night and I came up with this idea for a name called So Gay Rosé—I like that it rhymed and it just sounded funny. I didn’t think much of it, but the next day, Josh was like, “Hey, do you remember that conversation we had last night about So Gay Rosé? I think that could be an interesting business idea. Let’s try it!” The next day, we started it as a fun side project.
Can you tell me more about the meaning behind the name So Gay Rosé?
When I was growing up, when someone said, “Oh, you’re so gay or that’s so gay,” it was never positive. If you’re someone who is gay, hearing these negative associations with the term “so gay” does a number on you. This affected me for a long time, especially when I wasn’t out yet.
Now that I’m out, and I have my career, and my friends, I want to do something for those kids who are still struggling with being gay and who are bullied. I want to show them that being “so gay” is something positive that you can embrace. The name So Gay Rosé is super catchy and it’s fun for Instagram, but it’s really about turning a phrase that was a negative thing and making it into something that we can celebrate.
Tell me about your wine! What flavor profiles can people expect?
Our wine is from a small town called Oakville, California. It’s located on the central coast, which is a very famous wine-making region in California, next to Santa Barbara. We probably tried forty bottles of varietals of rosé before choosing our wine (not all on the same night, of course). When you think of a name like So Gay Rosé, most people would think it would be super sweet, light, and fruity.
I purposely wanted to buck the stereotype, so our wine has zero sugar, a high alcoholic content, and it’s on the dry and tart side. Instead of getting a sweet, sugary fruit flavor, you get more citrus, grapefruit, and tart notes. It’s smooth, but it also packs a punch. If you drink a lot of it, you’ll feel it! We wanted it to be the antithesis of what you would expect a cliché gay wine to be.
How is your company supporting the LGBTQ+ community?
This company is like a love letter to the queer community. Ten percent of all proceeds from our sales go to queer organizations in cities where So Gay Rosé is sold. It was important for us to choose organizations that we have a connection with. For example, the Trevor Project is an organization that I’ve used myself, so we’ve partnered with them to support LGBTQ youth dealing with mental health issues, bullying, and more.
Why did you ultimately decide on canned wine versus bottled?
We’re not opposed to doing a bottle product, so stay tuned for the future. But for a lot of people, wine is very unapproachable. A can takes the intimidation factor away from wine and makes it more accessible and casual. So Gay Rosé is also very portable. You can take our cans to a picnic, a park, that beach, the boat, the lake. I’ve even snuck a couple into the movie theaters in my jacket pockets! We wanted to make it easy to share with other people.
Our can is also a smaller size. We’re roughly half the size of a Coke can. One can of So Gay Rosé is equivalent to one glass of wine. This makes it easy to monitor your consumption. When you buy other canned wines, they come in the same size as a Coke can and that is the equivalent of half a bottle of wine. If you’ve ever had a canned wine that’s gotten warm and flat, and you’ve thought, “Why do I feel so gross?” It’s because you’re chugging half a bottle of wine! We kept our cans small for a reason—you can monitor your consumption and enjoy it without it getting warm or stale.
What has been the most challenging part of growing your business?
The most challenging aspect has been finding the time to grow. Both Josh and I have full-time jobs that we love, so it’s hard to dedicate large amounts of time to grow our brand. However, it’s important that we have our other jobs. A mistake that a lot of people make when they’re launching a brand is that they quit their jobs and put all of their money into a dream project.
If you put all your eggs in one basket and your idea doesn’t work out, you’re screwed because you have no backup plan. I believe in So Gay Rosé, I think it will be around for a long time, but we need to do other things to make sure we had a safety net.
What has been the most exciting aspect of taking your business from an idea to reality?
The most exciting thing has been seeing the response from customers. What I love the most is getting encouraging feedback from people that you wouldn’t expect. I met someone the other day who was an older, straight businessman, and he said, “You’re the guy behind So Gay Rosé? My wife brought a box home and l love it! It’s so strong, I got wasted after like two cans!”
This is a guy that I thought would never want anything to do with So Gay Rosé and he was so excited to chat about it. He was like, “I’m going to crush it with my buddies when we go to the lake next weekend.” That to me is the most gratifying thing because our product is a great rosé that everyone can enjoy, whether you’re gay, straight, or whatever.
Portions of this interview have been edited for clarity and brevity.