Entrepreneur Marcus Johnson Combines Love of Music and Wine to Create FLO Brands and FLO Wines


marcus johnsonA bottle of expensive wine accompanied by melodic smooth jazz music in the background is the perfect combination for an idyllic evening—and one that entrepreneur Marcus Johnson  promotes and thrives on in his businesses FLO Brands and FLO Wines in Chevy Chase, Maryland.
A successful jazz keyboardist with nearly 20 studio albums released and an NAACP Image Award nomination under his belt, Johnson indeed goes with the flow—a notion that has become a mantra to his success as an entrepreneur. “FLO is an acronym..For the Love of…wine and music,” Johnson said in a recent interview with TNJ.com. “The company combines my love of music and wine into one endeavor.”  FLO Brands started out as a lifestyle, production and publishing company in 2010 and expanded to include wine in 2012. The vino was recently named as one of 10 best celebrity wine lines earlier this year by USA Today and was a featured exhibitor at the Black Owned Wine & Spirits Festival in Fort Washington, MD in September.
Johnson is a graduate of Howard University and earned an MBA and Juris Doctorate at Georgetown University in 1996.  During the period, he managed to make music and independently produce and distribute his first jazz album, Lessons in Love. The album sold about 40,000 copies and led to another album a year later, followed by more than a dozen during the next 20 years. His early musical success and entrepreneurial spirit caught the attention of Black Entertainment Television (BET) founder Robert L. Johnson who eventually invested in the young musician and his company. His first company, Marimelj Entertainment Group (MEG) eventually morphed into the current FLO Brands and expanded to include FLO wines. Johnson’s foray into the lucrative wine business started with an advertisement in a business magazine.
“I kept seeing ads in various business magazines about a custom crush facility that allowed people to go out to Napa Valley in California and crush grapes to make their own barrel of wine,” Johnson said. “I thought, ‘Why stop at a barrel when I can own a whole company {that makes wine?}”  FLO Wines was born.
According to the Silicon Valley Bank’s 2016 annual State of the Wine Industry Report—an industry benchmark, sales of some domestic wines and fine wines will increase by as much as 13 percent. However, retail bottle prices will increase this year and into 2017 and, overall, wine consumption in the U.S. is expected to decrease. “Per ca pita wine consumption in the U.S. will drop for the first time in more than 20 years due to emerging generational shifts in consumption patterns that we see accelerating in the near term,” said Rob McMillan, founder of the Silicon’s Valley Bank’s Wine Division.

The lower sales predictions, however, don’t seem to bother Johnson or his continued push into the vino business. FLO wines can be found in dozens of retail outlets and liquor stores across the country, including Costco, Wal-Mart and others. FLO Wines offers a FLO Red Californian Blend, a California Chardonnay and California Moscato. Johnson said he encourages business owners to think big and aim high. “I tell people all the time that if you aren’t thinking in terms of making hundreds of millions of dollars, then you are wasting your time,” he said. “Think about {doing or creating}things that are scalable and can change the world and business.”