RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – Gwen Hurt, CEO and founder of Shoe Crazy Wine, has always loved shoes.

“I used to pray for a full stomach and a pair of shoes that didn’t hurt my feet.”

The CEO’s love for footwear started in her childhood where she came from humble beginnings.

“We had very little,” she explained. “We had one pair of shoes we got at a hand-me-down shop. They never fit. I would say, ‘When I grow up and I can buy shoes, I’m going to buy as many as I want.'”  

That passion eventually shaped an empire. Not of shoes, but of Hurt’s second love.

“Well, I’m crazy about shoes and wine so Shoe Crazy was born.”

With the help of her family, Shoe Crazy Wine has blossomed into a wine empire. Hurt’s climb to the top did not come easy.

In 2013, Gwen’s path took an unexpected turn. The IT company where she had worked for over 15 years had downsized and Hurt was let go from a job she loved. Two days later: tragedy.

“Me and my daughter were in a car accident in Raleigh, North Carolina,” she said. “We were at a red light and this gentleman slammed into the back of us doing 55 miles per hour. It was a five car pile up. I went from, ‘Okay, I’ll just go start interviewing for jobs to Oh, my God. I’m laying on a gurney, and I have no job.'”

It took a year of physical therapy for the mother-daughter duo to get back on their feet. As Gwen recovered, she decided to take matters into her own hands.

“I stayed in my room, and I cried,” she explained. I cried a lot. I was in this dark room, I said, ‘Okay, you’re going to have to get out of this room and get up and get into some light. I took my walker, toddled into the great room, and called up to my daughter and said, ‘We’re going into the wine business. And her response was…I’m sorry, we’re doing what?'”

Hurt then learned the ins and outs of the wine business. She created wine blends in her kitchen and contracted vineyards from across the country.

“I had to get into the business without owning a wine vineyard. I actually came in and said, ‘Okay, how do I do this without owning a vineyard?’ So I started contracting with vineyards to produce wine for me.”

The CEO says she soon learned how demanding the industry can be, but it only motivated her even more.

“This industry doesn’t look kindly on women,” she said. “It doesn’t look kindly on people of color. I didn’t know that. I just drank wine.”

Hurt pushed through. Six years later, and Shoe Crazy Wine is in major retail giants across the country.

“I believed in what I had,” she said. “I believed in my brand. I knew that Shoe Crazy wasn’t going to only be wine. We do cider. We do spirits. You just have to be focused.”

She’s now hoping to inspire the next generation of female wine makers.

“I hope that when women see it, they can relate to some of the stories that are behind it,” she said. “Our journey has been one of women falling and pick yourself back up.”