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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Kim Donaldson, Co-Founder and Managing Director,

Kim Donaldson is one of those rare New Yorkers who was actually born and raised in Manhattan, and has lived here all her life except when at various schools.  Her mother, Evan Donaldson’s family goes back over three hundred years in New York. Her father, DLJ founder and former Chairman of the SEC, Bill Donaldson, was raised in Buffalo, New York, but has lived in Manhattan for over 50 years.  Summers were spent in East Hampton, and Kim counts friends from her childhood summers as some of her closest still.  

Donaldson attended Spence, and then St. Paul’s for boarding school.  For college she went to Yale, and then got an MFA at Boston University School for the Arts.  She was a nationally ranked squash player through high school and college, where her Yale team won a national championship.  Always in search of new challenges, she also ran track in high school, co-edited the newspaper and got certified in scuba diving.  At Yale she co-founded The Yale Vernacular, a literary arts and interview magazine, with Melissa Biggs Bradley.

Donaldson’s first job out of Yale was at Grey Advertising, where she was an Art Director working on products like Pantene (they saw her thick, long hair and immediately assigned her to a shampoo) and Ray Ban.  She then decided to go back to school and attended Boston University School for the Arts to get a Masters in collage and graphic design.  After grad school she practiced as a collage artist for two years.  

Growing up with her father, Donaldson jokes that her first word was “entrepreneur.”  So it came as no surprise that, in 1996, she started her own graphic design, branding and marketing firm, called Donaldson Design Group.  Her clients came from a wide range of industries – finance, technology, the arts, and food and wine.  She also had a good number of non-profit clients, to whom she gave subsidized rates.  She credits her mother with teaching her the importance of giving back to society, and therefore tried to help non-profits from a design and marketing perspective, as well as by serving on many “junior” committees and then later on formal boards. 

Donaldson was on the founding Board of GenArt, and committees for Skowhegan and the New York Philarmonic.  She has served on the New York Board of the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship, the Board of Directors of the New York Women’s Foundation and the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, and as a Trustee of Spence School.  She is currently on the Honorary Board of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute and on the Board of the Thomas Moran Trust.  

She ran Donaldson Design Group for nine years, and then in 2005 was asked by her now business partner, Alyssa Rapp, to start  Rapp had the idea of using matching technology (like Netflix for movies or Amazon for books) to match wines to people’s personal taste preferences.  She also wanted to create great technology so people could store their wine tasting notes online, share them with friends and see expert and celebrity tasting notes.  They could also buy boutique wines from around the world.  

Since then Donaldson and Rapp have grown what was originally a niche e-commerce company into a social media company and the fastest-growing online wine community for new to intermediate wine enthusiasts.  They have created the first online wine registry, a series of national events called Around the World in 80 Sips™, and a daily email called The Daily Sip™, which currently goes out to over 100,000 people a day.  Donaldson says the experience of building Bottlenotes has been an incredible learning curve for her, and the most satisfying thing she has ever done other than having her son, Lars.  And one great perk is discovering new wine all the time.  Some of her favorite discoveries are Xavier Flouret’s wines, Ayala Champagne, Hope & Grace, Tensley Syrah, and Pax Syrahs.  She has collected wine for 20 years, and counts among her gems the wines from Heitz, Dunn, Cakebread, Arietta, Sine Qua Non, Sassicaia, Haut Brion, Beychevelle and Château Margaux. 

Donaldson is married to the architect Andre Kikoski, an upcoming Mover and Shaker, who recently designed the new restaurant at the Guggenheim Museum, called The Wright.  Together they spend most of their free time eating in new restaurants, cooking and going to the opera and theater.  They have a son named Lars, who is six years old and loves to play hockey, build with Lego, sing and draw.  After living in Tribeca, they now live next to the United Nations, where Kim says, “we can watch the boats on the river and hear many languages spoken as we walk around the neighborhood.”  She has traveled all over the world, particularly to wine regions, but she says she is always happy to come back to New York!  We are so pleased to present Kim Donaldson as our latest Mover and Shaker!

Peachy Deegan interviewed Kim Donaldson for Whom You Know.

Peachy Deegan: What about your family history in Manhattan are you most proud of and why?
Kim Donaldson: I think both sides of my family have shown a great sense of philanthropy and involvement, making a difference both at the grass roots level (my mother was on the founding Board of the New York Women’s Foundation and I was later on the Board as well) and a broader level with organizations such as Lincoln Center and the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute.

Do you continue to play squash in Manhattan and if so, where?
I do occasionally play at the Yale Club (don’t tell my back doctor!).  It is such an amazing sport.

After working with hair care brands, which line is your most favorite today and why?
I tend to jump around.  I love the products from Privé and Biolage.

In these tough economic times which charities do you think are the most important to support?
All charities need help right now, so it is hard to say there is a hierarchy of importance.  But if people don’t currently support charities that help feed and house people, they should.

We loved your recent Bottlenotes event at 583 Park.  Will you have more of those?  When?
Absolutely!  We have events in San Francisco (February 25th), Chicago (June 11th) and another one in New York in November.  We need a bigger venue though!

What should most people know about Bottlenotes that most do not know?
It is the best online wine community! Wine enthusiasts can go to to learn about wine, share tasting notes and buy wine.  Our newest addition is The Daily Sip™, which is a free email on all things wine that goes  out to 100,000 people daily.

Did you get to pick the wine list at The Wright?
Restaurant Associates chose all the wines, which look great.   But I am trying to encourage some additions of Bottlenotes wines!

What are your future visions with Bottlenotes?
We are launching an iPhone app and a new version of our matching technology soon. And we plan to have 250,000 people signed up for The Daily Sip™ by the end of 2010!

What or who has had the most influence on your pursuit of excellence?
My father.  He has done so many things so well, and has always encouraged me to be entrepreneurial and innovate. Also, my business partner, Alyssa Rapp, who at 31 is one of the smartest, wisest and hard-working people I have ever met.

What are you proudest of and why?
My son, Lars, who is amazing and inspires me every day.  And Bottlenotes, which has been an unbelievable learning experience

What would you like to do professionally that you have not yet had the opportunity to do?
I hope to start a few more companies in my career!  Venture Capital is an area that appeals to me.  Or maybe another hybrid of commerce and community again.

What is your favorite place to be in Manhattan?
Central Park

What is your favorite shop in Manhattan?
Overall, I guess Bergdorf Goodman.

What are your favorite drinks?
Favorite cocktail: Cosmo.  Favorites wines: Châteaux Haut Brion, Palmer and Margaux, and Heitz, Dunn, Dalla Valle, Arietta, Sine Qua Non, and Bollinger or Ayala Champagne!

What is your favorite restaurants in Manhattan?
‘21’ Club, Per Se, Hearth and L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon.  And now The Wright, which was designed by my husband, Andre Kikoski, at The Guggenheim Museum!

What is your favorite Manhattan book?
The Alienist by Caleb Carr

What has been your best Manhattan athletic experience?
I had Knicks season tickets for 9 years during the good years in the 90s.  That was great fun.  Lots of Rangers games over the years.  Now it is probably watching my son’s team play up at Lasker Rink in Central Park.

What is your favorite thing to do in Manhattan that you can do nowhere else?
Enjoy the best cultural opportunities in the world and the broadest range of great food from around the world, all in one day!

What has been your best Manhattan art or music experience?
Most recently I would say seeing Die Walküre at the Met.  Or August Osage County on Broadway.

What do you think is most underrated and overrated here?
I think “socialites” are overrated.  I think the importance of good architecture is underrated.

Other than Movers and Shakers of course, what is your favorite Whom You Know column and what do you like about it?
I like Nightlight!  Good way to find out what is going on in New York.

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you?
I love to play the piano, and was a collage artist when I got out of grad school.

How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers?

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