When he came to Carolina, Jonathan Campbell (BSBA ’15) didn’t think playing Major League Soccer would be an option.
That changed quickly.
During Campbell’s first season, he was named to College Soccer News’ All-Freshman Team. By his sophomore year, he led a defense ranked No. 6 nationally. Every year, he received academic honors.
Senior year, he became the first player in Carolina men’s soccer history to be named both a NCAA First-Team All-American and a First-Team Academic All-American. Major League Soccer’s Chicago Fire drafted Campbell in 2016.
But business had always been on his mind. A big part of the reason he came to Carolina was to study corporate finance in the Undergraduate Business Program at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School.
During his professional career, he began thinking of ways to monetize and utilize his social media platform to build his personal brand. He became a Lululemon ambassador and cultivated a strong business network.
Philanthropy was important, too. When he wasn’t on the soccer field, he worked with public schools to educate students about the benefits of health and wellness and held nonprofit events for dog shelters.
“Once soccer becomes your professional career, soccer starts to become your one identity,” says Campbell. “The thought of giving it up was very challenging, but I always knew I would go back to finance. It was the timing of when that would happen that was always up in the air.”
That time came in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic began to rage. Many Major League Soccer players were left without contracts from teams across the league. Campbell was one of them.
He began a new chapter.
With his background in corporate finance, Campbell completed his MBA at the University of Virginia. Months before graduation in 2022, he founded Give Back Wine Group with lifelong friend Charles Dick and began serving as its CFO.
After graduation, he moved to New York to begin work as an investment banker at Bank of America. That’s his focus during the week.
On weekends, his attention often turns to the wine company.
“Because of UNC Kenan-Flagler I had a great foundation in finance that has allowed me to focus on the entrepreneurial side of me as well,” says Campbell. “I felt comfortable making that jump, managing two very different business experiences at the same time. Both couldn’t have happened without that finance foundation.”
Just a year after its launch, the Give Back Wine Group has made a splash in the increasingly crowded U.S. wine market.
After hiring a California-based wine maker, Give Back Wine Group began sourcing California grapes from Paso Robles, Arroyo Seco and Santa Barbara for its flagship brand theoleo. The company has three varieties of wine and plans to develop more. The goal was to sell 500 cases of wine in the first year. They sold over 1,000.
“Because of UNC Kenan-Flagler I had a great foundation in finance that has allowed me to focus on the entrepreneurial side of me as well.”
Based in Greensboro, North Carolina, where Campbell and Dick grew up, theoleo is distributed in North Carolina and South Carolina, and its wine is available in shops and restaurants throughout both. Add in direct-to-consumer sales and theoleo has visibility in California, New York, Texas, Florida, Tennessee and Washington, D.C.
A percentage of proceeds supports American Wildlife Conservation Partners, a cause dear to Campbell and Dick and their customers. Theoleo is named for two seminal conservationists: Theodore Roosevelt and Aldo Leopold.
“Charles had a large farm growing up and we spent a lot of time there learning about the importance of conservation and the great outdoors. My favorite activities were fishing, hiking and exploring in the woods,” says Campbell. “Spending time outdoors is still my great escape. A lot of our customers feel the same way. That message and mission resonates with them.”
This wasn’t an easy startup journey. Two out of Campbell and Dick’s three previous startups together failed but provided valuable lessons. They learned the importance of delegating. They saw the power in asking for advice and then moving on to what’s next.
“You learn something from every experience. You pick something up every time,” says Campbell. “Charles and I have always had these ideas. What matters the most is being able to keep going.”
Where he hopes to go next is back to Chapel Hill. He wants theoleo to be available at Carolina games, at the Carolina Club and at restaurants and bars ingrained in his Carolina memories.
“I’m making a push for it,” Campbell says. “I’ll do everything I can to make it happen.”