Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Audrey Skinner, Owner of Imbibe Solutions, located in Charlottesville, VA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Imbibe Solution is a quality control laboratory for wineries, breweries, cideries, and other fermented beverages. We supplement in-house QC programs with increased product testing from raw materials to finished packaging, including YAN, sugars and acids, bottle stability, and microbial testing. From individual tests to full lab management plans, we help producers at a variety of levels, including test planning and scheduling, data compilation, result interpretation, and consultation. With a focus on accuracy and reliability, our goal is to improve client production quality through science and aid in our customer's successes.
Tell us about yourself
I opened Imbibe Solutions after meeting a craft brewer who complained that he couldn't afford to have an in-house QC lab like the larger breweries. I decided to put my degrees in Chemistry and Gastronomy to use, and after a year and a half of entrepreneurship classes, research, studying, and hard work, I was able to open the doors in 2016. My proximity to the growing Virginia wine region quickly led to an expansion in wine and cider testing. I love working with producers to help them fine-tune their processes, perfect their methods, and understand their products. Serving the East Coast alcohol industry has been an immense pleasure, and seeing the quality of our client's products improve has been greatly rewarding.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
My biggest accomplishment as a business owner is taking an idea and turning it into a (now) rapidly growing business while remaining debt free. Growth was initially slow, but I wanted to expand organically and not build something rapidly, hoping the business would follow. Well, the business has certainly shown up, and we are quickly growing as a result!
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
One of the hardest parts of being a business owner is really putting yourself out there. The networking, marketing, and client management require a lot of extrovert energy. You can't take negative feedback personally, but you should certainly take it into consideration when working with clients or presenting your services. Being the face of a company can be a vulnerable and lonely position, but the passion you have for your services should make up for the discomfort.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Know your weaknesses and find people (employees, advisors, specialists) to fill in the gaps. A good mentor will help keep you on track from starting the business to growing it. (The SBA and SBDC have free mentors and resources if you need them!)
- It is a bigger time and financial commitment than you probably realize. It takes a long time to get to the step back and make money phase. (I'm not really convinced that is even a reality.)
- Make sure to have a life outside of your business. Dedicate time away from your phone and email to enjoy family, friends, and hobbies. Work-life balance is very important and will keep you from burning out while following your business ownership dream.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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