Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food & bev, but not sure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with attorney, pilot and currently a business coach Rebekah Zimmerman, founder at Wine Flight in Elmore, a wine and craft beer bar and shop based in Ohio, US.
Tell us all about your business...
A wine and craft beer bar/table and retail shop offering quality, yet affordable, wines/beers not commonly carried in your grocery store. We are also pilots, so the name Wine Flight went both ways--we offered flights of wine and beer where folks had the opportunity to taste to discover what they liked, and then we centered our branding message around aviation (e.g. "try our certified flight where our sommelier has hand picked this lineup. Or, looking for adventure? Create your own experimental flight by creating your own lineup.") The terms "certified" and "experimental" are terms of art in aviation, so other pilots could find joy in the language we used.
Our interior space was intentionally designed to encourage our customers to wander and mingle as they drank their glass of wine while shopping our shelves then sit at a table of friends that just stopped in. A lot of customers called our business the living room of the community... Customers came to hang out, stay for hours, and reconnect with their neighbor while drinking great beverages and eating light appetizers.
Community collaboration was a strong business pillar of ours and we allowed customers to bring in carry-out food from the local restaurants (as we didn't have a desire to offer large meal options--we focused on light appetizers) and folks loved that they could support 2 local businesses (Wine Flight + the full menu restaurant they ordered your food from) in 1 location.
What's your background and motivation to grow as a solopreneur?
I moved to a small town after living in a city and I missed the quality of life the city offered. I was a practicing attorney, but I wanted more out of my life than grinding out legal work for 60+ hours. I am a true visionary and entrepreneur and the daily grind of the conventional practice of law was not for me. I have a passion for ingenuity and I wanted to pair that passion with my critical thinking, legal understanding, and results-driven approach. I knew I could create a similar quality of life experience I was seeking from the city in my small town so I took the plunge.
What motivates me each day is a cocktail of emotions. I'm eager but scared. I'm confident but insecure. I'm competent but always learning. I've learned that usually what you want to do in your life will scare you a little bit. I am someone who chooses freedom over security and that is my motivator above all. I would rather create what I know has purpose and brings myself and others joy than to do something I am comfortable with and "feel safe."
It would be a lot safer for me to stay in the conventional practice of law in a law firm, but I am trailblazer. I would rather blaze my own path and not ride any coattails during the journey. I enjoy the adrenalin rush of a new challenge, I enjoy the humility of learning as I go knowing that I will skin my knees but it's ok, and I enjoy the competitive nature of seeking new heights to see what's next.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Aside from winning Entrepreneur of the Year in our area, on the more human level, I think being called a "good leader" by an employee is the ticket. Leading others is tough stuff, and I actively tried to do my best every day refining my soft and hard skills and never really knew how I was perceived. This was rewarding for me.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a solopreneur?
Being a leader. I've realized that running a business is constantly making sure the scale balances between employee morale and business interest decisions. If you make a business interest decision, then your employee morale side might suffer and vice versa. It was constantly checking the pulse of the climate because your employees are the lifeblood of the business.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run or grow a small business today?
1) Approach things with curiosity above all else. (e.g. Employee comes in looking really rough and didn't follow your dress code. You could either tell them to go change and likely create tension between you 2 or you could ask "Hey, how are you doing? What's going on in your life personally?" All of a sudden you're learning they just lost their dog, their grandma is in the hospital, and they are so thankful that someone took the time to ask them how they're doing. You're curiosity helped them feel heard, helped you understand what's going on and if your business is better suited with asking them if they need to take the day off or restation them in a less visible area, and etc.--curiosity ultimately gives you more options.)
2) Do bookkeeping weekly if not more regularly.
3) Actively try to learn something new every day. If it's a new tool within your accounting program, to learning that your employee's grandma just passed away. It keeps you aware, humble, and approachable.
If there was one thing you could do repeatedly to help grow your business, what would it be?
Take time for self-care and reflection. It is easy to get sucked into your business for every waking hour and it's challenging to shut off that side of your brain. But to fully optimize in your business, you need to invest in yourself too. If you are running on fumes, then your business will be running on fumes too. They go hand in hand.
What are some of the things you put in place to maintain a healthy work/life balance and to keep it all together?
I eventually delegated and hired folks to do the jobs that were task-focused (inventory management; scheduling; etc) so I could preserve my time for the higher-level, thoughtful business decisions. Additionally, I handwrote down attainable goals and then attached realistic deadlines to them. This allowed me to cross things off of a list and then not always look at the next task if that task wasn't "due" for a week. I could then [take the weekend off] and not feel guilty about it.
Who are some of your favorite entrepreneurs? Do you have any must not miss business resources that you'd recommend?
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
It can get messy and hard, but it really is all worth it.
Actively self-reflect and try to become as self-aware as possible because your awareness will be instrumental when you discover whether you are making decisions based on your personal fear/discomfort/insecurity verse making a decision with objective reasoning and what is in the best interest of what you want to get out of life.
Where can people find you?
I just sold my wine bar earlier this year and I am super proud of this accomplishment because I built something with my bare hands and someone else wanted to buy my creation. My entrepreneur journey isn't over, as I am creating a coaching business and would love to connect. The business is currently in the incubation stage, so stay tuned! You can contact with me on LinkedIn and Instagram.
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share then email email@example.com, we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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