Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Sarah Zehner, Owner of MWZ LLC, located in Seattle, WA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I have a neighborhood Irish pub. While the pub was founded in 2001, we purchased the business in 2022. We are located in the Magnolia neighborhood of Seattle, Washington, where my husband and I have called home for the past 6 years. It was very important for us to keep this long-time staple of the neighborhood alive. We're committed to offering high-quality, tasty food and drinks with an Irish influence. We make sure our vegetarian and vegan guests have plenty of plant-based options to enjoy; being a vegetarian myself, this was very important to me. Our customers are a great mix of neighborhood locals and folks seeking out an authentic Irish Pub experience. We love families, dogs, sports fans, and anyone who wants a cozy pub the enjoy the evening at.
Tell us about yourself
After college, I moved from my small-town Indiana home to Chicago to pursue a Pharm.D. Chicago can be expensive, and while I worked full-time in hospitals, I also served to make ends meet. After I landed a job in a wine bar, I realized I was truly fascinated by the subject. I began studying and eventually ended up taking and passing my intro and certified level exams with the Court of Master Sommeliers. I moved to Seattle in 2014 to be closer to American viticulture and ended up rapidly growing my career, becoming wine director of a large restaurant group, the GM of a very successful restaurant, and earning my advanced diploma with the CMS. The COVID-19 pandemic created opportunities to learn new skills as the industry adapted. I realized that I was ready to own my own restaurant/bar if the opportunity arose. Being a regular at the pub, we now own, when we heard the news that it was being sold, we heavily pursued the endeavor. From my time studying wine, I have had a deep passion for sincere hospitality. Owning a business is hard, but my desire to create a genuinely enjoyable place to dine and socialize and for our employees to work keeps me motivated to keep pushing and growing.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
My biggest accomplishment as a business owner is when we realized we were truly a part of the community. Our regulars plan birthday parties and wakes at our pub. We celebrate their wins and losses and everyday accomplishments. We know their kid's names, their pet's names, their jobs, their goals, and so much more. We check in on them when they're sick and when they celebrate. We've created a whole new family, and it feels amazing.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
I started this business with my husband and best friend. Navigating the pressures of the business, financials, scheduling demands, etc., can be very taxing on those relationships. Keeping the lines of communication open and coming at every situation with empathy and a desire to listen and learn is so important. That is a lesson we had to learn the hard way, and it hasn't always been easy.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Be patient. Starting a business, even purchasing an existing one, takes a lot of time, and the wait can be very really defeating.
- Go into something you already know. Starting a business takes learning new skills, but learning it from scratch is a hill I would never climb.
- Find people you trust to confide in. Have a good support system. You're going to need it! While owning a business can be massively rewarding, there's no way it isn't going to also be massively stressful and challenging at the same time.
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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