Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Elissa McQuaid, Founder of WineSkipping, located in San Mateo, CA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I serve all the needs of wine lovers and wine-curious adults! Through my free newsletter and virtual events, I educate people about wine. For people who love learning about small producers and interesting varietals, my wine club offers members three hand-picked wines every three months. And lastly, to keep people stocked up, I also offer a bottle shop of my favorite wines and wine-related products.
Tell us about yourself
At the onset of the pandemic, I was feeling very isolated and a bit depressed, not able to see many people face to face or have any fun social gatherings. As I had just received my WSET L1 & L2 credentials, I had wine on my mind and started offering fun Friday happy hours and events for friends and colleagues. That eventually morphed into a real business with winery partnerships and licensed to resell it.
The motivation has stayed constant, though: it's a vehicle to bring people together and offer them a fun outlet to stay connected and learn at the same time. You wouldn't believe the social and fun opportunities my wine club members experience!
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I never thought I'd want to be an entrepreneur! It's a lot of work: focusing on your business model, building a website, managing marketing, dealing with compliance regulations in the industry, managing the books, and wine shipping laws, organizing events, keeping clients engaged, and building a pipeline... It's ALL a tremendous amount of work and has been a huge learning curve. All of that effort gets packed into what I'd call my biggest accomplishments!
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Everyone has unique strengths. And weaknesses. For me, my superpower is bringing people together and giving them a fun educational experience. But my not-so-super power is marketing. Marketing. I struggle with it. It stresses me out. I don't do it well. It's a never-ending effort to keep yourself top-of-mind and relevant in the marketplace. For me, keeping my business relevant on social media platforms and thinking up marketing campaigns has been the biggest struggle.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Get a bookkeeper. That was advice someone gave to me that I haven't yet taken. As a result, I never know week over week or month over a month if I'm losing or making money! Crazy, I know! But figure out those books. A bookkeeper will force you to face the not-so-obvious cost of a product that will enable you to price your products and services properly.
- Learn how to build and manage a website. I'd recommend taking some time up front to think about the features you need and try out a few different platforms. Talk to others in your industry about what platform they use and what features are important. For example, do you need a scheduling service for clients to book an appointment, do you need to collect payment for those bookings, do you want to run a subscription, what kinds of discounts do you want to enable multiple discounts codes on a single sale, do you need multiple websites, etc.
- Capitalize on your superpower. Really think about your business model and how you are different from anyone else out there. For WineSkipping, I realized that most wine clubs are NOT clubs. Most wine clubs are subscription services. My superpower is giving people a sense of connection, so my club will really be that. A club. What sets my wine club apart are the social opportunities and the engagement opportunities. My members get to meet each other over complimentary virtual and in-person events that I host each month. They also get to learn about the wines in each shipment and get to hear from the winemakers themselves. It's a truly unique experience.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Running a business is not easy. I think the hardest thing I've had to deal with has been self-doubt. As an employee of a large company, each mistake or failure by an individual is a drop in the bucket. I'm also not the one making huge decisions, so it's hard to take anything too personally at a large company. However, as a business owner, you are the one making the big decisions, and each mistake is YOUR mistake. It's a much more humbling experience. You have to be kind to yourself. Focus on the successes and joys because there are plenty of those too!
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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