Entrepreneur Spotlight: Robin Schulze, Sommelier & Owner Little Birdie Wine Nest

It’s a great time to be in Cleveland! The housing market is rising, new businesses are popping up, and more people are looking at the city as an option to live, work, and play. This didn’t just happen overnight; it’s been a long time in the making, and a large part of this success is due to entrepreneurs willing to take a risk to start and bring businesses to Cleveland to help shape our community.

According to Forbes, 90% of new startups fail, but Clevelanders are jumping on the entrepreneurial train anyway. Many of those entrepreneurs are young professionals just like you and me. I had the opportunity to catch up with a few of those self-starting YPs to find out what made them take on the risk and what advice they have for other aspiring entrepreneurs in the Cleveland area. On this entrepreneur spotlight, get to know Robin Schulze, Sommelier & Owner Little Birdie Wine Nest.

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What made you want to start your own business?

I had worked in the fine dining restaurant industry for almost 10 years, and while I was sure that wine and service were my passions, I wasn't sure that the the schedule and hours "restaurant life" required fit what I wanted for myself and my family. Although I had wonderful positions that really shaped who I am as a wine professional, I did feel a little "creatively stifled" because at the end of the day, these concepts I was working so hard on weren't truly "mine" and I really was yearning for a way to express my own unique ideas.

Was it hard to start up?

For sure it was hard!! I didn't swoop into this with an investor, inheritance, or even a loan/line of credit. I had about $4k to my name, and hustled hard to make it work. I focused on what I could control when I realized I didn't have the budget to have the stock and displays I wanted. I made sure that every person that came in the door had a fantastic experience, and went above and beyond in doing things to make them feel special and taken care of, despite my lack of product initially. With every sale, I bought another bottle, and another, and another. "Fake it till you make it" I guess was the motto! Our wine selection is now one of the best in the city (winning Cleveland Hot List's "Best Wine Store" this year, and Best of Parma's "Best Wine Shop + Best Gift Shop"). It took a lot of dedication and sacrifice, but it was all worth it as I now have a multifaceted business that's a sole proprietorship, with no investors or partners and no loans or debts.

Are there any resources just for YP Entrepreneurs?

There are a lot of specifically "young professionals" groups all across Cleveland like The Young Professionals of Parma, Cleveland 20/30 Club, Engage! Cleveland, Keep it Local Cleveland, Your Local Girl Gang, NEO Girl Bosses, just to name a few. And these groups allow you to meet like-minded, hard working people in casual, social settings that will help you grow your connections and business. When you allow yourself to collaborate with these fabulous people, the ideas and turnouts are fantastic for everyone involved! Young people working together are truly a powerful force; it's very exciting!

What advice would you give to a YP who is thinking of starting their own business?

DO IT! If you think you have an idea that could be successful, banish those negative self-doubting thoughts and jump in 100%. Commit yourself, and don't give up. The worst thing that can happen is that you fail, and don't be afraid of that either! I have failed quite a few times before this, and when I did, I dusted myself off, got a new job, and looked optimistically towards the future and the next opportunity. You gotta stay positive, and believe in yourself. You CAN do it!

Bill Baraona is the founder and owner of Flex Media, a digital marketing company that specializes in video production. Bill grew up on the southwest side of Cleveland in North Royalton and currently resides in Parma where he and his wife Jackie founded and run Young Professionals of Parma. Bill loves spending time at the Lake Erie shores and islands and trying local craft beer, coffee, and new restaurants in CLE.

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