Written by Caitlyn Canby,San Diego North Economic Development Council
Cassandra Schaeg is a storyteller. Her subject: amplifying and supporting women and BIPOC entrepreneurs. As founder of SIP Wine & Beer and co-founder of Fresh Glass Productions LLC, Schaeg’s goal is to be a “conduit to representation.”
Schaeg created SIP Wine & Beer in 2015 to bring people together around wine and beer, facilitate conversations about important topics, and allow people to explore and learn about wine and beer without feeling uncomfortable.
“There’s a certain perception that fine wine is not affordable by most, and you have to drink it a certain way. You don’t have to do all that. We can just have fun with it, and we can also delve into it by finding people who look like you in the industry,” said Schaeg.
SIP primarily features brands created by women and people of color. “It’s a very small, niche marketing in that industry, but it’s a growing market,” she said.
FRESH GLASS PREMIERE
As a result of that growing market came Fresh Glass Productions LLC, which produced its first six-episode series “Fresh Glass,” airing on KBPS on Thursday, September 15 at 8:30 pm. It also can be streamed online or on the PBS Video App. The show is directed by two-time Emmy award-winning director, michael taylor, and co-produced and written by Schaeg and Theresa Hoiles. Schaeg is also the host of “Fresh Glass,” which she calls “a truly independent production.”
“Fresh Glass” highlights women and BIPOC innovators in food, beverage, and entrepreneurship. Schaeg knows from first-hand experience that this industry, and entrepreneurship in general, comes with challenges and barriers for women and people of color. Her goal with this series is to introduce women and BIPOC innovators who have made it, talk about how they’ve done it, and expand viewers’ worldviews.
“There’s a lot of layers to this show. It’s part education and part adventure, because you’ll be joining me on adventures to wineries, breweries, restaurants, and businesses across California,” said Schaeg. “Part of it is awareness. We talk about topics like the importance of generational wealth, the Black wealth gap, and women in the food and beverage space.”
“It’s a series that is unlike anything you’ve seen on television. You might be used to seeing one thing in your bubble, and now we’re showing you this. I hope people learn something along the way,” she said.
FRESH GLASS FEST 2
Schaeg also promotes wine and beermakers through Fresh Glass Fest, a festival she created last year for people in the community to connect with women and BIPOC innovators. Last year, over 40 women and BIPOC brands attended. Fresh Glass Fest 2 will take place on Sunday, September 4 from 11 am to 6 pm at the California Center for the Arts in Escondido.
“Fresh Glass is the epitome of what economic development should look like in terms of equity,” said Schaeg. “[California] is a diverse community and we showcase the diverse contributions of women and BIPOC innovators.”
BUSINESS FRIENDLY ESCONDIDO
SIP Wine & Beer makes its home in Escondido because “it’s business friendly. It’s cost effective. I was able to survive a pandemic, because I utilized the community and resources to figure out how to continue moving,” said Schaeg.
Schaeg said she gives back to the city and region by bringing “community, culture, and conversation. How do you bring a community that’s willing to spend money in your city? How do you facilitate those conversations?”
“The reason why I’ve been able to be here for going on 7 years is because I’m attracting a community that wants to engage and learn about something that they don’t always feel comfortable learning in a different environment,” she said. “To be able to do that is rewarding.”
The other thing Schaeg loves about Escondido is its central location, right between the mountains and the ocean, with many new emerging businesses. In fact, one of her favorite pastimes is visiting new coffee shops and businesses on Sunday mornings and hearing the owners’ stories.
LESSONS IN ENTREPRENEURSHIP
Entrepreneurship is difficult, Schaeg said, because “the entrepreneurship rulebook isn’t out there.” She was working in the corporate world, saved all her money, and got an SBA loan to open SIP. She had to utilize assistance programs and follow all the rules of those programs, just to get to this point. “That in itself is deflating for a lot of people,” she said.
Luckily, she had help along the way from Escondido’s Economic Development Managers (EDMs). “Michelle Geller is the reason why SIP is open. She was the economic development manager when I decided to open… If she weren’t the buffer, I wouldn’t have done it.” Schaeg is grateful for Geller and the current EMD of Escondido, Jennifer Schoeneck.
Actively listening to her customers also has gotten Schaeg far. “There is a gap between business and community where it should be a marriage. [Businesses] will just create something hoping [customers] will come.” She knows what her customers are looking for because she is asking. Now she’s starting to see people pay attention to smaller businesses, knowing and caring about the social and economic impacts of where they put their money.
“If you know that SIP or another place focuses on carrying women-owned brands and you’re interested in supporting that, you’re going to take an initiative to do that,” said Schaeg. “There are local brands I support for those very reasons. I understand how hard it is. And the reality is that small business is the backbone of our economy.”