We had the good fortune of connecting with Elizabeth Schneider and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Elizabeth, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
After working in the wine industry and for a number of other big, corporate brands I realized that those places were not for me. I was a good worker but I had no desire to play the politics of office life. Although I’m open to other people’s ideas, I am a very honest person who is pretty bad at hiding when I think someone is insincere or when I don’t care for them, and I was not willing to suck up to get ahead — again, bad for office politics.
When I started Wine for Normal People, I decided I was going to follow my instincts. My integrity would always come first, I would be loyal to a fault to my listeners and customers not to industry people with big wallets. I would express my opinions only if they were based on facts, and I would try my best to make sure that all my information was well researched and as accurate as I could make it. I wanted to help small wine producers who made great wine get more recognition when I could. I knew exactly who I wanted to reach: people who were just like me when I started in wine — smart, curious people with a sense of humor, who were interested in wine but kept hitting brick walls of snobbery when they tried to learn. I never chased the dollar (I was very poor in my first 5 years of business) and I just believed that I was doing the right thing and eventually it would work out.
Nothing has changed since I started — I believe in all of those things and I still follow them. I would rather have a smaller audience and customer base who supports and understands what I do, then have a huge following because I work for brands and post lots of pictures of myself at wineries. My mission to help educate wine lovers about wine, and empower them to try new things and trust themselves has remained the same and always will. A long answer to a short question!
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
In January 2011 I started the Wine for Normal People podcast. It was at a time when no one knew what podcasts were but I had one goal: educate normal wine lovers on wines and regions around the world, inspire them to trust their palates, and get them excited about wine. I am an extremely frank person, so I used that approach in the podcast — offering facts and opinions based on my own expertise in the field. Over time, things grew, the show has been recognized by the New York Times (my hometown paper!), Wine Enthusiast, and it has grown to be in the top 5% of all podcasts created. The book has been praised by Oprah, Forbes, Fortune, and many more, The thing I’m most excited about, however is the community of listeners that has grown around the show. I have a Patreon community (Patron of the arts model where people can subscribe to my community to help keep the podcast going) and the camaraderie, community, and joy in the interactions bring me so much happiness.
To get to where I am today, it took a lot of hard work! I broke even the first five years of my business. I had to take in marketing jobs to try to help contribute to pay our bills. I did research for friends to try to make ends meet. All along, my husband and friends kept pushing me to go on. I wanted to quit but they wouldn’t let me.
Finally, things started to change. Podcasting actually took off (thank you, Serial!) and more people listened to the show. Sponsors started inquiring. I began teaching online classes to my listeners, which now accounts for about 1/3 of my business. People started taking my calls and hiring me for public speaking gigs. I never would have done this without the support of my husband and friends — I would be working in an office somewhere, miserable! Encouragement and having other people believe in you and your ideas (and telling you when they think things you try may not work) is pivotal to success.
And you have to remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. I wish I could throw out all books and articles about entrepreneurs that talk about instant success and making it over night. That is a pipe dream that happens to a lucky few. For most of us, it’s a lot of highs and lows (at the beginning, often more lows than highs), a lot of self doubt, and a lot of charting and re-charting your course to finally figure out what you need to do to succeed. It takes A LOT of hard work and even more dedication to build a brand. And you have to believe in and love what you do. Otherwise, it’s just too hard to keep going. I love wine, I love teaching, and I love communicating about wine. The joy I feel when I do these things comes through and it reaches the right people. I feel really lucky that I was able to stick it out long enough to get to this point.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I attribute so much of my success to my friend and fellow entrepreneur, Gigi Miller from Vision Organizing. From the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey, Gigi has commiserated, provided resources, and most importantly, always encouraged me to keep going, especially when times were hard and I wanted to quit. She has laughed and cried with me, and talked me through all the challenges of entrepreneurship and of life. Using her expertise, Gigi has also helped me with time management and organization, which has helped me be more successful along the way. She has become one of my very best friends, but I could never have done anything I’ve done without Gigi! Shoutout to her!
Linkedin: Elizabeth Schneider
Facebook: Wine for Normal People
Youtube: Wine for Normal People