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Running a business

Sipha Lam is breaking barriers in her hometown

Name: Sipha Lam

Location: Burlington, VT

Business: Wilder Wines

Why did you decide to start your own business? How did you get started?

I decided to start my own business in 2021 during the pandemic after several years in the restaurant and wine industry. I felt that my home, Burlington, needed a curated wine shop where learning about wine was approachable and un-intimidating. Once my mind was made up, I found the space and just went for it with the help of friends and family.

What makes your small business unique from others?

My small business is unique because it's not just any wine shop. Here at Wilder, the focus is on small production wine made by people, families, and friends who farm organic grapes and make wine with very minimal manipulations. The shop is less than 400 square feet so everything is carefully curated and selected by me.

What is the biggest lesson you learned in the first year?

The biggest thing I learned in the first year was learning to have a work/life balance. I stopped taking my computer home every night, stopped replying to emails past "work" hours, and spent my days off with family and friends. 

What was the most surprising thing about becoming a business owner?

The most surprising thing about becoming a business owner was the immense support that I received and continually receive from my community. I didn't know much about starting a business and I am still learning today. I've learned by making mistakes along the way. 

What tools help you run your business?

Canva and QuickBooks! Using social media platforms to grow my business has been essential and staying organized with QuickBooks!

With QuickBooks, payroll and bookkeeping work hand-in-hand.

What advice do you have for others looking to start their own business?

Advice I'd share with others looking to start their own business is to just ask for help from friends and other fellow small business owners. 

What challenges do you feel are unique to AANHPI business owners?

I think some challenges that I face in particular in this industry is that it is a very male dominated industry. Luckily it is 2024, so we are seeing more and more women — especially women of color — take the lead and be on the forefront of wine.

What has been your proudest moment? 

My proudest moment so far has been being featured in Wine Enthusiasts magazine as "One of 50 Best Wine Shops in the U.S".

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I’ve learned from making mistakes along the way.

When you’re having a tough day, who or what inspires you to keep going?

When I am having a tough day, I am inspired by my partner and my regulars! They show up for me, so I need to show up for them. 

How do you maintain a work/life balance as a small business owner? In what ways do you take care of your mental health?

I've learned to have a work/life balance, but the first year was tough. I now spend my time off with friends and family and cooking my favorite meals. 

What’s your “power song” and why? 

My “power song" at the moment would definitely have to be Cold Heart by Elton John and Dua Lipa, makes you get up and dance.

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