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Bringing Fresh Voices to the Table

ENTREPRENEURS: Cassandra Schaeg Ventures into TV

Supporting women and people of color in their entrepreneurial endeavors comes easily for Cassandra Schaeg. The founder and owner of SIP Wine & Beer, a top tasting room in Escondido, Schaeg is also championing others in the community through storytelling, community engagement and advocacy.

Cassandra Schaeg
Founder and Owner
Sip Wine and Beer

Working with co-creator Theresa Hoiles since being approached by the writer and adventure producer during the pandemic, Schaeg has expanded her creative force by hosting “Fresh Glass” on KPBS.

Fresh Glass is a television series she produced over the course of 16 months with Hoiles that focuses on entrepreneurs in historically underrepresented groups in the food and beverage industry whose work ethic, powerful business practices and perseverance have paid off.

“These are people who said, ‘This is what I want to do. There’s no rulebook out there so I’ll create my damn own rulebook and I’ll make it happen.’ And that’s what they did.”

Schaeg said Hoiles initially reached out to her to find out how she had successfully pivoted her SIP Wine & Beer business during the pandemic. Schaeg said the way she survived and thrived was largely through hosting virtual wine tastings with customers.

“Theresa caught wind of that as a writer and said, ‘I think you probably have the makings of taking this to the next level with a television show,’” Schaeg said. “I told her, ‘I think you’re full of it!’ But she was like, ‘No, really!’”

Schaeg said that the two put their heads together and as a result, Fresh Glass was created.

“This is a fresh idea that brings a fresh perspective to the people we’re highlighting,” she said. “All these things are fresh ideas bringing innovation and making sure people who aren’t being seen are being seen. And that’s what we set out to do.”

Six episodes featuring California entrepreneurs in the wine and beer industry began airing last September and are available at kpbs.org

The first Fresh Glass show introduces viewers to a Santa Ynez Valley boutique winery called Camins2BDreams. Schaeg talks to Tara Gomez, the first Native American woman winemaker in the U.S., and Mirero Taribo, her wife, a Spanish winemaker with old-world winemaking skills, at their venue in Lompoc.

The final episode has Schaeg meeting Santa Ynez Valley’s Rideau Winery creator Iris Duplantier Rideau. Rideau is the first Creole woman to own a winery in the U.S. and author of the memoir “From WHITE to BLACK: One Life Between Two World.”

In between those, Fresh Glass features entrepreneurs closer to home, including U.S. Navy veteran Tim Parker of Chula Vista Brewery and Denise Clarke, the award-winning winemaker who runs Altipiano Vineyard in Escondido. The episode on Clarke also introduces viewers to Dr. Ricky Shabazz, president and CEO of San Diego City College, and Donna DeBerry, president and CEO of County of San Diego Black Chamber of Commerce.

“It was a labor of love,” Schaeg said. “It was important to get this project off the ground and out to the people because this show has multiple layers of education awareness and community entrepreneurship. I thought it was very important for people to see themselves in spaces they otherwise maybe had thought about but did not want to pursue because they didn’t see themselves. And so with the stories that were told, this was an opportunity for people across the country to see that.”

Schaeg said she was proud of how she and Roiles, along with director Michael Taylor – an Emmy-award winning creator, executive producer, director and host of Theatre Corner (a KPBS television series) and president of NWB Imaging – and director of photography/editor Trevor Neuenswander, an award-winning cinematographer, were able to pull off something original and compelling.

“We did something that hasn’t been done,” Schaeg said. “A show like ours… there was no blueprint out there… I didn’t go to film school, I am not an experienced producer, although I guess I could say I am now. What was important is that we could share stories. I went into it with the thought, ‘If I wanted my story told, how would that look?’ Luckily, I had a network and the resources of people I’d already been working with (through SIP Wine & Beer connections) and I knew their stories: These are makers of history.”

Schaeg said the goal is to elevate the series outside of California and reach a wider audience. She said the time is right to show more of “the limited people of color in entrepreneurship… and how they are rising.”

The team, which had several sponsors, and grants from Visit California and the Conrad Prebys Foundation, is figuring out how to continue moving forward. Schaeg said that fundraising on her own was challenging and “is not a model that is sustainable.”

“I think we know that this is important and I think we know that people want to hear stories,” Schaeg said. “Now it’s a matter of how do we do that without losing our shoes in the process… who’s going to write a check?

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