Taking Bold Leaps Toward a Dream
At first glance, Cassandra Schaeg (Social Science, ’10) is living the dream—she is the owner of a BIPOC and women-focused wine and beer tasting room in beautiful San Diego County, co-founder of a production company dedicated to amplifying the voices of diverse entrepreneurs, and host of an Emmy-winning television show featuring the stories of underrepresented innovators in the wine and beverage industry. But the battle for this moment was hard won, with plenty still to do.
“There is so much that people don’t see—4 a.m. wake-ups, working five jobs, the crying, the arguing with my producing partner to make sure everything is right,” said Schaeg. “And I’ve been told I make it look easy!”
When Schaeg graduated from Chico State more than a decade ago, she couldn’t yet see the path to her destination. Her major had been social science, but the Temecula native grew up in one of the top wine destinations in the country and always had a passion for wine.
She spent her early career working in both the public and private sectors and decided to get a graduate degree in public administration and finance before switching gears to achieve her longtime goal of being a business owner.
“Education is the one thing that opens up the possibilities of what you can do, even if you are unsure what that looks like,” she said. “I had the confidence to take a leap of faith and become an entrepreneur.”
Schaeg opened Sip Wine & Beer eight and a half years ago as a community space that showcases brands produced by women and people of color.
“When you look at the food and beverage industry, women account for less than three percent; people of color for less than one,” she said. “I highlight innovators who broke into a field that is severely underrepresented.”
When the pandemic hit and her business had to temporarily close, she used the moment as a catalyst to try something new. Schaeg and her producing partner took their business model to the web and made it into a television show called Fresh Glass, shining a spotlight on women and BIPOC leaders in an industry that has traditionally ignored them. The show quickly received two Emmy nominations and won for Outstanding Achievement in Television for a Magazine Program. Fresh Glass went into syndication on PBS in January, and a second season is on the horizon.
Though grateful, Shaeg continues to keep her eye on the bigger picture. “We didn’t do it to win an Emmy,” she said. “We did it because we wanted to share stories. The accolades are just a product of it.”
Now, she has even more to celebrate—Sip Wine & Beer will be heading to the San Diego International Airport in 2025. This is a big win, five years in the making.
“It’s funny, a lot of people don’t understand when I say I’m busy—even my parents,” she said. “There’s an insurmountable amount of focus you must have when you pursue something you believe in.”
She checks-in often with her mentor, retired professor of construction management at Chico State, James O’Bannon, for support.
“He was one of the people who told me to go for it,’” said Schaeg. “I talked to him yesterday and, like usual, he reminded me to take care of myself.”
Despite all the sleepless nights, Schaeg says her life still feels like a dream come true, and she encourages others to trust their gut and take a leap.
“Comparing yourself to others and asking yourself why they have this or that is not where it’s at,” she said. “Education, good mentorship, and understanding the value you bring to the table is what matters.”