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Obladee Wine Bar

Futurpreneur | January 13, 2015

Heather Rankin, Obladee Wine Bar, Halifax, Nova Scotia

Four years ago my brother Christian and I started Obladee, a small wine bar in Halifax’s downtown. At the time, the city was feeling the economic downturn. We had just returned to Halifax having spent considerable time living and working abroad. We had done much of the business planning remotely, and had left our respective careers to give this our all. We had professional backgrounds, but not in food & beverage or hospitality. We were new to the city and newcomers to the industry, but we knew exactly what we wanted to do and we were confident the business would succeed.

Starting Obladee took everything we had – time, finances, and energy (physical and mental). It was all-consuming, but necessarily so. We would not have gotten through the challenging start-up phase if we did not believe in the project as much as we did. Starting a business is intensive training for owners and necessary stress-testing of the concept itself – if either (or both) are weak, the business simply won’t get off the ground.

But starting a business is also the most creative phase of owning a business. Never are you so full of ideas and so rewarded with seeing your ideas come to life.

Once open, most of our challenges were to do with learning this new and mysterious industry. Dealing with the public, managing supply, navigating liquor laws, it was all new to us and we had to learn it all quickly because Obladee was immediately busy. It may sound strange, but this amount of business, we found out, brought about its own problems. Any glitches or imperfections in our business were instantly magnified and we were burning out. It taught us a lesson – you must be prepared for success!

Now in our fourth year we are still refining and trying to improve. The market in Halifax has changed considerably, and we change with it. Our reasons for opening Obladee are still relevant to us, but our purpose is modified. Even our customer base has changed. I think to succeed in business nowadays you have to accept and be part of change. You have to be out in the world, looking around, listening to people. You can’t have blinders on, you can’t lose touch.

Being a business owner requires you to develop skills in so many areas that are not just in your specific realm of business – administration, people, marketing, minor DIY! It’s not just about being good at one thing; you have to deal with it all. In my view, entrepreneurs aren’t born; they have to work at it! Although there are born-in traits that improve one’s chance at succeeding and one of the biggest is elasticity. Always being ready to respond, react, and pivot a hundred times a day if needed. If you are accustomed to a predictable, structured work day, starting your own business will turn all of that on its head!