IkaVina Wine and Spirits, LLC: The CEO

Back to Zach

Well, now we're on to me. The basics are that I graduated from the High School for Engineering in Science, did a brief stint in the Navy, and then went on and studied at Penn State. I am an IT professional. Now, let's go a little bit further.

I'd like to say that all of my life I have been building connections, talents and skills that ultimately make this whole thing viable. I have backgrounds in writing (poetry, creative, analytical and technical), music (playing instruments, recording, producing and arranging), art (drawing, photography, drafting), web development, database development and programming, marketing and branding, and the list goes on and on. I can bring to the table things that another company would have to pay outsiders a lot of money to do, and I also have associates in film & video, voice talent, music, photography, etc. who are lending me their talents and experience as well. In the least, I just have to feed them and they know that there is no hesitation in doing that.

On the business side, I was born to hustle. When I was around nine or ten, I used to take a couple of towels – mom got on me later on when she found out – and bike or walk to the Merit car wash at 50th & City Avenue in Philadelphia and dry cars for change; I easily made $10 to $20 in a day which paid for my video game habit. While in junior high school, I used to purchase candy in bulk and sell it in class. In high school, I worked for CVS, The Limited (yes, stock boy in a women's clothing store), and on summer at the American Red Cross through the Catholic Youth Organization (my first day I got lost and wound up in the room where they filter the blood).

I wrote and self-published three books in regards to love from the male perspective and sold them from as south as Roanoke, Virginia to as north as the Harlem Book Fair. And extending that project we added photography, a poster, and a documentary. Mind you, this was all done with "can-do" attitude, tenacity and gumption. My best friend and another good friend helped with the photography; I designed the poster myself; I bartered a computer to the artist for designing the cover for the first book; and shooting the documentary cost me only $100 for the cameraman and maybe another $100 in food; we were given two cases of Leikhiem beer and some gold rimmed glasses from the importer. Oh, and when we presented the third book at Book Expo America in New York, we suffered through staying at The Carter Hotel in Manhattan, voted one of the worse hotels in America; of course we didn't know this ahead of time.

I can still recall my third grade teacher Ms. Elam telling me to put more oomph into my recitation of MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech; she had an awesome afro. And ever since leaving college, I have temped or consulted for all but eight months when I was employed as a regular employee in the role of Senior Web Developer. For the past nine years I have been consulting for one firm, and this came about from a freelance project I did in which I web-enabled a data warehouse. And before that and to this day I still do freelance web and database development; I actually started web programming in 1995, when most of the world and businesses had no idea what the internet was.

People who know me will tell you that if I say that I will do something, then I will get it done. It might take time, but it will be completed. One character trait I have is that I am tenacious. Once I set my sights on doing something, it's a wrap. Whatever it is, a voracious appetite will seek to devour all of the steps to achieve the end goal. I have no problem seeking out the solutions as well as figuring out other ways to approach scenarios. Whether it's weightlifting, programming, or some other task, I will sink my teeth in it and not let go until I get what I want done.

In regards to the business of wine, I have thrice been asked [or proposed to] to join some wine companies. One restaurateur even asked me to go and help one guy out who has a wine company. And my friend Ottavio Ruggieri, the Southeastern Division Manager at Wines Unlimited, has been telling me for a while that I need to get started with my own label, as he has often remarked how successful I could be selling wine to all of the people that I know in the restaurant and bar industry.

So, now it's my time and I am fortunate to have advisors at every level of the business. From the guys who import it, to the guys who are in charge of purchasing what goes on the shelves.

The Investment