Our Small Business Snapshot series features photos that represent, in just one image, what the small businesses we feature are all about. Devin Shomaker, founder and managing partner of Rooftop Reds, a Brooklyn-based rooftop farm founded in 2013 that produces wine, explains how this image represents his business.
This photo is a simple representation of Rooftop Reds' idea and foundation. It shows me working with my brother on our rooftop, and provides a glimpse of the unique vista that a vineyard in Brooklyn provides. It also shows a beginning — what you see is our vines in their nursery stage during the summer of 2014. The vines are now much larger and in permanent planter boxes.
Rooftop Reds is a 15,000 square-foot farm that covers a rooftop at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and we're on track to be the first commercially viable rooftop vineyard system in the world. We aim to bring vineyards to the city, because even with the recently popularity of rooftop agriculture, roof space is still a largely untapped resource in urban environments. Greater New York is the largest urban wine market in the world and we think it deserves its own vintage. Many other urban wineries exist, but none grow their own crop or have wines that represent where they do business. If we as consumers can purchase high-quality organic produce from rooftop farms and urban gardens, then there is no reason we can't get our wine in the same way. We also want to share the serenity and beauty of vineyards with urban dwellers, so a large part of our business is hosting public and private events in our very unique space.
I was a viticulture student at Finger Lakes Community College when I came up with the idea for Rooftop Reds. I had previously lived in Brooklyn for a few years and wanted to return. I also wanted to work for myself and have control over whom I worked with. When I discovered, after some digging around, that viticulture hadn't been tried in the urban agricultural world, I knew I had found my career.
Most people think our biggest challenges unpredictable things like the weather, or pedestrian concerns like cash flow, but that isn't accurate. The biggest concern is me doubting my abilities. In the past few months, Rooftop Reds has gotten a huge amount of press and as a result, inquiries. We have ramped up our event schedule to match the interest. It is exhilarating and fun, but I also find myself making moves that I thought were still several months away. I need to remind myself to believe in me and keep focused, and not get sidetracked by excitement or apprehension.
To submit your Small Business Snapshot, email your photo to Brittney at firstname.lastname@example.org. If we choose your photo, we'll reach out to learn more about your business.