A Candid Conversation with Entrepreneur and Rootmaster Robert Finkel

Providing a New Experience to Craft Curious Customers

A Candid Conversation with Entrepreneur and Rootmaster Robert Finkel


Robert Finkel, founder and Rootmaster of the new brewery in West Town, Forbidden Root, saw an opening to do something new in the popular craft beer industry – create a unique experience that focuses on designing beer around natural botanic ingredients. He sought to provide a familiar foodie experience to the craft curious through a vast variety of natural ingredients like flowers, stems, roots, leaves, spices, herbs, honeys, etc.

However, he’s not just a craft brew genius, he also has some seriously good advice for budding entrepreneurs. From planning, to creating a braintrust team to getting investors, his words of wisdom can be translated to almost every industry.

He also notes how important it is to have a trusted advisor along the way when first getting started. Finkel says, “Advocate’ is the one word that best sums up the way I view Lema and her team’s differentiation.”

What gave you the idea to start this brewery? What did you learn that you might not have otherwise thought about when starting your own business?

It was my obsession with root beer that led me to question, why was there not a real root beer on the market?  Having researched the transition of botanic beer into soda in the late 1800’s, whether Ginger Beer, Dr. Pepper, Coca Cola, Root beer, were relegated to sweet soda with the invasion of the CO2 cartridge.  Mankind has fermented what it locally foraged for 10,000 years —  hops have been used only in the last 500 years.  The use of such a vast variety of natural ingredients…flowers, stems, roots, leaves, spices, herbs, honeys, etc. gives us a wide palette to offer our exploring beer consumers, and provides a more familiar foodie experience to the craft curious.  If the label says juniper and grapefruit, you will taste gin and juice vs. having to grasp at imaginary clove notes in a malt or yeast.

I learned that situations, buildings, and people reveal themselves over time, and there is no way to accelerate that process beyond an organic process.  We could not see that the entry was supposed to be a beer garden until the vestibule was demolished and ceilings raised.  My investment of time planning the space, an impatient exercise in attempting to accelerate our progress, was a waste of time and resources, as the building would reveal the right plan at its own pace.  People’s zones of genius aren’t necessarily apparent until they are put in situations where they can excel.  Settings a culture of valued participation, while hard and at times frustrating, leads to better decision making, sense of real inclusion, and pride.  I knew this going in, but seeing the extent of the resultant leverage confirms a valuable lesson.  Hire people with diverse thinking but common values.

What advice do you have for other budding entrepreneurs?

You learn more from success than failure.  There are many fewer ways to be really successful.  You can’t overthink things…literally – think about your plan from every angle, collect a great braintrust of advisors, test product, you can’t do enough planning.  Knowing when you have enough information to conclude you are taking an unfairly good risk is the art.  Don’t be greedy when fund raising.  No one who is highly successful looks back and regrets giving on the valuation of their early rounds.  People do regret having ignorant, heavy handed, investors who invest too much of their net worth in a given deal.  You can be as patient as is your investor base.  All money is not the same.

What tips do you have for making your business stand out?

I think of my decision to go into a brand new industry, as an artist pondering their first album.  Am I contributing some new and special to the conversation?  Not based on my mere desire to be in the business…will my product and presence forward the industry?  Do you genuinely bring a unique perspective?  If you do, can you convince great people to share and tweak your vision?  Can you create a culture that is the driver of sustainable differentiation?  As a very wise business visionary, General George Doriot wrote, “businesses are living organisms.”  They are born, shaped, fed, have personalities, and can be strong or weak.  I think if leaders view their positions as having a purpose, as custodians of that mission, they will be able to articulate a specific set of goals upfront, and those who join self-select based on how excited they are to further that goal, caveat that, to me, the highest order of culture is one that questions itself, so strap in!

As an entrepreneur, what is the best part about your day/running your business?

Watching people develop, and self actualize. Beer brings people together, and is a connective force…seeing people really enjoy themselves, seeing the joy and passion of their experiencing a new flavor combination is like watching a baby eat a favorite food so much they kick with joy in their high chair.  Watching parents come in with strollers to relax and enjoy a great cool beer and food experience, and then the later crew of younger or empty nesters, all enjoying themselves, with slightly dimmer lights and louder music.  It’s a high for a pleaser.

How has Lema/her team helped you along the way?

Lema is a fixer.  She is an ET of a professional in that you sense she genuinely cares, is putting herself in your shoes, and is opposite of a mercenary attorney.  Over 25 years, I am guessing the legal fees expended in transactions and companies I have worked easily eclipse $10 million. I have worked with many many varieties of firms: small, medium, large – Intellectual property, bankruptcy, M&A, Securities, ERISA, Litigation, Real Estate, Estate, Tax, Maritime law, International law, liquor law, etc.  Having a trusted legal advisor, a really good and caring emergency medicine doctor gets to the heart of the matter and does not cut corners to further her agenda to bill hours, is a treasured resource.  I have turned to Lema in several situations, including a critical lease negotiation, where she and her staff were highly responsive, very competent, and very fairly priced. ‘Advocate’ is the one word that best sums up the way I view she and her team’s differentiation.


Melissa Levin of CollegeFashionista Gives Insight on Entrepreneurship and Starting Your Own Business

CollegeFashionista is a platform for those who are passionate about the latest college fashion, beauty, decor and lifestyle trends on campuses around the world. One of the founders, Melissa Levin, talks to us about starting her own business, how she got there, and how to set yourself up for success.

What gave you the idea to start your business?

“The business spurred out of a personal project my sister and business partner, Amy, started her senior year of college. While attending Indiana University, she noticed the incredible and inspiring senses of style her fellow classmates had. She decided to go around campus, take photos of these Fashionistas/os and put them on a blog. After seeing the popularity of the blog with IU students, we decided to try it out at five other campuses in August of 2009. Five campuses turned to 50 turned to 3,000 contributors on 550+ international colleges that are now represented on CollegeFashionista.com!”

What do you love about being an entrepreneur?

“Every day is not sunshine and rainbows as an entrepreneur. Your hours are 24/7, are forced to wear many hats, take on roles that are often outside your expertise and learn on the road. But, despite all of that, being able to wake up every morning and truly love what you do is a gift. Everyone has to work. But being able to work on something that is so integral and a part of me is truly special. It is the fuel that ignites my fire and passion as an entrepreneur.”

What have your learned (about yourself or business) throughout this process that surprised you?

“I have learned how important it is to surround yourself not only with a good team, but the best team. A good rèsumè is only part of the equation. The intangibles are as (if not more) important. You need a team that is as driven, passionate and believe in your company as much as you do.”

Any tips for young entrepreneurs?

“Just start. It’s okay if you don’t have it all figured out (no one does). But don’t let the fear of failing or not being perfect stop you from even beginning.”

How has the Fuksa Khorshid team helped?

“Lema has always been my our #1 advocate, an incredible mentor and unbelievable friend. I had the opportunity to clerk under her while in law school. To be able to witness firsthand how hard work and passion leads to success was an invaluable experience. After I graduated from law school, I was torn whether to go the traditional lawyer route or pour my energy full-time into CollegeFashionista. Lema’s advice to take the risk was the deciding factor for me in going the non-traditional route and take CollegeFashionista to the next level. Her intellect and wisdom continues to help our company from both legal and business perspectives.”

How to Be a Strong Woman in Business

International Women’s Day is coming up on March 8, and is the perfect time to reflect on the amazing achievements of women in business. As the number of women owned small companies and start-ups continues to skyrocket, below are some insights on how to be a successful and strong woman entrepreneur and tidbits to consider when starting your own business.

Find a great mentor.

As a woman, it can be overwhelming to juggle family, personal and professional life. Find a mentor who has done it before and can help you navigate through stressful times and prioritize what’s important. Remember that it’s completely OK to not have it all, all the time.

Take some “me” time. You

are going to be pulled in one million different directions as an entrepreneur. Make it a priority at least once a week to have an hour of zen in your life – maybe it’s yoga, or a brisk walk in the morning to your favorite coffee shop – just do something where you can take a breath and relax before the day gets chaotic.

Make networking a priority.

It’s extremely important to not be complacent and always find new opportunities.  The old saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” is so important in business and helps you to stand apart from your competition. Events like BizOver, a biannual beauty and networking event, are perfect places to enjoy a social atmosphere, learn about beauty and wellness, which is important for balance, and meet likeminded entrepreneurs who you might be able to do business with in the future.  Always look to expand your network and help others do the same!

Don’t be afraid to take risks!
Be confident in your decisions, even if they seem risky at times! Successful businesspeople are able to step outside the box and their comfort zone in order to push the business to new heights, bring in new customer,s or expand their teams. Whether its marketing or events or changing a product line – trust your gut and try something new every once in a while!


We are excited to invite you to BizOver™, a biannual event founded by Lema Khorshid in 2006 that celebrates Chicago business owners and entrepreneurs. Please join us on Wednesday, February 24 and take part in makeovers, skin consultations, and fragrance sampling all while networking with other business owners and professionals. There will be delicious hors d’oeuvres to savor and cocktails to sip throughout the event at Neiman Marcus on Michigan Avenue from 5:30-7:30pm. Both female and male guests are invited to participate in BizOver™ festivities.

Register Today!

A candid Q&A with Vanessa Moses of Freezee

Tell us about your business?

“Our business operates out of Trinidad and Tobago and we are a beverages distribution and service company. What we do is provide, sell, and rent beverage equipment and high marginal beverage programs along with premium products to restaurants, hotels, shops, convenience stores, fast food, retail and offices. We provide anything from frozen cocktails, coffee, hot tea, iced tea, slush, frozen carbonated equipment and more. We also provide the best service on the island for beverage equipment and support.”

What prompted you to start your business?

“The business was started originally by my brother one hot day when he felt for a “slurpee” – realizing there was no frozen beverages you could run to the store and just grab and go! From there we started with our own brand we created, Freezee, installing in many grab and go locations, movie theaters and gas stations. This business allowed us to evolve into other beverage product and machine offerings.”

 What are three tips you have for entrepreneurs who are looking to start their own small business?

  1. “Be flexible. Have a plan, have a roadmap, but accept that it can change.
  2. Leave your ego at the door. Always be open to learning and looking at how you can change/shift your business. Basically, be open to taking advice whether you want to hear it or not. More people will want to work with you.
  3. Remember you are going to feel like you want to quit 1,000 times but that just means you are about 90% there. The last 10% is always the hardest before you hit it big.”

“Fuksa Khorshid has been a fantastic resource from day 1 to our business from structuring our partnership agreements, distribution agreements, machine rental and policy contracts as well as overall business advising! Lema has even come to Trinidad multiple times to meet in person to discuss growth and strategy plans we need to put in place to grow.”