Protea Conversations: Destiny Burns

Protea Conversations: Destiny Burns

Protea Financial was founded in 2014 to provide high quality out-sourced accounting at an affordable price.  Given Protea’s flexible work environment, the Company especially appealed to accountants who wanted to re-enter the work force after taking time off to start a family. This allowed Protea to attract extremely talented individuals who were overlooked.  Over 80% of both Protea’s leadership and accounting teams are women.

We selected the name Protea because is the national flower of South Africa and is a symbol of our connection. The Protea flower has become an ornamental flower because of this striking beauty and is included in arrangements and bouquets as a symbol of courage or daring to be better or a sign of positive transformation.

Protea Conversations focuses on a successful woman in business and their achievements.  The hope is that these conversations will create a forum to discuss the experiences, opportunities, and challenges women face, and how we can build a more diverse, inclusive, and successful environment for everyone.

Destiny Burns is a native Clevelander (born and raised in Euclid), and she recently moved back home after more than 30 years to be near family and to live my dream of opening an urban winery here in her beloved hometown. Destiny is a retired U.S. Navy officer (served for 20 years on active duty (thank you!), and then spent more than 13 years as a business development executive in the defense industry in the Washington DC area. Destiny is also a former volunteer firefighter/EMT and has a great love and respect for first responders and for all those who serve our country and communities in uniform.

Wine has always been a great passion of hers having lived and traveled all around the world throughout her adult life, studying and enjoying wine and food. Destiny has advanced degrees in Business and professional experience in all aspects of business development, marketing and management, and also pursued formal and informal training and professional development opportunities in the wine industry. All of her experience and education, combined with a passion for wine and for her wonderful hometown, has culminated in her decision to open and run her own winery in the metropolitan Cleveland area and provide the “wine companion” to all the great craft beer and spirits made here! As they say, let’s have fun, celebrate, connect, support charitable causes and drink some great wine together at CLE Urban Winery! 

How did you get into the wine industry and how did you come up with the concept of CLE URBAN WINERY?

I always wanted a food- or wine-related business of my own as a “someday” dream. When I turned 50, newly divorced after a long marriage with an adult child fully launched, I decided to get serious about achieving this dream. I left my high-pressure career in the Washington DC area and returned to my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio to open my own business.

After performing a market analysis, I decided that opening a restaurant was too risky (too much competition), but I discovered that I absolutely loved the craft brewery culture of Cleveland. I decided to build my business based on my love of wine and my hometown, so I created a craft brewery-style urban winery and Tasting Room in a 100 year old former auto repair garage in my suburban Cleveland neighborhood. I call it Good Wine Made Fun that Celebrates Cleveland and Creates Community, and I will celebrate my 5 year anniversary this July!


What has been the biggest challenge you have experienced in reaching your current success (personally and professionally)?

I would say the biggest challenge that I have faced as an entrepreneur (aside from COVID-19, which has presented a number of significant challenges for all of us) is really understanding the costs, key performance indicators and other financial measures of my business. The unique business model I created is a bit of a hybrid, and I struggled with generating the financial reporting I needed to truly understand how to profitably manage and grow the business. I finally found my financial bookkeeping partner in Protea Financial – I can’t say enough good things about how they have helped me truly understand the unique financial aspects of my urban winery business model and to effectively manage my books. The resulting financial confidence has been a godsend as I have worked to successfully navigate my business through the COVID-19 crisis.


What are your short term goals of your career/business and yourself?

I think I have the same short-term goal as many other small business owners… to survive the pandemic, both personally and professionally. Both aspects are challenging in this stressful and unpredictable environment, and that is doubly so as an entrepreneur. I have had to continually hustle and pivot throughout this crisis – no staying home and making a sourdough starter for me!
The other short term goal that I have been working on in 2021 is to launch the Urban Wine School™ – a comprehensive wine appreciation and education learning community that is affordable, accessible and fun! I plan to bring the first courses online this spring.


What is the best piece of advice you have ever received that has helped you in your success?

The best piece of advice I ever received was from a former boss who once told me that “Hope is not a strategy.” The only way you will be successful is through hard work and by developing a strategy and executing a plan to get you where you want to go… just hoping everything will work out is not going to get you very far.


What is the piece of advice that you wished you had gotten when you were starting out?

I knew this when I started out as a small business owner, but I didn’t fully understand how important this advice was until I was neck-deep in it… CASH IS KING.


What advice you give to others to help them be better leaders?

Don’t be afraid – and the best way to mitigate that fear is through knowledge. Do your homework, leverage resources, work hard and stay focused. Don’t take no for an answer. Set clear expectations and goals, and then hold yourself and your team accountable for achieving them. Surround yourself with great people and do everything you can to make them successful and productive, both personally and professionally – they, in turn, will then take care of you and your customers.


As a thank you to our interview and Protea’s commitment to more diverse and inclusive leaders, Protea will make a donation to Vital Voices. Vital Voices Global Partnership is a global movement that invests in women leaders who are solving the world’s greatest challenges. They are “venture catalysts,” identifying those with a daring vision for change and partnering with them to make that vision a reality. They scale and accelerate impact through long term investments to expand skills, connections, capacity, and visibility. Over the last 22 years, we have built a network of 18,000 change-makers across 182 countries who are collectively daring to reimagine a more equitable world for all.

We provide your organization a true end to end solution to all of your tax needs. Tax season is year round to Protea – if you aren’t preparing daily, it’s too easy to get behind. We are always working with your organization to streamline your businesses tax management.