Yikes! I didn’t even have time for one measly blog post throughout all of 2013. I will look on the bright side of that and be thankful to have been so busy throughout this year that it was low on the list of priorities.
Where do I begin recapping 2013? It has truly been one of the most exciting, difficult, awesome, frustrating, happy, sad, stressful, best, worst, and most exhilarating years of my life. Needless to say, year one of starting a business is quite the roller coaster. I think the highs and lows are what people like me thrive on – it’s really a risk-taker’s drug.
By the end of 2012: 1. I had a distillery (that no one knew about), 2. a product (that I loved – but, wasn’t sure if anyone else did), and 3. less than 20 accounts. I began 2013 headstrong with a continued devoted vision to bring rum distilling back to NY by educating the consumer through a unique (and awesome!) product (insert: Owney’s)…
As I sit here at the end of 2013 and evaluate The Noble Experiment NYC’s immense progress it is truly breathtaking. 1. Through the voices of amazing writers and tastemakers, people now know about the distillery. In 2013, I was named 30 Under 30 by Forbes and Zagat and the NY Times featured a profile on the story of TNE. These were just a few unimaginable press accolades. 2. I’m now also pretty sure some people like Owney’s. In 2013, Owney’s was awarded a gold medal for The Fifty Best white rums and a silver medal at the NY International Spirits competition. Additionally, the rum has made its way through some harsh buyers to some of the best bars and restaurants in the world and in the stores I can see people start to repurchase. 3. I am proud to say Owney’s is now available in over 200 bars, restaurants, liquor stores, and arenas (Barclays) in NYC!
The pursuit of a vision can go a long way. The HIGHs are really high.
It would be unrealistic to acknowledge the HIGHs without the LOWs. I cannot to begin to explain to unbelievable amount of effort it takes to start and begin to build a business. Although there are so many events to be grateful for this year, they did not occur without a huge amount of legwork. Firstly, there was no such thing as life outside of work. Every day I was in my office strategizing/taking care of back office stuff or in the distillery making rum. Every night I was either out in a bar or restaurant trying to meet people or standing in a liquor store pushing people to at least try the product. Every day and night driving in my car or working out in the gym during my ‘free’ time I was dreaming about the business. On my ‘nights off’ I made friends go to places that carried Owney’s to support them and spent the night chatting with the bartender. When I went to parties, I brought a bottle and talked to everyone about the rum. Mix in cold calling accounts, planning/executing events, hitting the streets knocking on doors with Owney’s in my purse, social media management, giving tours, and cleaning the bathroom.
For good measure, I must acknowledge some of my experiences in the standard tribulations and stresses of being a business owner – for example: those days in NYC when it rains really hard (which seemed to happen more often this year than any other!) and you stand there and stare at the toilet and floor drains talking to yourself saying “please don’t back up” “please don’t back up” (and of course more often than not, they do.) or those months when you glance at your bank account on the 30th and then stare at the wall wondering how you are going to get enough money in there to pay your bills on the 1st (…hmm how can I possibly sell 10 cases tomorrow so I can live to see another month?).
I like to mention these lows to express realism. These things can become paralyzing if you focus on them so you must keep pushing forward. I believe optimism and perseverance are a big part of success.
Although, I am still the sole employee of The Noble Experiment NYC there is ABSOLUTELY NO WAY I would be writing this today if it weren’t for a number of important entities. I would like to take the remainder of this to let you in on a little secret, all of the people who are behind me:
- To My Family: Mom, Dad, Kath & H.
<<When I first told my parents that I was planning on building a distillery and quitting my job at the hedge fund, I don’t think they truly believed me. However, they still humored me with their input (which I highly value given their business education, acumen and experience). When I put in my notice, packed up my loft in TriBeCa and moved into my old room I think they realized it was real. Since then, their emotional, financial, and physical support has been unending>>
Thank you for housing me. Thank you for advising me. Thank you for motivating me. Thank you for putting in the occasional 12-15 hour day of bottling/labeling (and hauling around product). Thank you for depositing a thousand dollars here and there in my personal checking account with no questions asked so I could make the minimum payments on my ever-bulging credit card debt. Thank you for racing over to the distillery after a hysterical phone call that the place is flooded and then getting on your hands and knees with me to sop up sewer water. Thank you for buying Owney’s (no, my family doesn’t get any free rum)!
I must separately acknowledge the efforts of my baby sister. On top of the aforementioned support, she has gone above and beyond. Thank you Kath. Thank you for working Saturday’s in the tasting room. Thank you for doing liquor store tastings when I double-booked myself. Thank you for being an extra set of hands at big events. You bailed me out so many times this year.
H, thank you for being the man and always taking the back burner so I can focus on my work (in addition to your free manual labor skills!).
2. My Friends:
Thank you for being so supportive all the time! Thank you for understanding that I wasn’t the best friend this year and that my energies were devoted and focused on pursuing a dream. Thank you for understanding that I couldn’t make your birthday party or engagement party or just a normal Friday night drink.
3. Owney’s Drinkers:
Well if no one drank Owney’s, we really would be nothing. THANK YOU FOR CHOOSING OWNEY’S! I will never get over the feeling of someone (that I’ve never met!) making an Owney’s cocktail, taking a picture of it and tweeting it to me! Or seeing it on a menu for the first time. Or having someone thank me for making an awesome rum. It. Is. Just. So. Cool.
4. My Partners:
To all of my partners in the trade – the proprietors, the buyers, the bartenders, the servers, the chefs, the store staffs – THANK YOU! Thank you so much for your support. Thank you for showing Owney’s love on your shelves, on your back bars and in your glasses. Thank you for introducing people to the rum – you are a major voice to the consumer and I am so appreciative of all of your efforts. It has been so awesome to get to know you all over the past year and I am grateful for all of these friendships, old and new.
5. The Press:
Without you, not many people would know about this little distillery sitting in an old warehouse in Bushwick, Brooklyn run by a crazy woman. Thank you for being my voice to the world. I never envisioned the support of the media in propelling this business forward (especially without a publicist!) so thank you for sharing my story across all mediums. You have added an element of excitement I never thought I would achieve.
6. Nick Johnson (& Co.):
AKA Mr. Aesthetic. Thank you for your artistic abilities to execute my creative vision unlike anyone else. I never thought we would be able to work so well together but it really was meant to be – it’s been so fun creating and becoming good friends (even if we fight >50% of the time). You and Gabe Zimmerman really have some skills like no others – from graphics, to websites, to videos. I am pumped to continue to join forces for years to come.
7. T Edward Wines:
Thank you for allowing me to remove the cases from the trunk of my car to the back of your trucks. It really has gotten me out of a number of traffic jams You have become an extension of The Noble Experiment and a new found family. Thank you for all of your attention and for helping me grow my distribution this year. I truly appreciate your entire crew for all of your strategic and sales efforts.
As you can see this ‘one-woman-show’ wouldn’t be too far without the helping hands of various forces. I still want to pinch myself every day that I’m living and executing my vision – I actually make rum and people enjoy drinking it! In fact, somewhere in NYC someone is likely drinking Owney’s right now. It’s truly amazing to me what hard work can accomplish.
However, I could not be more excited to close the books on year 1 and begin new adventures! 2014, I’ve got big plans for you. So let’s raise a glass (of Owney’s, of course) and say good bye to 2013 and welcome a whole new year! Who knows, maybe I’ll even get a few employees in 2014 so I can blog more?