Tiffany Hall was a lawyer working for Pernod a huge spirits company Pernod Ricard, parent company to spirits like Jameson and Absolut and wines like Jacob’s Creek and Kenwood. While there, she noticed a voice in the spirits market – spirits weren’t created to appeal specifically to women, despite a growing market for female consumers. Hall’s entrepreneurial instincts kicked in and she set about creating one.
The result is Empower Cocktails, a ready-to-pour vodka that can be consumed straight or with other mixers to create different drink options. We caught up with Tiffany to find out what made her feel that she could compete in the lucrative – but crowded – spirits market and how she made it happen.
Tell us something about you and your history.
I was born in Detroit, grew up in Washington, D.C. and aspired to be an attorney and an entrepreneur. Despite this goal, while in college, I developed an interest in exploring professional roles in creative industries. After college graduation, I moved to New York City, pursued a career in marketing and worked in the music industry, the fine arts sector as well as an ad agency. Each experience was educational, thrilling and provided exposure to vastly different target consumer bases from the mass market to the highly affluent.
Then, I attended law school and subsequently was a marketing attorney at one of the largest global wine and spirits companies managing legal issues related to marketing campaigns, promotion initiatives and sponsorships.
Currently, I practice law full-time in the payments/ finance industry. I have also focused on pursuing interests beyond my career such as serving as a past Chair of the New York Public Radio’s Community Advisory Board. Now, I serve on Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy’s Alumni Council and Co-Chair the National Democratic Institute’s New York Advisory Council.
What was the impetus to get into the spirits industry as a creator?
The first cocktail, the Empower Cosmopolitan Martini, launched in NYC and Connecticut in late 2015. It has been an incredible journey. After working at one of the largest global wine and spirits companies, I realized that creating a spirits brand is a great business opportunity and my skills as a marketer and lawyer are directly applicable to the highly regulated space.
What were some of the biggest obstacles?
One of the biggest obstacles was securing all of the components needed to place a finished product on the shelf — liquid, bottles, caps, labels, etc. I did not have experience in manufacturing so I had to learn about that process and find vendors who could help.
How does one go about creating a spirit? What steps did you have to take?
It is a long process. Each spirit is different – certain spirits must be aged or come from a particular region. I created a cocktail that is vodka based. Vodka can be produced relatively quickly and there are no restrictions such as specific production locale, aging requirements, etc.
First, I worked with industry professionals to develop and test recipes for the cosmopolitan cocktail. Once the recipe was set, I had to find the vodka and was able to locate a licensed distillery on a sweet potato farm in Northern California. Once I confirmed that the vodka worked well with the cocktail recipe, we were ready for production.
However, prior to production, there are certain government approvals and licenses that one must obtain. That process should be built into your timeline. One would also need to secure elements from various vendors such as bottles, caps, labels, safety seals and cartons that work best for your product.
What did you feel was the void in the industry and how did you think you could fill it?
There are numerous alcohol beverage products in the market. However, the majority of those products, except for wine, mainly targeted men. My goal was to create a product that targeted women and give them one more choice while shopping in the spirit stores. I thought I could fill that void by researching which cocktail is popular among women and incorporate elements in the product that would appeal to them – beautiful packaging, a different spin on a traditional cocktail and ensure it had a delicious taste. Empower Cocktails is proud to have male enthusiasts as well.
How do you get financing for an endeavor like this?
I financed this venture myself.
Would you encourage other Black women to start a spirits business? Is there room for more Black female entrepreneurs in the industry?
Yes, absolutely! The alcohol beverage industry in the US alone is valued at $ 200+ billion. There is plenty of room for more of us to make an impact in this space.
What makes your vodka unique and why should consumers make it a part of their social experience?
My ready-to-pour cocktail is unique because it is refreshing and made with sweet potato vodka. Many people have never tasted sweet potato vodka. Consumers should make it apart of their social experience because Empower Cocktails was developed to be enjoyed with friends, family and colleagues. It is simple to serve and it is delicious.
Purchases can be made online at empowercocktails.com. Empower Cosmopolitan is also sold in 5 states – NY, NJ, RI, CT and MA. Every Total Wine in CT, MA and NJ carries the Empower Cosmopolitan Martini.
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