By Karen On August 9, 2019

14 Truths of Owning a Business in the Spirits Industry

A couple of months ago, I went to a hair appointment in the middle of the day for the first time in what felt like forever. It had been at least half a year since I took the time for a haircut. As I glanced into a storefront near the salon, I saw a sweatshirt with “INSPIRED BUT TIRED” on the front.

“Yep. YEP,” I thought to myself. It’s hard for me to admit but my sentiment was summarized on a $70 sweatshirt. I’m really tired. But I AM SO EXCITED for what’s to come and energized by this industry daily. I may not own a distillery (I hate cleaning and math), but I certainly have gone through all of the ups and downs of owning a business in this industry.

Here are some of the truths of owning a creative agency in the distilling industry:

  • “Why can’t I write this off?” will forever be my #1 question.
  • Leftover coffee in the pot can double as “cold brew” when you add ice.
  • “Just checking in on that invoice…”
  • The client submits label to TTB. First response: “This copy is deceiving.” Change nothing on the label and send back. “Approved.”
  • “Happy hour” sometimes lasts for 5+ hours.
  • Lawyers are excellent resources for understanding alcohol laws by state…for the same cost as a barrel of whiskey.
  • People make the “research” joke about our drinking on the job being RESEARCH. I’m not researching anything except: GOUT.
  • Weekly emails from the depths of the internet: “I’d love to see if there is a way we can collaborate at some point!”
  • Federal Excise Tax (FET) is on my mind daily, too.
  • VACATION is plowing through work on a Saturday because there are fewer meetings and emails.
  • Deep down inside my shoe, my sock is always sliding off my foot.
  • Deadlines sometimes mean trying gin at 8 AM.
  • Thinking with my eyes shut is the new sleeping.

If you’re wondering, I won’t be buying that sweater in the shop next to the salon. I prefer my “Hire Me. Fire Me. Whatever” shirt from my days of freelancing.

Image via Valfre



Karen Locke is Founder of High-Proof Creative. She has written about booze for magazines like GQ magazine, Bon Appétit, Thrillist, Sip Northwest, Chilled, and more. Additionally, Karen has many years of creative, and marketing agency work in Portland. She believes the darker the bar, the better.

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