On March 8, 2023
Craft distilleries owned by women, BIPOC or members of the LGBTQ+ still make up a small subsection of the industry. However, the appeal of these businesses extends way beyond the typical white male spirits drinker.
Let’s face it: Women and BIPOC distillery owners face uphill battles on many fronts. For instance: securing business funding. In fact, only about 60 percent of women and 66 percent of BIPOC small businesses earn funding after applying for a loan – compared to around 80 percent of white and male-owned firms.
But one thing they’ve got going for them: these distilleries have the opportunity to grow within diverse consumer groups that other distilleries may not have a natural appeal to.
As we head into Women’s History Month, we’re thrilled to continue highlighting the work of women in this industry through our Women in Distilling project. But we also want to recognize the opportunities for woman-owned, BIPOC-owned and LGBTQ+-owned businesses in craft spirits! That’s why we’re exploring all the ways these companies can tap into their communities and provide more inclusive environments for everyone.
1. Join Trade Associations Within the Community
When you’re running a business, it’s important to find your peers. Seek out the people who are experiencing the same challenges and navigating the same systems you are. Connecting with them may help you uncover solutions to problems that you hadn’t even thought of yet. It could be your lifeline as you work toward success.
Joining a business association with like-minded individuals working in your industry is a great place to start. As a member of a trade association, you’ll have the opportunity to rub elbows with your peers and learn from them. It also opens up your business to a new network of people, translating to a new audience and customers who belong to your community.
For women in distilling, an excellent organization to consider is Women of the Vine & Spirits, a global group that works to diversify the wine, beer and spirits industry. Additionally, the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council also brings together entrepreneurial women to discuss shared issues. Similar organizations exist for other underrepresented groups, including LGBTQ+ and BIPOC business owners.
2. Give Back to Your Community
Belonging to a community isn’t all about being on the receiving end. If you’re gaining from your community, you should be willing to give back as well and incorporate that into your business’s values. Aligning your distillery with non-profits and charitable organizations that uplift your peers, whether it be women, people of color or other groups.
By showing your dedication to and investing in the community or communities you belong to, you’re inviting members of those respective communities to your company. They may even become customers.
Bottom line: when you support your peers, they’ll be more willing to support you. But it’s also important to put your money where your mouth is and donate to those organizations that promote your values and the values of your community. It also signals to your customers that your principles align with theirs – and they’ll be more willing to spend on your products.
Here in Portland, a great nonprofit for Women in Distilling to consider supporting is Rose Haven, which assists abused and homeless women who need help getting back on their feet.
3. Show Your Customers the People Behind the Business
The best way to make an industry more inclusive is to show customers that people who look like them are running the show too. That’s why it’s important for women in distilling to put themselves out there and tell their own stories along with the story of their distillery.
A good way to achieve this is by adding the team to your distillery’s about page. Add photos of yourself and your diverse team to the page and be sure to provide a little background. And don’t be afraid to show off your team across the rest of the website and on your social channels as well. Not only does it encourage a more inclusive environment but it also gives customers a human connection.
Telling your story publicly will bolster your efforts as well. Use PR efforts to reach journalists and publications that will tell your story as a woman-owned or minority-owned distillery. Heck, contact us at Women in Distilling and we’ll feature you on our Instagram page!
4. Get Involved in Community-Specific Events
A wide variety of festivals and events take place year-round to celebrate your community. You just need to find them and figure out a way to get involved. Look for sponsorship opportunities and offer free products where it makes sense and you’ll reach an audience while also giving back to your peers.
As with any event, you get in front of a consumer base by participating. When it comes to an event that’s specifically targeted at women or other underrepresented groups, you’re getting your product in front of a far more targeted audience. And you’re also showing them that you care about that audience.
In Portland, a great event to consider participating in is SheBrew. Sure, it’s a beer-related event but by volunteering or donating product, you’re introducing yourself to a female-led audience that has a particular interest in craft beverage.
5. Recognize Your Community Through Your Branding
Incorporate your identity into your distillery’s branding. Maybe the name of your distillery represents your identity as a woman. Incorporate familiar symbols or visuals into your logo. Products could also represent trailblazers in your community, like a historical figure getting a whiskey named after her – as is the case with Big Nose Kate Whiskey, named for Mary Katherine Horony Cummings, a trailblazing female business owner.
When you work your community into your distillery’s branding, it will attract the crowd you want and signal that all are welcome through your doors. As customers see their principles reflected even on the design of your bottle, they’ll be more excited to purchase and tell others about your products.
BONUS: Don’t Fall in the “Marketing to” Trap
Far too many businesses attempting to “market to women” – even woman-owned businesses – have fallen down the trap of making something pink and calling it a day. If you want to diversify your customer base and attract a specific group with a warm welcome, you need to show that you know them beyond common stereotypes.
Dig deep into what you know about your community and provide a product that organically appeals to them specifically. Otherwise, you’ll risk alienating and possibly even offending that target customer.