For Stacey Ferreira, invention is the name of the game. At the ripe age of 24, Ferreira founded two companies and she's not done yet. Her current venture, Forge, is an on-demand temp agency, in the form of a mobile app. Right now, the popular gig is to be an Uber driver or a Postmates delivery person. The trend of working in an open format, where you can set your own hours affords you the luxury of supporting yourself while pursing a dream or other career, such as acting. That is to say, Forge retains the concept of flexible hours, but takes it beyond courier or transportation provider, into stints as a retail sales associate or working in QSR.
Ferreira, who wrote the book 2 Billion Under 20, is a college drop out. While this may not offer images of success, the one-time NYU student aims to challenge the notion that there's one right way to do something, specifically that you need to go to college to be great.
No one needs to read the book to know that a formal secondary education is becoming more of a financial burden with lifelong repercussions than the key to success.
While some millennials are lazy and entitled, the same can be said of every generation. Ultimately, it comes down to media’s specific narrative, and the “lazy, entitled, etc.” narrative just stuck. Maybe it's because of social media, maybe it's because of the fact that most pre-teens have cell phones, but either way, is it Millenials fault that they were born into this digital time?
Another part of the Millennial narrative is the notion that they are over-dependent on their parents. Ferreira likes to give the credit of her initial success to social media, but really she should be giving her parents the credit. “If I hadn’t logged on Twitter and I hadn’t seen that Tweet coming through my feed,” she says, “we wouldn’t be where we are today.” The story goes that Richard Branson Tweeted about an opportunity to have dinner with him for the reasonable price of $2k a person. Being two “broke college students,” Ferreira and her brother borrowed money from their parents. Their parents said they wanted the money back in two months, (which was paid back using one million in seed funding from investors).
“If I hadn’t logged on Twitter and I hadn’t seen that Tweet coming through my feed we wouldn’t be where we are today.”
Ferreira isn’t just another trust fund baby who wouldn’t be where she is without her parents. But even if she were, is it such a crime to accept help from parents who are willing? It’s true that not everyone has that luxury, but does that mean that people who are able to get family assistance shouldn’t? That being said, few people who responded to Richard Branson’s tweet – irrespective of how they funded their invitations – did great things with the results. And there are certainly people who took more than $2K from their parents and did absolutely nothing with it.
There is no one way to achieve greatness, or even mediocrity or failure. The founder of Snapchat graduated from Stanford University, while Stacy Ferreira, Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs didn’t finish school. Clearly, an education is more than just a degree.
I walk into a room full of men and I know exactly what they're thinking: "What does she know about whisky?"
I know this because many men have asked me that same question from the moment I started my career in spirits a decade ago.
In a male-dominated industry, I realized early on that I would always have to work harder than my male counterparts to prove my credibility, ability and knowledge in order to earn the trust of leadership stakeholders, coworkers, vendors and even consumers of our products. I am no stranger to hard work and appreciate that everyone needs to prove their worth when starting any career or role. What struck me however, was how the recognition and opportunities seemed to differ between genders. Women usually had to prove themselves before they were accepted and promoted ("do the work first and earn it"), whereas men often were more easily accepted and promoted on future potential. It seemed like their credibility was automatically and immediately assumed. Regardless of the challenges and adversity I faced, my focus was on proving my worth within the industry, and I know many other women were doing the same.
Thankfully, the industry has advanced in the last few years since those first uncomfortable meetings. The rooms I walk into are no longer filled with just men, and perceptions are starting to change significantly. There are more women than ever before making, educating, selling, marketing and conceptualizing whiskies and spirits of all kinds. Times are changing for the better and it's benefitting the industry overall, which is exciting to see.
For me, starting a career in the spirits business was a happy accident. Before spirits, I had worked in the hospitality industry and on the creative agency side. That background just happened to be what a spirits company was looking for at the time and thus began my journey in the industry. I was lucky that my gender did not play a deciding role in the hiring process, as I know that might not have been the case for everyone at that time.
Now, ten plus years later, I am fortunate to work for and lead one of the most renowned and prestigious Whisky brands in the world.. What was once an accident now feels like my destiny. The talent and skill that goes into the whisky-making process is what inspired me to come back and live and breathe those brands as if they were my own. It gave me a deep understanding and appreciation of an industry that although quite large, still has an incredible amount of handmade qualities and a specific and meticulous craft I have not seen in any other industry before. Of course, my journey has not been without challenges, but those obstacles have only continued to light my passion for the industry.
The good news is, we're on the right track. When you look at how many females hold roles in the spirits industry today compared to what it looked like 15 years ago, there has been a significant increase in both the number of women working and the types of roles women are hired for. From whisky makers and distillers to brand ambassadors and brand marketers, we're seeing more women in positions of influence and more spirits companies willing to stand up and provide a platform for women to make an impact. Many would likely be surprised to learn that one of our team's Whisky Makers is a woman. They might even be more surprised to learn that women, with a heightened sense of smell compared to our male counterparts, might actually be a better fit for the role! We're nowhere near equality, but the numbers are certainly improving.
It was recently reported by the Distilled Spirits Council that women today represent a large percentage of whisky drinkers and that has helped drive U.S. sales of distilled spirits to a record high in 2017. Today, women represent about 37% of the whisky drinkers in the United States, which is a large increase compared to the 1990s when a mere 15% of whisky drinkers were women. As for what's causing this change? I believe it's a mix of the acceptance of women to hold roles within the spirits industry partnered with thoughtful programs and initiatives to engage with female consumers.
While whisky was previously known for being a man's drink, reserved for after-dinner cigars behind closed doors, it is now out in the open and accessible for women to learn about and enjoy too.
What was once subculture is now becoming the norm and women are really breaking through and grabbing coveted roles in the spirits business. That said, it's up to the industry as a whole to continue to push it forward. When you work for a company that values diversity, you're afforded the opportunity to be who you are and let that benefit your business. Working under the model that the best brand initiatives come from passionate groups of people with diverse backgrounds, we are able to offer different points of view and challenge our full team to bring their best work forward, which in turn creates better experiences for our audience. We must continue to diversify the industry and break against the status quo if we really want to continue evolving.
While we've made great strides as an industry, there is still a lot of work to be done. To make a change and finally achieve gender equality in the workplace, both men and women need to stand behind the cause as we are better collectively as a balanced industry. We have proved that we have the ability to not only meet the bar, but to also raise it - now we just need everyone else to catch up.