While we usually go to a bar just to grab a drink and have a chill time, it's really nice to come across a bar with a story. These bars all have roots with kickass bartenders or founders, and we love it!
1. Butter & Scotch
Butter & Scotch is a bar and bakery located in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and cofounded by Allison Kave and her business partner Keavy Landreth. "We both had successful dessert companies previously (a pie business and a cupcake business, respectively), and teamed up to open our first brick and mortar. I also used to moonlight as a bartender for years, and have a real passion for cocktails, which is how the bar element figures into our scenario. We opened just over two years ago, and have developed an amazing staff and some incredible supporters, both locals and across the country," says Kave.
Feminism is a big part of the company culture: both owners are women, management staff is always staffed by women, and most of the team is comprised of women. “After the recent election, politics and feminism became a more concrete and focused part of our business, and we launched our current cocktail menu in January. Titled Winter of Women, it features cocktails with names like Smash the Patriarchy, This Pussy Grabs Back, and Not My President. $1 from every cocktail sold all winter is going to Planned Parenthood. We've also held events like Drunk Dialing Congress, where we give out free shots to anyone who calls their congressional reps. Despite the political tone, we are all about fun and indulgence, and have become a refuge of sorts for people who need to treat themselves to some cake and a cocktail, while drinking for a good cause!" says Kave.
2. Myrtle's Punch House
Molly Wellmann of Cincinnati is a self-taught mixologist who immersed herself in the history of cocktails, particularly those from the 1700's to 1950's. She is known for taking fresh ingredients like simple syrups, juices and bitters to create innovative takes on these classic cocktails. She has turned her skills and business acumen into a cocktail empire in the Cincinnati area, owning multiple bars across the city, including Myrtle's Punch House and Japp's. Since 1879, she authored the book Handcrafted Cocktails: The Mixologist's Guide to Classic Drinks for Morning, Noon & Night, gave speeches and demos on cocktails - particularly bourbon, and recently opened a full–service restaurant and cocktail bar at Cincinnati's Contemporary Arts Center.
3. Treadwell Park
Anne Beccerra, the Beverage Director and Beer Cicerone at Treadwell Park on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, is the first woman in NYC to become a Certified Cicerone. Anne has worked at the helm of some of the best beer bars in Manhattan including Blind Tiger, The Ginger Man and The Pony Bar. She was named one of the "Heroes of the Craft Beer Movement" by Vanberg and DeWulf Imports and has helped to organize major beer festivals around the world. She was also asked to be a part of the New York tasting panel with Riedel and Spiegelau, which helped create the first ever IPA beer glass. Anne was one of the few people to represent the beer industry at the 2014 Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans. Anne loves spreading the word about great craft beer almost as much as drinking it!
4. Sunset Reservoir Brewing Company
Sunset Reservoir Brewing Company is owned by the badass mother of four daughters, Hilary Passman. Not only does she single-handedly raise her kids and own a brewery, she also runs a bakery called Devil's Teeth Baking Company. Hilary Passman opened the doors of Sunset Reservoir Brewing Company in January of 2015 with one mission: to bring delicious food to her neighborhood, the Outer Sunset District of San Francisco. But this was not her first culinary venture in the neighborhood; Passman opened local hotspot Devil's Teeth Baking Company in 2011.
Over the years, she has transformed her quaint neighborhood into a dining destination for family and friends alike to enjoy house brews and excellent food. Surprisingly, Passman did not start her career in restaurants; in fact, she started off as a lawyer. While balancing her job and raising four daughters, she decided to find a more flexible career that allowed her to spend more time with her children. Passman began to sell custom wedding cakes on Craigslist, and due to high demand, eventually opened a full-time business out of her house. Passman realized that as she gathered more clients, she needed more space. This led Hilary to open her first store, Devil's Teeth Baking Company.
Kat Hunter, Executive Bartender at Bourbon in downtown Columbia, SC., is a roller-derby enthusiast and veteran of Columbia's drinking scene. By day, she peruses antique shops in search of vintage cocktail books for inspiration. By night, she slings killer drinks. One of her signature cocktails is the Frankly, My Dear: a whiskey and vanilla concoction featuring flaming orange zest. It's just the right amount of smokiness-meets-citrus while allowing the whiskey to shine. But don't just take our word for it. Kat has won Columbia's Avion Margarita Challenge and a Jager Spice Cocktail Bartender Challenge. She was also invited to MG Road Bar & Lounge in Asheville, NC to participate in a one-night guest bartender exchange. Next month, she'll be crafting a spring bloom champagne cocktail for the James at City Roots Farm in Columbia.
6. Drink Company
Angie Fetherston is the CEO of Drink Company, which owns and operates four bars in Washington, DC: James Beard-Award-nominated Columbia Room, Mockingbird Hill, Southern Efficiency and Eat the Rich. Last year, Fetherston was inducted into the LUPEC Dame Hall of Fame at Tales of the Cocktail and was just recognized this week as one of the rising stars on the DC culinary scene. She is also the brains behind Drink Company's series of viral pop-up bars, including Miracle on 7th and the current iteration, the Cherry Blossom PUB, which have both seen 2-hour lines around the block each night. (More than 50,000 patrons visited Miracle over the holiday season.) Angie's sister, Adriana Salame, is a bartender at all of Angie's bars.
7. Devil's Den
Erin Wallace is one of Philadelphia's premiere beer experts. Her craft-beer-focused bar Devil's Den is popular among beer geeks and cocktail enthusiasts alike. Erin is often behind the stick herself and with her team, craft a myriad of beer cocktails and traditional cocktails.
8. Cardinal Spirits
Baylee Pruitt, Alexandra Utter and Alyvia Cain are all behind the bar at Cardinal Spirits, Bloomington's first and only distillery. Baylee and her husband Chris are concocting all sorts of amazing tiki cocktails for the distillery's weekly Tiki Tuesdays. Alex is the master behind drinks like the Lady Rizzo and Alyvia is the brains behind cocktails like the Bye Bye Birdie. These ladies' creativity knows no bounds.
9. Del Sur Mexican Cantina
Sabrina and Natasha Mitchell of Del Sur Mexican Cantina in South Park are two ladies who not only kick ass behind the bar, but also kick ass as a team! The two are married, and can really stir up some synchronicity behind the bar. Together they create new libations, menu items and seasonal ingredients for crave-worthy cocktails. They have both been featured nationally on Tales of the Cocktail, sharing advice on cutting folks off of the sauce. These two have it all: personality, dedication and attitude. Del Sur is located in San Diego, Calif. and serves up delicious and healthy Mexican food for locals and visitors alike. The dog-friendly, vegetarian and vegan-friendly hot spot stays on top of trends like Jackfruit while still cooking up some of the best carnitas on this side of the border!
Sabrina and Natasha Mitchell
10. Avery Bar
Sterling Jackson is at the helm of the Avery Bar at The Ritz-Carlton, Boston. What's so great or different about her? She's the perfect example of the fact that women can adapt or realign their career goals for success. She was a pastry chef and pastry supervisor for the luxury hotel company before deciding to follow her true passion – cocktail making. But she definitely didn't leave her "sweet" skill set behind. She says she uses her eye for precision, and to always create something eye-catching that will wow the senses – first when the guest sees it, then when the guest tastes and enjoys the cocktail she mixed behind the bar. Sterling Jackson has been a lead mixologist at the award-wining Avery Bar at The Ritz-Carlton, Boston since its debut in 2011. In this role, she creates and executes the lounge's craft cocktail program, which changes seasonally and is often influenced by Jackson's stream of steady regulars. Jackson approaches cocktail-making with the creative and scientific precision of a pastry chef, since she previously served as pastry supervisor for The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. She was the pastry supervisor at both The Ritz-Carlton in Boston and The Ritz-Carlton in Coconut Grove, Florida for more than seven years. She also served as pastry chef at the Salish Lodge and Spa in Snoqualmie, Washington. In her roles as pastry chef and supervisor, Jackson's creative vision had her making cakes, pastries and chocolate sculptures that were both impactful and delicious. She also liaisoned with local farmers to source the freshest ingredients possible. She maintains this same commitment to source and utilize local products and spirits for the cocktails she creates in Avery Bar, all while crafting beverages that impress even the most discerning social drinker. Under her direction, Avery Bar has been named "Boston's Best Hotel Bar" by Boston Magazine and is an ongoing winner in local spirits and beverage competitions.
Amid the mainstream conversation about inclusion and justice in the workplace, otherwise known as #MeToo, a Silicon Valley venture capital fund considered how they can be more inclusive of the women, minority, and LGBTQ entrepreneurial communities.
Their solution? Ask the CEOs they currently fund to promise to hire senior-level employees from diverse backgrounds.
Lightspeed Venture Partners, a venture capital fund that has investments with blockbuster startups such as The Honest Company, Affirm, and HQ Trivia, has asked its portfolio company CEOs to sign a “side letter" affirming their commitment to consider women and other underrepresented groups for senior jobs and new spots on their board of directors.
Can making pledges— or even hiring a C-Suite level employee to manage diversity efforts— really make an impact on the funding gap for multicultural women-led companies?
Many experts say it's going to take systemic change, not letters of intent.
It is well reported that the amount of investment going to multicultural women-led companies is incongruous to the entrepreneurial landscape and the performance of their businesses. Between 2007 and 2016, there was an increase of 2.8 million companies owned by women of color. Nearly eight out of every 10 new women-owned firms launched since 2007 has been started by a woman of color yet, these businesses receive an abysmal 0.2 percent of all funding. Amanda Johnson and KJ Miller, founders of Mented cosmetics, were just the 15th and 16th Black women in history to raise $1M in the fall of 2017.
The multicultural women who do defeat the odds to get funded receive significantly less than male founders. The average startup founded by a Black woman raises only $36,000 in venture funding, while the average failed startup founded by a White man raises $1.3M before going out of business.
The implicit and explicit bias not only impacts individual multicultural female founders, it could be stifling innovation. For example, companies with above-average diversity on their management teams reported innovation revenue as 45 percent of total revenue compared to just 26 percent of total revenue at companies with below-average management diversity. That means nearly half the revenue of companies with more diverse leadership comes from products and services launched in the past three years.
In our economy today, venture capital is responsible for funding the work of our most innovative companies. Venture capital-backed U.S. companies include some of the most innovative companies in the world. In 2013, VC-backed companies account for a 42 percent of the R&D spending by U.S. public companies.
With a wealth of multicultural women entrepreneurs and evidence to support the performance of diverse companies, why does this funding gap persist?
According to Kristin Hull, founder of Oakland-based Nia Impact Capital and Nia Community, many traditional investors consider women or minority-led businesses as a category in their portfolio, like gaming tech or consumer packaged good. Hull, who focuses on building portfolios where financial returns and social impact work hand-in-hand, argues gender and ethnicity are not a business category and investors who dedicate a specific percent of their portfolio to diverse companies are the ones missing out.
“We are doing this backwards," says Hull. “Adding diverse, women-run companies actually de-risks an investment portfolio."
Hull points to research that has found women are more likely to seek outside help when a company is headed for trouble and operate businesses with less debt on average. What's more, a study conducted by First Round Capital concluded that founding teams including a woman outperform their all-male peers by 63 percent.
Ximena Hardstock, a 43-year-old immigrant from Chile experienced this bias first hand before she raised $5.1M for her tech startup. “How do you get an investor to notice you and take you seriously?" says Hardstock. “White men from Harvard have a track record and investors are all looking for entrepreneurs that fit the Zuckerberg mold. But a woman from Chile with an accent who started a technology company? There is no track record for that and this is a problem so many women of color face."
Hardstock came to the U.S. from the suburbs of Santiago when she was just 20-years-old. Alone with no family or connections in the U.S., Hardstock worked as a cleaning lady, a bartender, and a nanny before she began teaching and working in education. “I had a lot of ideas and Chile is still a very conservative country," she says. “Most women become housewives but I wanted to do something different. So, I moved to the U.S."
Hardstock went on to earn a Ph.D. in policy studies, served as vice president of Advocacy for National StudentsFirst and worked as a member of Washington DC mayor Adrian Fenty's cabinet. Her experience working in both education and government exposed her to a need to simplify the process of connecting lawmakers with their constituents. As a result, Hardstock founded Phone2Action, a digital advocacy company that enables organizations and individual citizens to connect with policymakers via email, Twitter, Alexa and Facebook using their mobile phones.
Because venture capital and private equity are not necessarily meritocracies, Hardstock initially struggled to get in an audience with the right investors despite her company's growth potential, her experience, and her education. In fact, it wasn't until she won a competition at SXSW in 2015 that she could get an audience with a serious venture capitalist.
While it may seem like symptoms of a bygone era, both Hardstock and Hull say the path to investor relationships is forged in places where many women of diverse backgrounds are not – ivy league organizations, golf courses and late night post-board meeting cocktails attended mostly by White men of means.
The history of venture capital has never been very balanced, according to Aubrey Blanche, global head of diversity at Atlassian software development company and co-founder of Sycamore, an organization aiming to fix the VC funding gap for underrepresented founders. “White and Asian men have built the venture system and for generations have been seeking out people like themselves to invest in."
Personal and professional networks are critical for founders to connect with investors, but many multicultural women don't have access to the networks their White peers have. According to a study conducted by PRRI, the average White person has one friend who is Black, Latino, Asian, mixed race, and other races. This common situation makes getting that all important warm introduction to established VCs very challenging for multicultural women founders.
“Is the ecosystem of your network equivalent to your net worth? Absolutely," says Hardstock. “For us, we have to build our own ecosystem and recreate what happens on the golf courses and at the Harvard reunions."
To Hardstock's point, most multicultural women with entrepreneurial aspirations lack that Ivy League network. According to reporting published in The New York Times, Black students make up just nine percent of the freshmen at Ivy League schools but 15 percent of college-age Americans. This gap has been largely unchanged since 1980.
While notable female investors such as Arlan Hamilton, Joanne Wilson, and Kathryn Finney are actively working to close the funding gap for women of color, only seven percent of current senior investing partners at the top 100 venture firms are women. Less than three percent of VC funds have Black and Latinx investment partners. Without an influential network, Hardstock and entrepreneurs like her are left screaming for a seat at the table.
When Black, Latina, and Asian women founders do get in the room with the right investors, they have to work harder to get the investors to relate to their products and services. “Entrepreneurs solve problems they understand," says Blanche. “When multicultural women entrepreneurs present their businesses to a homogenous group of male investors who may not be equipped to understand the idea, they may pass on an amazing business."
Take, for example, the founders of Haute Hijab or LOLA. Founders of both successful startups would have to explain the market for their services to a table occupied mostly by men who may never have considered that Muslim women want more convenient access to fashion and have never considered women might prefer to purchase organic tampons.
This lack of familiarity typically means reduced funding for women and a host of other consequences.
As one recent study pointed out, even the way investors frame questions to women can impact funding. According to the Harvard Business Review, female founders are often asked “prevention-oriented" questions focused on safety, responsibility, security, and vigilance. Male founders, on the other hand, are often asked questions focused on hopes, achievement, advancement, and ideals.
When all of these factors are considered, a side letter may not be enough to begin to close the funding gap.
Both Blanche and Hull say real change can be made by democratizing information and education on impact investing. Both women say educating investors and MBA candidates about impact investing is the best way to overcome current bias.
Blanche's organization, Sycamore, produces a newsletter for new angel investors who want to help close the funding gap while making money in the process. Hull's firm has an internship program for multicultural girls from Oakland to expose them to the worlds of investing, entrepreneurship, business leadership, and financial literacy.
“I'm excited about the changes I see," says Blanche. “I see more firm employing the Rooney Law on an institutional level, an increase in smaller firms looking at underserved communities, and the democratization of institutional funding."
Hull adds that as long as multi-cultural women-led firms continue to show returns and outperform or perform on par with companies founded by White men, the investor community will rethink their portfolio strategies.
This piece was originally published in 2018.