Business 13 June 2018
Across the world, women consume nearly as much alcohol as men do. Yet, the liquor business is an industry that primarily targets men— leaving women out as an afterthought.
As a former marketer, turned lawyer, turned entrepreneur, I previously worked for one of the world's largest wine and spirits conglomerates, Pernod Ricard. It was there where I noticed the missing space for a brand that celebrates and honors women, while also catering to their distinct tastes. That led me to start Empower Cocktails, a company that puts women empowerment at the heart of its mission.
"Empower Cocktails has become an intersectional platform that uplifts women of all backgrounds" - Tiffany Hall (Photo Courtesy, Empower Cocktails)
Empower Cocktails is a ready-to-pour line of delicious cocktail drinks, including our first product, the refreshing but not too sweet, Empower Cosmopolitan Martini. This beverage, best-served refrigerated, is made with Sweet Potato Vodka locally-sourced from a family-owned farm in Northern California, as well as triple sec, white cranberry and lime. All you need to enjoy it is a martini glass and your favorite garnish. The drink is 25 proof and contains only 80 calories per three ounces.
Empower Cocktails is my first entrepreneurial venture. The brand has empowered me to believe that with unwavering focus and determination—as well as a supportive network of family, friends and work colleagues—anything is possible. As the CEO of Empower Cocktails, I learn new things about managing a business each day and it has helped me become a more confident businesswoman. Whether it be going into law, marketing or business - I've always known that my life's purpose was to empower women and have an impact on my community. No matter what job roles I've taken, I knew that would always be part of what I wanted to do. As the CEO of Empower Cocktails, it's now everything I do.
However, the road to entrepreneurship isn't easy. It is long and challenging, and having zero experience as an entrepreneur before launching Empower Cocktails, I had to tap into my own savings to start the brand. I worked with a sweet potato farmer/distiller in Northern California and a professional flavor house to create the recipe. My goal was a light, refreshing cocktail that was gluten-free and not too sweet.
I've always known that my life's purpose was to empower women and have an impact on my community. No matter what job roles I've taken, I knew that would always be part of what I wanted to do. As the CEO of Empower Cocktails, it's now everything I do.
I was also dealing with a limited marketing budget in a space that thrives on heavy advertising, working with separate companies to buy separate elements, such as, bottles, caps, closures, cartons, packaging, partitions and labels with logo designs. And after all that was done I had no idea whether the product would sell or not. It's funny to say this as a lawyer, but I had to go into this willing to undertake a significant amount of risk. As a woman entrepreneur I continue to follow the following rules below.
Take calculated risks, and do not be afraid to fail.
You have to get outside of your comfort zone. I am not a natural salesperson, but I had to become one quickly in order to grow my business and build the brand. I visited, and currently still do, spirits store owners and restaurant owners regularly to convince them that Empower is a product they need to carry. To enhance my sales skill, I began to develop elevator pitches. I took the time to listen to and understand the needs of retailers, so that I could best show them how Empower would benefit them individually.
If you do fail, don't let it affect your confidence.
Failure is an inevitable part of success, from which we learn. So, learn from your failures and keep striving. My first distributor informed me that we would no longer work together early in our relationship. This was a significant challenge, because I had no fallback plan. I spent weeks searching for a new distributor. Once I found one, I was not only able to a secure a distributor for NY but also for Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. That failure turned into a major win.
Feedback was and still is critical in validating my business. It is imperative that I understand what my customers want. Whether it is feedback from retailers or conducting consumer tasting events, it is important that I pay particular attention to people's reactions. I also make it my priority to ask people precisely what they wish they were getting out of the my competitors product, so I can use my product to fill in that gap.
"Failure is an inevitable part of success, from which we learn. So, learn from your failures and keep striving" - Tiffany Hall (Photo Courtesy, Empower Cocktail)4. Learn, Learn and then Learn some more.
The key to growth and success is knowledge. So, make yourself an avid learner. Whether it is reading business and trade publications, books, listening to audiobooks and business podcasts, online classes, attending seminars and continuing education classes. Continue to educate yourself and expand your knowledge especially as it pertains to your chosen industry.
"Women deserve to have products that they identify with and should have multiple choices to choose from. I believe that making these changes in significant industries shifts how we see ourselves, and how others view us." - Tiffany Hall
5. Give back.
I know it seems difficult to give back, especially when you have limited time, budget and resources, but giving back helps you serve your community and society as a whole. I wanted Empower Cocktails to be more than just serving great tasting drinks. We utilized the Empower Cocktails platform to partner with several non-profits that champion women's initiatives including the Voss Foundation, Dress for Success Boston, Kicked it in Heels and the Metro-Manhattan Community Foundation to name a few. Empower Cocktails has become an intersectional platform that uplifts women of all backgrounds.
Women deserve to have products that they identify with and should have multiple choices to choose from. I believe that making these changes in significant industries shifts how we see ourselves, and how others view us. My ultimate goal is to leave a legacy that empowers women to pursue and achieve their dreams in the entrepreneurial space and beyond.
Empower Cocktails are available online and in over 30 stores in Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. To learn more about the company and to pick up some delicious Empower Cosmopolitan Martini recipes, visit empowercocktails.com.
In 2016, I finally found my voice. I always thought I had one, especially as a business owner and mother of two vocal toddlers, but I had been wrong.
For more than 30 years, I had been struggling with the fear of being my true self and speaking my truth. Then the repressed memories of my childhood sexual abuse unraveled before me while raising my 3-year-old daughter, and my life has not been the same since.
Believe it or not, I am happy about that.
The journey for a survivor like me to feel even slightly comfortable sharing these words, without fear of being shamed or looked down upon, is a long and often lonely one. For all of the people out there in the shadows who are survivors of childhood sexual abuse, I dedicate this to you. You might never come out to talk about it and that's okay, but I am going to do so here and I hope that in doing so, I will open people's eyes to the long-term effects of abuse. As a survivor who is now fully conscious of her abuse, I suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and, quite frankly, it may never go away.
It took me some time to accept that and I refuse to let it stop me from thriving in life; therefore, I strive to manage it (as do many others with PTSD) through various strategies I've learned and continue to learn through personal and group therapy. Over the years, various things have triggered my repressed memories and emotions of my abuse--from going to birthday parties and attending preschool tours to the Kavanaugh hearing and most recently, the"Leaving Neverland" documentary (I did not watch the latter, but read commentary about it).
These triggers often cause panic attacks. I was angry when I read Barbara Streisand's comments about the men who accused Michael Jackson of sexually abusing them, as detailed in the documentary. She was quoted as saying, "They both married and they both have children, so it didn't kill them." She later apologized for her comments. I was frustrated when one of the senators questioning Dr. Christine Blasey Ford (during the Kavanaugh hearing) responded snidely that Dr. Ford was still able to get her Ph.D. after her alleged assault--as if to imply she must be lying because she gained success in life.We survivors are screaming to the world, "You just don't get it!" So let me explain: It takes a great amount of resilience and fortitude to walk out into society every day knowing that at any moment an image, a sound, a color, a smell, or a child crying could ignite fear in us that brings us back to that moment of abuse, causing a chemical reaction that results in a panic attack.
So yes, despite enduring and repressing those awful moments in my early life during which I didn't understand what was happening to me or why, decades later I did get married; I did become a parent; I did start a business that I continue to run today; and I am still learning to navigate this "new normal." These milestones do not erase the trauma that I experienced. Society needs to open their eyes and realize that any triumph after something as ghastly as childhood abuse should be celebrated, not looked upon as evidence that perhaps the trauma "never happened" or "wasn't that bad. "When a survivor is speaking out about what happened to them, they are asking the world to join them on their journey to heal. We need love, we need to feel safe and we need society to learn the signs of abuse and how to prevent it so that we can protect the 1 out of 10 children who are being abused by the age of 18. When I state this statistic at events or in large groups, I often have at least one person come up to me after and confide that they too are a survivor and have kept it a secret. My vehicle for speaking out was through the novella The Survivors Club, which is the inspiration behind a TV pilot that my co-creator and I are pitching as a supernatural, mind-bending TV series. Acknowledging my abuse has empowered me to speak up on behalf of innocent children who do not have a voice and the adult survivors who are silent.
Remembering has helped me further understand my young adult challenges,past risky relationships, anger issues, buried fears, and my anxieties. I am determined to thrive and not hide behind these negative things as they have molded me into the strong person I am today.Here is my advice to those who wonder how to best support survivors of sexual abuse:Ask how we need support: Many survivors have a tough exterior, which means the people around them assume they never need help--we tend to be the caregivers for our friends and families. Learning to be vulnerable was new for me, so I realized I needed a check-off list of what loved ones should ask me afterI had a panic attack.
The list had questions like: "Do you need a hug," "How are you feeling," "Do you need time alone."Be patient with our PTSD". Family and close ones tend to ask when will the PTSD go away. It isn't a cold or a disease that requires a finite amount of drugs or treatment. There's no pill to make it miraculously disappear, but therapy helps manage it and some therapies have been known to help it go away. Mental Health America has a wealth of information on PTSD that can help you and survivors understand it better. Have compassion: When I was with friends at a preschool tour to learn more about its summer camp, I almost fainted because I couldn't stop worrying about my kids being around new teenagers and staff that might watch them go the bathroom or put on their bathing suit. After the tour, my friends said,"Nubia, you don't have to put your kids in this camp. They will be happy doing other things this summer."
In that moment, I realized how lucky I was to have friends who understood what I was going through and supported me. They showed me love and compassion, which made me feel safe and not judged.