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How My Career As A Liquor Attorney Led Me To Launch A Feminist Alcohol Brand

Business

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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. Take Feedback.

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.

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8min read
Politics

Do 2020 Presidential Candidates Still Have Rules to Play By?

Not too many years ago, my advice to political candidates would have been pretty simple: "Don't do or say anything stupid." But the last few elections have rendered that advice outdated.


When Barack Obama referred to his grandmother as a "typical white woman" during the 2008 campaign, for example, many people thought it would cost him the election -- and once upon a time, it probably would have. But his supporters were focused on the values and positions he professed, and they weren't going to let one unwise comment distract them. Candidate Obama didn't even get much pushback for saying, "We're five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America." That statement should have given even his most ardent supporters pause, but it didn't. It was in line with everything Obama had previously said, and it was what his supporters wanted to hear.

2016: What rules?

Fast forward to 2016, and Donald Trump didn't just ignore traditional norms, he almost seemed to relish violating them. Who would have ever dreamed we'd elect a man who talked openly about grabbing women by the **** and who was constantly blasting out crazy-sounding Tweets? But Trump did get elected. Why? Some people believe it was because Americans finally felt like they had permission to show their bigotry. Others think Obama had pushed things so far to the left that right-wing voters were more interested in dragging public policy back toward the middle than in what Trump was Tweeting.

Another theory is that Trump's lewd, crude, and socially unacceptable behavior was deliberately designed to make Democrats feel comfortable campaigning on policies that were far further to the left than they ever would have attempted before. Why? Because they were sure America would never elect someone who acted like Trump. If that theory is right, and Democrats took the bait, Trump's "digital policies" served him well.

And although Trump's brash style drew the most handlines, he wasn't the only one who seemed to have forgotten the, "Don't do or say anything stupid," rule. Hillary Clinton also made news when she made a "basket of deplorables" comment at a private fundraiser, but it leaked out, and it dogged her for the rest of the election cycle.

And that's where we need to start our discussion. Now that all the old rules about candidate behavior have been blown away, do presidential candidates even need digital policies?

Yes, they do. More than ever, in my opinion. Let me tell you why.

Digital policies for 2020 and beyond

While the 2016 election tossed traditional rules about political campaigns to the trash heap, that doesn't mean you can do anything you want. Even if it's just for the sake of consistency, candidates need digital policies for their own campaigns, regardless of what anybody else is doing. Here are some important things to consider.

Align your digital policies with your campaign strategy

Aside from all the accompanying bells and whistles, why do you want to be president? What ideological beliefs are driving you? If you were to become president, what would you want your legacy to be? Once you've answered those questions honestly, you can develop your campaign strategy. Only then can you develop digital policies that are in alignment with the overall purpose -- the "Why?" -- of your campaign:

  • If part of your campaign strategy, for example, is to position yourself as someone who's above the fray of the nastiness of modern politics, then one of your digital policies should be that your campaign will never post or share anything that attacks another candidate on a personal level. Attacks will be targeted only at the policy level.
  • While it's not something I would recommend, if your campaign strategy is to depict the other side as "deplorables," then one of your digital policies should be to post and share every post, meme, image, etc. that supports your claim.
  • If a central piece of your platform is that detaining would-be refugees at the border is inhumane, then your digital policies should state that you will never say, post, or share anything that contradicts that belief, even if Trump plans to relocate some of them to your own city. Complaining that such a move would put too big a strain on local resources -- even if true -- would be making an argument for the other side. Don't do it.
  • Don't be too quick to share posts or Tweets from supporters. If it's a text post, read all of it to make sure there's not something in there that would reflect negatively on you. And examine images closely to make sure there's not a small detail that someone may notice.
  • Decide what your campaign's voice and tone will be. When you send out emails asking for donations, will you address the recipient as "friend" and stress the urgency of donating so you can continue to fight for them? Or will you personalize each email and use a more low-key, collaborative approach?

Those are just a few examples. The takeaway is that your online behavior should always support your campaign strategy. While you could probably get away with posting or sharing something that seems mean or "unpresidential," posting something that contradicts who you say you are could be deadly to your campaign. Trust me on this -- if there are inconsistencies, Twitter will find them and broadcast them to the world. And you'll have to waste valuable time, resources, and public trust to explain those inconsistencies away.

Remember that the most common-sense digital policies still apply

The 2016 election didn't abolish all of the rules. Some still apply and should definitely be included in your digital policies:

  1. Claim every domain you can think of that a supporter might type into a search engine. Jeb Bush not claiming www.jebbush.com (the official campaign domain was www.jeb2016.com) was a rookie mistake, and he deserved to have his supporters redirected to Trump's site.
  2. Choose your campaign's Twitter handle wisely. It should be obvious, not clever or cutesy. In addition, consider creating accounts with possible variations of the Twitter handle you chose so that no one else can use them.
  3. Give the same care to selecting hashtags. When considering a hashtag, conduct a search to understand its current use -- it might not be what you think! When making up new hashtags, try to avoid anything that could be hijacked for a different purpose -- one that might end up embarrassing you.
  4. Make sure that anyone authorized to Tweet, post, etc., on your behalf has a copy of your digital policies and understands the reasons behind them. (People are more likely to follow a rule if they understand why it's important.)
  5. Decide what you'll do if you make an online faux pas that starts a firestorm. What's your emergency plan?
  6. Consider sending an email to supporters who sign up on your website, thanking them for their support and suggesting ways (based on digital policies) they can help your messaging efforts. If you let them know how they can best help you, most should be happy to comply. It's a small ask that could prevent you from having to publicly disavow an ardent supporter.
  7. Make sure you're compliant with all applicable regulations: campaign finance, accessibility, privacy, etc. Adopt a double opt-in policy, so that users who sign up for your newsletter or email list through your website have to confirm by clicking on a link in an email. (And make sure your email template provides an easy way for people to unsubscribe.)
  8. Few people thought 2016 would end the way it did. And there's no way to predict quite yet what forces will shape the 2020 election. Careful tracking of your messaging (likes, shares, comments, etc.) will tell you if you're on track or if public opinion has shifted yet again. If so, your messaging needs to shift with it. Ideally, one person should be responsible for monitoring reaction to the campaign's messaging and for raising a red flag if reactions aren't what was expected.

Thankfully, the world hasn't completely lost its marbles

Whatever the outcome of the election may be, candidates now face a situation where long-standing rules of behavior no longer apply. You now have to make your own rules -- your own digital policies. You can't make assumptions about what the voting public will or won't accept. You can't assume that "They'll never vote for someone who acts like that"; neither can you assume, "Oh, I can get away with that, too." So do it right from the beginning. Because in this election, I predict that sound digital policies combined with authenticity will be your best friend.