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

4min read

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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Influential Voices

Stop Asking if America is “Ready” for a Woman President

It's the question on everyone's tongues. It's what motivates every conversation about whether or not Liz Warren is "electable," every bit of hand-wringing that a woman just "can't win this year," and every joke about menstrual cycles and nuclear missiles. Is America ready for a woman president?

It's a question that would be laughable if it wasn't indicative of deeper problems and wielded like a weapon against our ambitions. Whether thinly-veiled misogyny or not (I'm not going to issue a blanket condemnation of everybody who's ever asked), it certainly has the same effect: to tell us "someday, but not yet." It's cold comfort when "someday" never seems to come.

What are the arguments? That a woman can't win? That the country would reject her authority? That the troops would refuse to take her orders? That congress would neuter the office? Just the other day, The New York Times ran yet another in a long series of op-eds from every major newspaper in America addressing this question. However, this one made a fascinating point, referencing yet another article on the topic in The Atlantic (examining the question during Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential bid), which cited a study by two Yale researchers who found that people were either the same or more likely to vote for a fictional male senator when told that he was ambitious; and yet, both men and women alike were less likely to vote for a woman when told that she was ambitious, even reacting with "feelings of moral outrage" including "contempt, anger, and disgust."

The question isn't whether a woman could be president, or whether a woman can be elected president – let's not forget that Hillary Clinton won three million more votes than the wildly unqualified man currently sitting in the oval office – it's whether or not it's appropriate for a woman to run for president, in a pre-conscious, visceral, gut-check way. In short, it's about misogyny. Not your neighbors' misogyny, that oft-cited imaginary scapegoat, but yours. Ours. Mine. The misogyny we've got embedded deeply in our brains from living in a society that doesn't value women, the overcoming of which is key for our own growth, well-being, and emotional health.

Why didn't we ever ask if America was ready for Trump?

That misogyny, too, is reinforced by every question asking people to validate a woman even seeking the position. Upfront, eo ipso, before considering anything of their merit or experience or thought, whether a woman should be president, that, if given the choice between a qualified woman and an unqualified man, the man wins (which, let's not forget, is what happened four years ago). To ask the question at all is to recognize the legitimacy of the difference in opinion, that this is a question about which reasonable people might disagree. In reality, it's a question that reason doesn't factor into at all. It's an emotional question provoking an emotional response: to whom belong the levers of power? It's also one we seem eager to dodge.

"Sure, I'd vote for a woman, but I don't think my neighbor would. I'd vote for a woman, but will South Carolina? Or Nebraska? Or the Dakotas?" At worst, it's a way to sort through the cognitive dissonance the question provokes in us – it's an obviously remarkable idea, seeing as we've never had a woman president – and at best, it's sincere surrender to our lesser angels, allowing misogyny to win by default. It starts with the assumption that a woman can't be president, and therefore we shouldn't nominate one, because she can't win. It's a utilitarian argument for excluding half of the country's population from eligibility for its highest office not even by virtue of some essential deficiency, but in submission to the will of a presumed minority of voters before a single vote has ever been cast. I don't know what else to call that but misogyny by other means.

We can, and must, do better than that. We can't call a woman's viability into question solely because she's a woman. To do so isn't to "think strategically," but to give ground before the race even starts. It's to hobble a candidate. It's to make sure voters see her, first and foremost, as a gendered object instead of a potential leader. I have immense respect for the refusal of women like Hillary Clinton, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, and pioneers like Carol Mosley-Braun, going as far back as Victoria Woodhull, to accede to this narrative and stick to their arguments over the course of their respective campaigns, regardless of any policy differences with them. It's by women standing up and forcing the world to see us as people that we push through, not by letting them tell us where they think we belong.

One of the themes I come back to over and over again in my writing is women asserting independence from control and dignity in our lives. It's the dominant note in feminist writing going back decades, that plea for recognition not only of our political and civil rights, but our existence as moral agents as capable as any man in the same position, as deserving of respect, as deserving of being heard and taking our shot. What then do we make of the question "is America ready for a woman president?" Is America ready? Perhaps not. But perhaps "ready" isn't something that exists. Perhaps, in the truest fashion of human politics, it's impossible until it, suddenly, isn't, and thereafter seems inevitable.

I think, for example, of the powerful witness Barack Obama brought to the office of president, not simply by occupying it but by trying to be a voice speaking to America's cruel and racist history and its ongoing effects. By extension, then, I think there is very real, radical benefit to electing a chief executive who has herself been subject to patriarchal control in the way only women (and those who others identify as women) can experience.

I look at reproductive rights like abortion and birth control, and that is what I see: patriarchal control over bodies, something no single president has ever experienced. I think about wage equality; no US president has ever been penalized for their sex in their ability to provide for themselves and their families. I look at climate change, and I remember that wealth and power are inextricably bound to privilege, and that the rapacious hunger to extract value from the earth maps onto the exploitation women have been subject to for millennia.

That's the challenge of our day. We've watched, over the last decade, the radicalized right go from the fringes of ridicule to the halls of power. We've watched them spit at the truth and invent their own reality. All while some of our best leaders were told to wait their turn. Why, then, all this question of whether we're ready for something far simpler?

Why didn't we ever ask if America was ready for Trump?