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

4min read
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.

Our newsletter that womansplains the week
5min read
Business

My Untold Story Of Inventing the Sports Bra And How it Changed the World (And Me)

Following are excerpts from "Unleash the Girls, The Untold Story of the Invention of the Sports Bra and How It Changed the World (And Me)" By Lisa Z. Lindahl


There is an idea that has popped up everywhere from Chaos Theory to Science Fiction and New Age memes known popularly as the "Butterfly Effect." Simply put, it is the notion that one very small thing—the movement of a butterfly's wing say, or the ripple in a lake caused by a pebble being thrown into it—can cause tremendous effect far away: the butterfly's wing a tornado, the ripple a large wave on a distant shore. Cause and effect, does it have limits? The field of physics is telling us that it takes only observation to bring a thing into being. We cannot consider these areas of investigation and not acknowledge that everything—everything—is in relationship in some way or another with everything else.

So, it is evident to me that commerce of any kind is, also, just about relationships. It all boils down, on every level to this simplicity. While we usually think of relationships as occurring between people—it is far more than that.

I used to teach a course in entrepreneurship specifically for women in The Women's Small Business Program at Trinity College in Burlington, Vermont. I made this concept of relationship and its importance central in how I taught the marketing thought process. I would stress that for a product or service to be successful, it had to meet a perceived need. There is a need, and it wants to be met; or it may be thought of as a problem to be solved. Or there may be an existing solution that is less than adequate.

For example: In my universe as a runner there already were a plethora of bras available, but they were inadequate for my purpose. The relationship between my breasts, my running body, and my bra was creating discomfort and distraction. A new solution had to be found, the relationship occurring when all these things came together had to be fixed. Utilizing this point of view, one sees a set of issues that need to be addressed—they are in relationship with each other and their environment in a way that needs to be changed, adjusted.

Nowhere is this viewpoint truer than in business, as we enter into more and more relationships with people to address all the needs of the organization. Whether designing a product or a service or communicating with others about it—we are in relationship. And meanwhile, how about maintaining a healthy relationship with ourselves? All the issues we know about stress in the workplace can boil down to an internal balancing act around our relationships: to the work itself, to those we work with, to home life, friends and lovers. So quickly those ripples can become waves.

Because Jogbra was growing so quickly, relationships were being discovered, created, ending, expanding and changing at a pace that makes my head spin to recall. And truly challenged my spirit. Not to mention how I handled dealing with my seizure disorder.

"My Lifelong Partner"

Let me tell you a bit about my old friend, Epilepsy. Having Epilepsy does not make any sort of money-making endeavor easy or reliable, yet it is my other "partner" in life. Husbands and business partners have come and gone, but Epilepsy has always been with me. It was my first experience of having a "shadow teacher."

While a child who isn't feeling she has power over her world may have a tantrum, as we grow older, most of us find other more subtle ways to express our powerfulness or powerlessness. We adapt, learn coping mechanisms, how to persuade, manipulate, or capitulate when necessary. These tools, these learned adaptations, give a sense of control. They make us feel more in charge of our destiny. As a result, our maturing self generally feels indestructible, immortal. Life is a long, golden road of futures for the young.

This was not the case for me. I learned very early on when I started having seizures that I was not fully in charge of the world, my world, specifically of my body. There are many different types of epileptic seizures. Often a person with the illness may have more than one type. That has been the case for me. I was diagnosed with Epilepsy—with a seizure type now referred to as "Absence seizures"—when I was four years old. I have seen neurologists and taken medications ever since. As often happens, the condition worsened when I entered puberty and I started having convulsions as well—what most people think of when they think of epileptic seizures. The clinical name is generalized "Tonic-clonic" seizures.

In such a seizure the entire brain is involved, rather like an electrical circuit that has gone out as a result of a power surge. I lose consciousness, my whole body becomes rigid, the muscles start jerking uncontrollably, and I fall. Tonic-clonic seizures, also known as "grand mal" seizures, may or may not be preceded by an aura, a type of perceptual disturbance, which for me can act as a warning of what is coming. The seizure usually only lasts for a few minutes, but I feel its draining effects for a day or two afterwards. Although I would prefer to sleep all day after such a physically and emotionally taxing event, I have often just gotten up off the floor and, within hours, gone back to work. It was necessary sometimes, though definitely not medically advised. I'm fond of saying that having a grand mal seizure is rather like being struck by a Mack truck and living to tell the tale.

Having Epilepsy has forced me to be dependent on others throughout my life. While we are all dependent upon others to some degree—independent, interdependent, dependent—in my case a deep level of dependency was decreed and ingrained very early on. This enforced dependency did not sit well with my native self. I bucked and rebelled. At the same time, a part of me also feared the next fall, the next post-convulsive fugue. And so I recognized, I acquiesced to the need to depend on others.

The silver lining of having Epilepsy is that it has introduced me to and taught me a bit about the nature of being powerless—and experiencing betrayal. I could not trust that my body would always operate as it should. Routinely, it suddenly quits. I experience this as betrayal by my brain and body. It results in my complete powerlessness throughout the convulsion. Not to mention an inconvenient interruption of any activities or plans I might have made.

Hence, I am the recipient of two important life lessons—and I was blessed to have this very specific and graphic experience at a young age. It made me observant and reflective, giving me the opportunity to consider what/where/who "I" was. I knew I was not "just" my body, or even my brain.

So, who or what did that leave? Who, what am I? Much has been written about trauma, and about near-death experiences, both of which seizures have been classified or described as. I won't delve into that here except to say that experiencing recurrent seizures and the attendant altered states of consciousness that sometimes accompany an episode (the euphemism for a seizure) changes one. It deeply affects you. It is both illuminating and frightening. It opens you up in some ways and can close you way down in others. For me it made it easy to consider the possibility of other ways to perceive, of other realms. And as an adult I became interested in quantum physics, where Science is pushing and challenging our long-held perceptual assumptions. Me, who was poor in math and disinterested in Science while in school! So if not merely body and brain, who am I? Spirit. And with Epilepsy's tutelage, I was encouraged to question, seek, try to understand what lies beyond.

Living with Epilepsy has also given me great strength. In realizing the futile nature of trying to have "power over" Epilepsy, I developed a deep well of "power within"—that inner strength that comes in the acceptance of that which one cannot change—and looking beyond it.

Through my experience building the business of Jogbra with the unique lens afforded me by my Epilepsy partner, I came to understand more fully the nature of power and what it means to be truly powerful.

Specifically, that having power and exercising it is not simply a manifestation of the ego. It need not be "power-tripping." It is how I wield my power that matters, making the all-important distinction between creating a situation of power over, power with, or empowering and having and creating strength in oneself and others.

Being powerful is a big responsibility.

To put all this another way: do I choose to create situations in which I am able to wield power over others? Or do I choose to empower others, sharing my strengths with them, while nurturing their strengths as well? The first is not true power. It is control. The second I believe to be the essence of true and positive power: strength. And integral to creating a more harmonious world, oh by the way.

While this may be apparent, even basic to others, it was an "aha!" moment for me. Too often in the years ahead I would give away my power and question my own strengths,. Time and again, however, my inner strength, my shadow teacher's gift, helped me survive and thrive until I could take responsibility for and embrace more fully my own power.

© Lisa Z. Lindahl 2019