#SWAAYthenarrative

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

4 min 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.

Photo of Tiffany holding Empower cocktails. "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.

At Pernod Ricard, I noticed the missing space for a brand that celebrates and honors women, while also catering to their distinct tastes.

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.

My ultimate goal is to leave a legacy that empowers women to pursue and achieve their dreams in the entrepreneurial space and beyond.

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.

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.

Photo of Empower cocktails with alcohol accessories. "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)

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.

The road to entrepreneurship 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.

"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," says Tiffany Hall

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.

This article was originally published July 11, 2019.

5 min read
Self

Lessons Learned and the Power of Turning 50

Except for 16, I have celebrated all of my milestone birthdays in New York City.

I turned 16 in Arnold, Missouri. Arnold is a small town (though not small anymore) 20 miles south of St. Louis. St. Louis is known for the Gateway Arch, a beautiful arch of shiny stainless steel, built by the National Parks Service in 1935 to commemorate Thomas Jefferson's vision of a transcontinental U.S. St. Louis is also known for its custard, a frozen dessert that is so thick, they hand it to you upside down with a spoon inside. Something else about St. Louis you should know is that there is a courthouse just steps from the base of the Gateway Arch where one of the most important cases in history was tried: Dred Scott v. Sanford.

I'm turning 50 during what I define as a miraculous time to be alive.

Mr. Scott was born into enslavement around 1799 and, in 1830, was sold to a military surgeon who traveled back and forth between his military posts in Illinois and Wisconsin, where slavery was prohibited under the Missouri Compromise of 1820. In 1842 the doctor and Mr. Scott both married, and they, all four, returned to St. Louis. Still enslaved, Dred Scott filed a lawsuit against the doctor's wife for his and his wife Harriet's freedom. We don't know exactly why he chose this moment in time to file a lawsuit, however, he did. At the time of filing his, now, famous lawsuit, he was 50 years old. Ultimately, The Scott family did not gain their freedom, but their profound courage in filling this case helped ignite the Civil War and what we would come to know (or think we know) as freedom from enslavement for all human beings. Powerful then and even more powerful now.

My next milestone was turning 21, and I did it in the Big Apple. Having only moved to "the city that never sleeps" a few months prior, I knew nobody except my new friends, the bus-boys from the restaurant I was working at, Patzo's on the Upper West Side. And, yes, pazzo is actually the correct spelling of the Italian word, which translates to "crazy." Trust me we all had several laughs about the misspelling and the definition going hand in hand. I worked a full shift, closing out at around 11 PM, when, my kitchen team came out from the line with a cake singing, "Cumpleaños Feliz." It was fantastic. And the kindness of these almost-strangers was a powerful reminder of connection then as it still is today almost 29 years later.

I design the life I desire and the Universe creates it for me every day. I show up, keep the story moving, and work hard because I am relentlessly devoted to making the world a better place and this is how I choose to leave my legacy.

When I turned 30, I had just finished a European tour with Lucinda Childs dance company. The company had been on tour for months together and were inseparable. We traveled through Paris, Vienna, Lisbon, and Rome. We ate together, we rode on a bus together, we had drinks after shows together, and we even took turns giving company class to get warmed up before a show. It was deeply meaningful and dreamy. We ended the tour back in New York City at BAM, The Brooklyn Academy of Music. It was an incredible way to end the tour, by being on our home court, not to mention I was having an important birthday at the culmination of this already incredible experience.

So, when I invited everyone to join me at Chelsea Pier's Sky Rink to ice skate in late August, I was schooled really quickly that "tour" does not mean you are friends in real life, it means you are tour friends. When the tour ends, so does the relationship. I skated a few laps and then went home. This was a beautiful lesson learned about who your real friends are; it was powerful then as it is today.

Turning 40 was a completely different experience. I was in a serious relationship with my now-husband, Joe. I had just come off of a successful one-woman dance show that I produced, choreographed, and danced in, I had just choreographed a feature film, John Turturro's Romance and Cigarettes, with A-list actors, including Kate Winslet and James Gandolfini, who became a dear friend and had even been on the red carpet with Susan Sarandon at the Venice Film Festival for the movie a year earlier.

And I encourage all women to identify their power and choose to be fully in your power at any age.

This was a very special birthday, and I had, in those 10 years between 30 and 40, come to cultivate very real friendships with some wonderful colleagues. We all celebrated at a local Italian restaurant, Etcetera Etcetera (who is delivering for those of you in NYC — we order weekly to support them during COVID), a staple in the theater district. Joe and I were (and are) regulars and, of course, wanted to celebrate my 40th with our restaurant family and friends. We were upstairs in the private room, and it was really lovely. Many of those in attendance are no longer with us, including Joe's Dad, Bob Ricci, and my dear friend Jim Gandolfini having transitioned to the other side. Currently, that restaurant is holding on by a thread of loving neighbors and regulars like us. Life is precious. Powerful then and today even more so.

I write this article because I'm turning 50, still in New York City. However, I'm turning 50 during what I define as a miraculous time to be alive. And I could not be more filled with hope, love, possibility, and power. This year has included an impeachment hearing, a global pandemic, and global protests that are finally giving a larger platform to the Black Lives Matter movement. Being able to fully embody who I am as a woman, a 50-year-old woman who is living fully in purpose, takes the cake, the rink, and the party.

I'm making movies about conversations around race. I've been happily married for 11 years to the love of my life, Joe Ricci. I'm amplifying and elevating the voices of those who have not previously had a platform for speaking out. I choose who to spend time with and how long! I design the life I desire and the Universe creates it for me every day. I show up, keep the story moving, and work hard because I am relentlessly devoted to making the world a better place and this is how I choose to leave my legacy. Being 50 is one of the most amazing things I ever thought I could experience. And I encourage all women to identify their power and choose to be fully in your power at any age. I'm 50 and powerful. Dred Scott was 50 and powerful. This powerful lesson is for today and tomorrow. We have the power. No matter what age you are, I invite you to use your powerful voice to join me in making the world a better place.