Women’s History Month is a great time to reassess how we fund women in alcoholic beverages

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When I sat down to write this month’s column, the world was not in the upside-down position we find ourselves in now.

Bartenders weren’t throwing bottles of Russian Standard (yes, made in Russia and owned by Russian oligarch Rustam Tariko, who, according to an article from Bloombergalso has Standard Russian Bank) and pay by mistake Stoli down the drain (the spirit we’re getting here with a Stoli label is made in Latvia, with global headquarters in Luxembourg, run by Russian expat Yuri Shefler of the SPI Group.).

Governors of states and commonwealths like Ohio, New Hampshire and Virginiaordering their ABC boards to remove Russian products from their shelves in protest against Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine.

When I started writing this column, we were in the midst and on the cusp of two major celebrations that may have raised a few eyebrows when they were first introduced; February black history month which began to be recognized by the federal government in 1976, and women’s history month which falls in March and is meant as an opportunity to continue to commemorate and encourage the study, respect and celebration of the vital role of women in American history.

So here we are. March. 2022. Et… The more it changes, the more it’s the same as French quote by Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr goes.

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Europe – and the world – is facing upheaval like it has not seen since the end of World War II, while women are still there, trying to fund their liquor businesses with the same level of success and income. than their male counterparts. to see.

So while pouring Russian vodka may feel good, it has a limited impact on the market. U.S. 2021 vodka import statistics show that Russia is not a superpower on our shelves. According to DISKRussian vodka imports into the United States have declined by almost 79% since 2011 and accounted for only 1.3% of total vodka imports in 2021.

So, instead of performative gestures that feel good but won’t really get things done, what if the wine and spirits industry and the lenders/investors that cover this sector spent this month take a close look at the disparate way women owners receive capital to grow their businesses.

Now is the time to put these DEI commitments to work in ALL areas of the business. This will increase profitability for all.

But first we must recognize our differences and overcome our old ways of thinking. The intention to fund is good, but the way we do it has to change if we are to succeed.

It’s possible. Ghana’s first independent leader, President Nkrumah, was not perfect, but in his 1961 London speech on freedom and African ideology he might as well have addressed a modern audience. today. We could bear to remember that The difficulties posed by questions of language, culture and different political systems are not insurmountable; and apply it to our ways of doing things.

We’ve all seen the numbers – we know women-owned or minority-owned alcoholic beverage companies receive a small percentage of funding that other founders see. Karen Hoskin, owner of Rum Montanya looks back a year on her role as a panelist at an industry convention when current stats said ‘women get 2-4% equity in the business across the board and it’s harder in beverages alcoholic. This figure is more like 1.7 to 2%”. She continues: “The statistics were already terrible.

So how can we increase these numbers? I do not know. Do you?

Simply opening more women-led funds is not the answer. It is more complicated than that. Whereas, as Hoskin notes, and other brand owners have corroborated, stepping into a room where you seem familiar to those holding the purse strings moves you at least one step forward. But women must invest in our sector. And, mostly, they are not. They invest in health care, technology, digital, beauty and wellness, family businesses and less in alcohol.

What stops them? Are you worried about regulatory challenges? Intense competition for market share? The perceived hold that our three-tier system exerts on brand owners and their ability to grow and prosper at a reasonable pace for backers?

Is it the low valuation of women-owned businesses because they don’t build their businesses the way a venture capitalist measures return on investment?

Could be. Are these KPIs and timeline benchmarks for ROI a one-size-fits-all and guarantee of a brand’s success? I would say no.

I would also say that it is time to see funding as a way to build something substantial, beyond the benefits of building profits. A more profit model, so to speak.

To achieve this goal, those making investment decisions to support women-owned brands need to familiarize themselves with a different approach to doing things and accept the fact that they must set expectations and goals for growth. a whole new way. Take a look at the classic ways to assess a potential investment and assess valuation; is EBITDA all there is?

It’s not if the brand owner doesn’t come from the same starting place. If you’re a founder who has always struggled to get funding and you’re starting it, you probably don’t have enough money to build the beautiful stills and visitor center, or maybe you don’t have not yet have the assets and income to build a strong sales team and deploy them everywhere. On the face of it, for typical financing, this translates to a lower valuation, less money offered, and giving up more ownership in exchange for fewer dollars than needed to do the job properly.

Isn’t it time to look at opportunity, experience and measurable success through a new lens? I would argue that a company that has seen revenues over $1 million for over a decade deserves as much attention as a newcomer to the block with exciting aspirations to build the next big brand and push its logo on a NASCAR circuit.

Look at it this way – if you send your child to a Montessori school and they don’t learn to read until they’re seven, but when they finally master it, they’re off the charts in terms of cognitive development while your other child goes to a traditional program, learns to read at age five but still struggles with concepts at age seven, has the Montessori program failed? Or succeed? And, has the traditional program succeeded simply because that is how it has always been?

Or are they two different and valid paths to success? Much like having healthy children, if we really want healthy brands in a healthy spirits industry that includes both men and women, it’s time to adjust our thinking about how we support them.


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About Michael Brafford

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