Taylor A. Jackson is an entrepreneur, legal services professional, and Founder of the highly sought after spirits company, Redd Rose Vodka. Jackson’s inspiration for joining the spirits industry has been an adventure filled with joyful surprises and lessons learned to reach her level of success. She’s one of a few African American owned spirit companies who seek to increase visibility of ownership in this field. I had the opportunity to chat with Jackson about how she started her pathway to owning her own spirit brand and what we can expect next from Redd Rose Vodka.
KK: Tell us about how you started your business, Redd Rose Vodka.
TJ: I have been a bartender for eight years and bartending actually got me through law school. I read an article about Diddy, Sean Combs, and I didn’t know he did not own Cîroc. I also read an article about Titos and how he got started. In 2014, I thought these are regular people who started some of these brands. I started to look behind the bars to see who owned the brands. Then, I just did my research. My law degree helped me figure out what I needed to do to own my own brand. When I first got started, I wanted to do tequila but after learning the laws about that, it wasn’t in my best interest to do tequila right now. So, I went into vodka, because it’s the best next thing in regards to tequila.
KK: Wow, that’s so interesting and you said you went with vodka instead of tequila. When it comes to you, as a business woman, what made you make that decision?
TJ: When I started the brand, I was taking away from my savings. You have to import tequila into the United States, because they don’t make tequila in the United States. You have to go to Mexico to get the tequila and I wasn’t in a place to do so. That’s not where I am. So, I just did the research to figure out what’s the next best thing to tequila and of course, it’s vodka. That’s kind of how I went into the vodka avenue. Once I opened up the avenue to vodka, I was like, I can have any flavor. I can have anything that I want with vodka because it’s made in so many different ways. So just depending on the base, you can flavor it with anything, add anything to it, and it can still be a really good cocktail.
KK: When did you decide, I think I want to make this a business and monetize it?
TJ: My initial thoughts were I just wanted to do something simple. I didn’t want to make it a whole brand. When I first got started, I was like, it’s just vodka. Then “life” started happening. My grandmother passed away and it kind of all just started to make sense. It just started coming to me that this is what I should do. That’s how I got the name. I didn’t have a name in the beginning and I didn’t know what I was going to call it. When she passed, I wasn’t there for her. I hadn’t seen her in a year before her passing. It was just so sad because she was there for me my entire life. She did so much for us as grandkids. I wasn’t able to make it to her last birthday or the last Thanksgiving dinner. When I lived in Ohio, I used to make her collard greens every Thanksgiving. That’s all she wanted was my collard greens. I wasn’t able to do that for her during her last year before she passed. I just wanted to do something to keep her alive, for me. I’m still in a place of believing she’s still here. She has been gone now for three years. That’s how I transitioned into vodka. Then I wanted the flavor to have a story. I wanted the bottle to have a story and the name to have a story. So that’s how I transitioned over to vodka and I made it.
KK: I’m glad you brought that up because I was wondering where did the name, Redd Rose, derive from?
TJ: Yes, so my grandmother’s name was Rose Red. She was one of the first African American women to have a recycling business in Ohio. She had two flea markets where she allowed other people to come and sell their items. She was a very hard working woman and if anything came up she would just say “I got it”. That’s what I wanted the brand to be about. I want the brand to support women more than just me saying so.
KK: So what is something that you wish you would have known before you got into this business?
TJ: I didn’t know that there’s so many levels to the alcohol industry. I didn’t know that each state has different laws for importing and exporting outside of the country. You have to go through the government and you have to get permits. They have to do a background check on you because it’s liquor. It’s a lot and I can’t just sell it online. I can’t just say “Hey, let me sell you a bottle or I can’t just post the website”. It doesn’t come from me. I can’t have it in my house. I can’t just throw it in my garage and say “Hey, come buy bottles from me”. It’s a very regulated industry and I did not know that.
KK: What information can you share with our readers about monetizing your brand??
TJ: If you are interested in this industry, it’s not a quick flip. It’s not something that you put $100,000 dollars into and you’re going to make $500,000 right away. It’s not that easy. I can say today I’m $140,000 in the hole. It’s probably going to be a year or two before I can make that back. I was spending time with different distributors trying to figure out what they charge, where they are, and who they can ship to. You have to have a distributor in each state, so make sure you know those policies and add them into whatever you’re trying to do.
KK: That brings up another question, because sometimes people link wine, beer, and spirits all in one box. What is the difference in regards to someone who is a wine or beer distributor versus spirits?
TJ: Yes, so wine and beer are categorized as the same thing. They’re in the same house. Liquor and spirits are completely different. So wine and beer are so much easier than liquor, you can move a lot easier with wine and beer than liquor. So if you want to get into the industry and you don’t want to go top tier with the “big dogs”. Then I would say go wine, champagne, or beer. Just know why your product stands out. If you go into the liquor store or the grocery store, look at some of those bottles, they’re really collecting dust. You can’t come into the industry just thinking that the product is going to sell itself. Redd Rose is a fantastic vodka enjoyed by people who don’t even drink. So I now know what my niche is and I tell my story.
KK: What has it been like for you marketing your business since the pandemic?
TJ: Honestly, I’m extremely blessed. As far as social media, I do have a brand manager and she’s taken over a lot. I will say put money aside for sponsorships and do different events even if it’s just sharing a logo. Tell people this is my brand. This is it. People relate to the story because you have three different stories. I have my story, my grandmother’s story, and the brand’s story. So either story you can relate to. Make sure they know who you are and they trust you before you send them to buy your products.
KK: So what is your favorite cocktail to make with red rose?
TJ: That’s a good question, there’s so many. When I started I wanted to sell 100 bottles but I sold 275 bottles. People sent me cocktails and I would have to say that Rose Marie is probably my favorite. The good thing about Redd Rose is you can have it over ice by itself.
KK: Are there any updates for Redd Rose we can expect this Fall or Winter?
Yes, I have a few more flavors coming out. It will be a lemon-flavored vodka and we are going to have more flavored vodkas. People do ask if I am going to have a plain flavor and no because there are enough plain flavors on the market. We want to keep it straight over ice simplicity because that is our “best friend” right now. So, I would just look out for those flavors coming soon.
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