Diversifying the Spirits Industry

/ / Business

The fast-growing, Tennessee-based whiskey brand Uncle Nearest, run by Fawn Weaver (pictured), has created a $50 million investment fund aimed at helping minority-owned spirits businesses.. Black-owned spirits brands are prioritized for investment dollars, followed by those with a founder who is female and/or a person of color.

“I am looking for the brands that have the ability to be the next Uncle Nearest,” Weaver said. “What that means to me is, they are not building to flip, they’re not building to sell. They’re building to create generational wealth.”

When Weaver began Uncle Nearest and wanted to consult with a Black master distiller, she found “the overwhelming whiteness of the world of American spirits.” Her whiskey brand is named after an expert distiller named Nathan “Nearest” Green, who was born into slavery and mentored a young Jack Daniel. Last summer, Uncle Nearest and Jack Daniel’s started a $5 million initiative to bring more Black entrepreneurs into distilling. The response was so great that Uncle Nearest began its own initiative. It’s called Black Business Booster, with the intent to help 16 companies.
“It’s not that people of color don’t have an interest. It’s that we find that they have no path of entry into the industry, no connections where others may,” says Margie A.S. Lehrman, the chief executive of the American Craft Spirits Association. “It’s a very, very tough industry to break into, and if you’re a woman or a person of color, it’s even harder.”

Read more (The New York Times)