How ‘Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey’ Founder Fawn Weaver Reached $100 Million in Sales
This is how Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey founder Fawn Weaver made millions! If you didn’t know, Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey is reportedly the best-selling Black-owned spirit brand in the US.
Most liquor brands that we see are celebrity-based, such as Diddy’s DeLeón tequila. But public-figure-backed brands are not majority-owned by their Black founders and investors, like LeBron James’ Lobos 1707, Dwayne Johnson’s Teremana, and Jay-Z’s D’Usse cognac, of which he recently sold his majority shares for an estimated $750 million.
Celebrity aside, there are very few Black-led liquor businesses in the US, and fewer are still headed by women. Uncle Nearest happens to be the only Black-owned-and-operated liquor company tracked by the Beverage Information Group, and it has generated more than $100 million in sales since its launch in 2017.
Fawn Weaver, the brand’s founder and CEO, told Insider how she established her whiskey brand and made it a best-selling product.
The daughter of Motown musician Frank Wilson, Weaver started her first business, in special events and public relations, at the age of 18. She also published two books about marriage in 2014 and 2015. As an author, Weaver was intrigued by a 2016 New York Times story about a man named Nathan Green, or “Uncle Nearest,” who was the first known African-American master distiller. The story said Jack Daniel’s was finally embracing Green’s role as a former slave who taught the company’s founder the craft.
Many readers were upset by what they saw as another case of white America profiting off Black people. But Weaver presumed there was more to the widely untold story than the strong reactions that followed its viral headline.
“There were all these assumptions that were made by people who clearly never actually took the time to read the article,” she said. “I did. And then it led me to want to read and understand a little more”. That year, Weaver visited the farm in Tennessee where Green made his whiskey and learned that the property had been on the market for 15 months. So, she decided to buy it for an undisclosed amount.
Her four-day trip turned into a 12-month research project. She partnered with more than 20 historians and researchers to confirm more of Green’s history, including that he was the first master distiller for the Jack Daniel’s distillery.
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“This white boy grows up learning from this African American man, and when he gets old enough to own his own business, then asks for his mentor to be his top dog,” she explained. “Race didn’t really play into it from all of the research that we’ve done at this point. It’s very, very clear that this was one of the first cases we’ve ever seen of allyship.”
As her business began with a story, so it continued. In 2017, Weaver opened the Nearest Green Distillery and launched Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey, making storytelling the foundation of her brand’s success. “Genuine backstories are what drive the American whiskey business,” Weaver added. “It is about heritage.”
She used her background in public relations to research how she could best tailor her story to a media outlet’s readership or viewership. Then she took every opportunity to talk to publications and news stations across the country. Her biggest moment came when CBS featured her company in 2020.
As a trailblazing founder, Weaver realized she must outperform everyone else if she wanted to be successful. For example, in the summer, she toured 121 cities to visit the bars, restaurants, and hotels that carry her whiskey.
“No one outside of a white male has ever succeeded in the American whiskey business,” the entrepreneur expressed. “The only way that we were going to level the playing field is that I’d have to be the hardest-working CEO in this industry of all time.”
And her hard work has paid off: Uncle Nearest was the most awarded bourbon and American whiskey of 2019, 2020, and 2021, Shoppe Black reported.
Doesn’t Fawn Weaver have the ultimate success story? Let’s give her a round of applause in the comments!
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