Cash Confessional: Paralegal-turned-bartender grew her vodka brand during the pandemic

Cash Confessional: Paralegal-turned-bartender grew her vodka brand during the pandemic
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Our Cash Confessional series, in partnership with Bank of America, takes a real and personal look inside the finances of different Charlotteans. No matter your situation, get helpful tips for a brighter financial future with Better Money Habits.

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Taylor Jackson, 29, is a paralegal-turned bartender with Pour Mixology, a mobile bartending service specializing in events like weddings and big parties. A few years ago, Jackson had the idea for her own brand of vodka. Earlier this year, she sold her first bottle of Redd Rose, a strawberry lemon-flavored vodka.

These days, so many business stories we hear are about entrepreneurs just trying to stay afloat during the pandemic. But over the last few months, Jackson, a Cincinnati native recently featured in Qcitymetro, has actually managed to grow her company. With Redd Rose, Jackson wears every hat — from finance to operations to marketing. She’s now working on expanding operations — with eventual plans to add new flavors and sell at liquor stores in the Carolinas.


(The following has been edited for clarity and brevity.)

Taylor Jackson

Taylor Jackson (courtesy of Jackson)

What brought you to Charlotte?

Almost seven years ago, I was working for a District Court Judge, and she was retiring. I was like, you know what, I’m just gonna go do what I feel is best. And I landed in North Carolina. When I came here, I didn’t have anything lined up. My job ended on a Thursday I packed up and moved that Monday. Honestly, I wanted something new. I didn’t know anybody here, I didn’t have family here. But I said to myself if I can go to North Carolina and make this work, I can pretty much accomplish anything.

How did you pivot to bartending?

I took a bartending course thinking this is how I can make money and friends. During the day, I worked for a temp agency doing paralegal work and bartending at night.

What made you want to launch your own vodka brand?

I had read an article about Tito’s and Ciroc around the time I was considering it. It made me realize, those are regular people. Tito’s founder (Bert Beveridge), he started from the bottom. I mean, he slept in his distillery. If these regular people can do something like that, why can’t I do it?

Logistically, how did you get the company going?

My legal background helped. But I didn’t know how different the laws about liquor were in each state. Wine and beer is one law, and liquor is another law. So I did a lot of research to know the laws of the states I want to start in. Then I started working with a distribution company based in Florida to produce Redd Rose. From there, I had to get a trademark, bottles, seals, all that. There’s a lot that goes in on the back end.

How much of your own money did you invest at the beginning?

$30,000 of my own money, including savings.

Can you buy bottles of Redd Rose in ABC stores in North Carolina?

Not yet, but bars and restaurants can order it. I’m not in retail stores yet in South Carolina, but I did just have a meeting with Frugal MacDoogal. We’ll see where it goes from there.

How many states do you sell in retail stores?

Currently I sell at three stores and two bars in Miami. You can order Redd Rose online in 22 states though.

What is your timeline for getting into retail stores in North Carolina?

The North Carolina ABC wants to see a certain number in sales before I can bring it in. But they did allow me to be on special order. As a controlled state, Raleigh operates the whole system when it comes to alcohol.

How have things fared during the pandemic for Redd Rose?

I don’t think I made any sales in March. April I had about 40. In May, my goal was 100, and I did about 160. It’s just been up from there. I plan to add flavors too — my goal is nine.

Did you get a PPP for your company?

I did not. Last year, I didn’t make any money. I sold my first bottle of Redd Rose in January.

Have you noticed that drinking behaviors have changed during the pandemic?

I would say yes. Everybody’s on a diet kick right now. What sets Redd Rose apart is you don’t have to mix it. You can just drink it over ice. There’s not as many calories as if you added a bunch of stuff to it.

On the events side, there aren’t 500-person events going on right now. People are having smaller events. That means I have to bartend more events to keep up with what I need.

Where does the name Redd Rose come from?

My grandmother. When I wanted to start the brand, she had just passed away. I wasn’t at her last birthday party, and I wasn’t there when she passed. I thought, what can I do to honor her?

If you could give one piece of advice to 22-year-old Taylor what would it be?

I would tell her to believe in herself. 22-year-old Taylor was not who she is today.

What is your No. 1 piece of financial advice?

Be smart with your money. Take your money out of your checking account and put it into a savings account. And put your money into a business account.

Want to read more about personal finance? Find our Cash Confessional series here.

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