Breakthroughs & InnovationsPodcasts

From Engineering to Entrepreneurship with Vanessa Braxton of Black Momma Brands

By May 13, 2021
Vanessa Braxton

 

Vanessa BraxtonVanessa Braxton is the Founder, CEO, and President at Black Momma Brands, which includes Black Momma Vodka, and Black Momma Tea & Cafe. She is the first African American woman master blender, distiller, owner, and operator of a nationally distributed vodka in the United States.

Before launching Black Momma Brands, Vanessa managed construction and engineering contracts worth over $2 billion for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). She is deeply involved in real estate investments and helping other black-owned businesses thrive.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • Vanessa Braxton talks about her background and experience studying engineering
  • The value of engineering, and Vanessa’s work in the construction and transportation industries
  • How Vanessa helps foster diversity and support minority-owned businesses
  • Vanessa’s journey to starting Black Momma Brands and the story behind her logo
  • How Vanessa launched her liquor brand and entered retail stores
  • The ease of receiving payments in the liquor industry
  • Vanessa talks about her family’s history in crafting liquor and her new products
  • Where to learn more about Black Momma Brands and how to get in touch with Vanessa Braxton

In this episode…

Vanessa Braxton’s interest in creating a business around liquor started while she was in college. At first, she’d make her libations on campus using equipment available in the college’s science lab; in the process, she made some small profits. Despite her success, she continued pursuing her engineering degree before venturing to work in the engineering and construction space.

However, Vanessa’s love for creating liquor and entering entrepreneurship drew her back to the industry. She started Black Momma Vodka after decades working in the engineering, construction, and transportation industry. She now uses her science and mathematics background to grow her business and support minority-owned business ideas as well.

In this episode of the Innovations and Breakthroughs Podcast, Rich Goldstein interviews Vanessa Braxton, the Founder, CEO, and President of Black Momma Brands, about her transition from engineering to liquor. Vanessa also talks about her family’s history in liquor making and her experience working in the engineering, construction, and transportation industries.

Resources Mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by Goldstein Patent Law, a firm that helps protect inventors’ ideas and products. They have advised and obtained patents for thousands of companies over the past 25 years. So if you’re a company that has a software, product, or design you want protected, you can go to https://goldsteinpatentlaw.com/. They have amazing free resources for learning more about the patent process.

You can email their team at [email protected] to explore if it’s a match to work together. Rich Goldstein has also written a book for the American Bar Association that explains in plain English how patents work, which is called ‘The ABA Consumer Guide to Obtaining a Patent.’


Intro (00:09):
Welcome to innovations and breakthroughs with your host Rich Goldstein, talking about the evolutionary, the revolutionary, the inspiration and the perspiration and those aha moments that change everything. And now here’s your host Rich Goldstein.

Rich (00:33):
Rich Goldstein here, host of the innovations and breakthroughs podcast, where we feature top leaders and the path they took to create change past guests include Joe Polish, Roland Frasier, and Joe de Sena. This episode is brought to you by my company, Goldstein, Pat and Laura. We will help you to protect your ideas and products. We’ve advised and obtained patents for thousands of companies over the past 26 years. So if you’re a company that has software product or designing one protected, go to Goldstein paddlow.com, where there are amazing free resources for learning about the patent process. And you can email my team at [email protected] to explore this match, to work together. Um, you could also check out the book I wrote for the American bar association that explains in plain English, how patents work it’s called the ABA consumer guide to obtaining a patent. I have with me here today, Vanessa Braxton, Vanessa is the founder of black mom brand brands, which includes, let me say that again. Vanessa is the founder of black mama brands, which includes T a Gavi and of course, black momma vodka. Uh, Vanessa Braxton is the first African African-American woman master blender distill our owner and operator of a nationally distributed vodka in the United States. Um, with a background in construction engineering and management before launching black mamma, Vanessa managed construction and engineering contracts worth over 350 million for New York state government. Um, and, uh, she is deeply involved in real estate investment and helping other black owned businesses. It’s my pleasure to welcome Vanessa Braxton. Welcome Vanessa.

Vanessa (02:04):
Oh, thank you for having me rich. Appreciate you contacting me.

Rich (02:09):
Yeah, my pleasure. Uh, I mean, so much fun to have you on here. And again, as we were talking about we, we met on clubhouse and, um, we’ve spent time together hanging out in rooms there and like, it’s great to be able to connect this way and to get to more of your story, which I think is just a fascinating one. Um,

Vanessa (02:27):
Is this the life I lead?

Rich (02:30):
This is the life we chose or something. Right. Um, so, um, I mean, so you’re from Brooklyn,

Vanessa (02:40):
Born and raised, born and raised, um, East Flatbush Flatbush, my parents, you know, they’re, they were immigrants to this country from Guyana. So I’m first, first-generation born here. So first-generation here, which is good. Me and my sister and my brother, they came in the sixties. So that just tell you I’m not a spring chicken.

Rich (03:06):
Yeah. I think we’re on, on about the same par with that, but we, we don’t need to say anything about nothing. Yeah. You know, I think so. You know, but, uh, uh, let’s see. Um, so you started out, um, um, yeah, so you, you started out though, like by studying engineering. So you studied engineering at Pratt, as you was showing me like your sweatshirt today. Proud of

Vanessa (03:38):
Pratt alumni. I graduated in 92 from Pratt in construction management and, you know, engine civil engineering, um, very few, um, minorities or black women do engineering, you know, back then it was, it was hard to find a job in engineering even back then, but I lucked out, I worked for the MTA New York city transit authority. Um, I came in as an engineer intern and I pretty much had my career there going up the ladder with working in engineering and construction. I was the, also the only black female resident engineer overseeing construction contracts out of 77,000 employees. You know, I rebuilt, um, I rebuilt South street ferry right after nine 11. Um, I had Fulton street transit center, you know, it was part of my project. So, you know, I have an extensive background in science, engineering, construction, structural, and I still do side work every now and then I do it for my project, for my real estate. We can talk about that. And I married, I married a mechanical engineer. I went to college with my husband.

Rich (04:54):
Yeah. That’s amazing. And we would talk a little bit before about how engineering runs in the family, like, and then literally in your family, surrounded by engineers. That’s like my family too. Yeah.

Vanessa (05:05):
Yeah, absolutely. But you know, I got a big secret. I used to make liquor on campus.

Rich (05:14):
Okay. So before, you know, before it was a thing before it was a thing, it was a thing

Vanessa (05:22):
You’re starving students. So then we’re talking about 87, 86, you know, when you have these parties, I’m sure. You know, right back in the day. So,

Rich (05:33):
So, so you had some distillery equipment going then,

Vanessa (05:38):
Per se. I took a lot of stuff from the science lab.

Rich (05:42):
Oh. Some Bunsen burners. And then before you know, it, you’ve got some something, uh, you know, that, uh, you know, up there in the proof, right?

Vanessa (05:55):
Yeah. You know, you gotta make, yeah. You gotta make your match. I’ll never forget the time I was trying to get like the whole team and everybody to chip in. It was like 30 people chipping in and we got like a dollar $34, 34 cents out of 30 people. What can I do with this?

Rich (06:18):
Yeah. That’s what I was in college. Like I remember like just separate, but like ordering pizza, like, and it’s like, okay, what’s going on a pizza? Well, I’ve got a dollar I need like another $7 plus another one for a tip. So who else wants to go in for a dollar to get a slice? Yeah.

Vanessa (06:34):
Right, right. But we used to have parties on campus. This is 34 years ago to talk about it now. Like, I dunno. Yeah. I’ve done enough money to the school, but, um, I’ve always wanted to make things better. And, and, and I’ve always been that type of person. My father studied mechanical engineering as well, but he ends up going to the stock market. And my grandfather, my mother’s father was a architect and builder for 38 years. So that has always been in my blood, I can say. And I never wanted to be an engineer, but my father said you were going to be an engineer. And I said, no. And, um, I ended up getting into engineering because I wanted to be a forensic scientist. Like Quincy.

Rich (07:26):
I love that

Vanessa (07:27):
Show. I did too. And I wanted to be a forensic scientist until I figured out I can’t stay on blood. And, um, my guidance counselor said, well, you got all the sciences, I guess you can do engineering. And I was like, Oh my God, my father was right after all.

Rich (07:48):
Isn’t that awful when that’s the, I know,

Vanessa (07:50):
But God rest his soul. It’s, it’s been, I love engineering even to this day with what I do, even with creating formulas, um, because believe it or not, um, being in the beverage industry or anything that we do in life requires an engineer. It requires some sort of calculation to begin, you know, and you know that because you haven’t, you’re, you’re an engineer. And just for the first step, you can’t do anything today without an engineer.

Rich (08:24):
Yeah, absolutely.

Vanessa (08:26):
So, um, so I need more people to realize that, um, same thing with, you know, construction and engineering. So it, it all, it’s always going to be in my life no matter what I do. And I realized

Rich (08:42):
It’s, it’s a part of you, it’s a part of the way you look at the world. Um, it’s like the lens of an engineer. It’s kind of like they say the same thing about the law is like thinking like a lawyer or like that you look at the, um, through, um, through that lens. Um,

Vanessa (09:00):
Absolutely. It

Rich (09:01):
Was funny, there was this, um, story they had us read in the beginning of law school that Mark Twain wrote. That was all about kind of like when you’re working on a riverboat kind, like you S when you see the water a certain way, you know, that it’s shallow there, or, you know, that there’s a current, or like, um, basically after like, um, you know, after piloting riverboats and working on a river boat for a long period of time, you’ll never see the water the same way. Like you’ll always see it through that lens. And like, I think the metaphor they were trying to make is like, the study of law is like, once, you know, once you begin to see things that way you you’ll always see it that way. And like, so like, it’s part of you is like this way of looking at things, right. Looking at things as an engineer, and also looking at things of like, as you said earlier, how could I make it better?

Vanessa (09:50):
Yeah. And I, and I think that that’s, what’s the, um, the duty of the industry in what we do, you know? So for me, that’s, that’s, that’s the, the good thing. And then from, um, construction of doing that, I I’ve worked for the MTA and the MTA is metropolitan transit authority. You’ve probably familiar with it, the big agent,

Rich (10:13):
The rest of our listeners who don’t have all of the New York jargon down. Yeah. MTA is the transit system organization in New York world. Yes.

Vanessa (10:28):
Yeah, it is. But, um, um, I, I did that in for 20 years. And then I also, I had, um, I was also the vice president of the, they had a trade association, not a union, but the conference of minority transportation officials for New York state, which included, you know, train planes and automobiles transit. I was the vice president for business development in trying to help more minorities to get these government contracts at the MTA and other agencies and, you know, help represent New York and minorities and women in that position. That was, they elected me into that position. And, um, just to try to help as many people as I can, but I had to leave after I hit my 20 years, I was like, I’m out of there. I got to go.

Rich (11:18):
That’s another lens right there to business development, vice president of business development. I mean, that’s a whole, that’s another lens at looking at the world and looking at opportunities and looking at where this value to be created and how do you connect with people around value? So that’s another, that’s another piece of the puzzle, know your world, right?

Vanessa (11:38):
Yeah, it definitely was. And that was the conference of minority transportation officials. I still wasn’t MTA employee. I still have to do my job overseeing construction. And then I was the vice president. Just think about like your union of this trade organization for all of New York state, where you still had to deal with, you know, the transportation board and the governor and all of that, just so minority and women owned, you know, businesses can come into doing business with the agencies. That’s how I was involved with the Barclay center, looking at it, you know, in terms of what goes on today. I was involved with the Barclay center of trying to forge a relationship between private industry, public industry, with minority and women owned companies to get on our project. You know, so that was like one of my last projects. And, you know, you see that today with, with having diversity in different verticals, you know, whether it’s, you know, beverage, you know, whether it’s financials, law industry, it’s, it’s just so many areas, um, that there’s opportunities, you know, even in business, you know, getting in and having diversity. Yeah.

Rich (12:58):
Well, absolutely. Then there’s, there’s tons of opportunity. And I guess that’s the thing is to level the playing field and, and, and, and get, um, get people like minorities, especially able to, to pursue those opportunities. So I have them be real opportunities to them as well.

Vanessa (13:15):
I feel the love, the Plainfield and I, and maybe I’m biased, but as an engineer, I feel for me, even though I’m a woman, I’m a black woman, as you can see, um, the level, the playing field is level, because the information is there in terms of accessing the information right now, what do you do with the information? That’s the key.

Rich (13:47):
So is it kind of more like more your interest is empowering people to feel that they can take advantage of these opportunities?

Vanessa (13:55):
Yes. But they have to, they have to do their research. They have to, um, do your research, do your due diligence. A lot of times people want the Wikipedia, like on Wikipedia, or I want to start a beverage. I wanna start a liquor company. Um, can you help me? Um, no, we’ll do your research. I can help you to a certain degree, but when you come to the table and you just want me to hand it to you, I didn’t birth you. I go through that with my children and they only met, they got to go and do their research. Right, right. Exactly. So the information is out there. It is for us to, for everyone to take the opportunity and learn. Now everybody’s learning capability is very different. I get that, you know, some people want visuals, um, and, and that works, but it’s the same thing with now, everybody’s trying to get their generational wealth. The information is there now, when you and I went to college, we didn’t have internet, you know, in 1987, I had a, I had a Macintosh.

Rich (15:06):
You had those like, uh, back then it must have been like a Mac or a Mac plus, or a Mac se at the bat.

Vanessa (15:12):
Right. And the year before in 86, we were doing four tracks. Remember that

Rich (15:18):
Formula translation.

Vanessa (15:20):
Right. So I’m sure no one, Oh, no, I don’t know what Kobo stands for. I did that too.

Rich (15:35):
Oriented business language. The CEO is common. Yeah. Common oriented business language. Anyway. That’s like some, some computer geeky stuff right there. I was like, you know what, the COBOL Fortran, you know, anyway, that’s

Vanessa (15:50):
Yeah. I was still on dos, remember dash Or the Lang network. Oh God, we’re going back. W Lang

Rich (16:05):
Absolutely. But no, I w I was studying engineering around the same time. It was the same type thing. There was no internet, there was, um, dial up connections. And, um, but just to individual sites, it’s not like anything was connected. And the research we did, we had to do in the library pretty much, there was no electronic place to do research. Um,

Vanessa (16:27):
Yeah. And then, and then the world wide web opened up with them. And then the gentlemen started that, which is a beautiful thing. And, um, that’s what I use to, as well as my education to do my research. I love researching and developing new things. And I think that’s, what’s gotten me here later on in my life. I wish I had that. I had the internet when I was 18 years old. Oh my God. You guys would be in trouble.

Rich (16:58):
I’m new to invest in Google. Right. Like that in itself. Um, so how did you, um, how did you take the, your background in, um, in construction management and, um, and, and supporting people to find these opportunities and then move into creating the brands, creating the black mom of brands. Tell me about that, that journey.

Vanessa (17:21):
Well, I retired, I’m retired now from engineering, from engineering and construction manager, working for someone, right. Um, since 2009. So I had started at 1989 and I worked at 2009. And so since then, what I’ve done is consulting. And I use my science background, no matter what we always think about it. We always have to do calculations. Right. You know, and my husband, I moved to California in 2011. He got a job chief job with Parsons Brinckerhoff PB, which is now WSP. And the me being retired. And in California, I always wanted to have, um, a liquor brand I wanted to do to kill it first when I was living in New York. But then I looked at it and I was like, life happened, you know, my mother-in-law was sick and it was just so much going on. And it just wasn’t the opportunity. But being that I was, you know, sitting there in Valencia, California, right.

Vanessa (18:39):
All of this Valencia don’t look like Valencia oranges. This whole area in West West ranch is like completely there for it. Um, in California. And, um, a friend of mine, someone that I know that’s in the industry, also an engineer who owned the distillery, I guess the engineers want to be in the brewery industry set. Um, you know, Hey, you know, I got this distillery and I know you, you know, you’re an engineer, we’re engineers, I’m doing a couple of things. I said, you know what? Then you come over there and check you out. And he was in Oregon, you know, bend Oregon, Joe. I love Joe, all of those guys and what I did, I got a DBA partner with them to help them because they were working on their brand. And then I said, well, I’ll start my brand. And I’ll invest in doing that. And then doing contract management with them. And that’s how I got into, and I said, you know what? I’ll have my own liquor. I’ll blend it. I’ll use the facility, you know, and that’s how we all learn. We all need mistakes, But now they show you have the pressure to leave bowels or to have an explosion.

Rich (19:56):
The distilling part is something that you, you did for many years, right. At that, you know, at that point, as you mentioned earlier, you had bootlegging or, but you, so the tech part you had down, but talk about launching the brand and like, like actually creating a brand out there.

Vanessa (20:12):
Well, you know what, when I created black momma vodka, God honest truth. Um, we were drunk. So it was six of us. I swear, was playing a stage game every Friday night. Me and my husband, a couple of friends after work, we drink, you know, Ketel one vodka. That was my favorite pocket and fill my own. And we always played spades Friday night by the pool. That’s what you do in California in dementia when you retired, my husband’s still work. Right. But, um, but he got home and he had to catch up. Right. And I made sure that the drinks were there as soon as he came home from the pool. Oh yeah. He had to come home. He still had his tie in and everything on and drinks were ready

Rich (21:04):
With one hand drinking

Vanessa (21:08):
Your martini, honey. And we always had these games in, which was, you know, at some point, and when people hear this, whoever know me, they’re going to remember like, Oh my God, every Friday night and Saturday night, it was with the Braxtons pool, drinks, food, and everyone was taking next. That’s something that we do in our community play States. We played spades. You know, some of these state games would get really, really rough, but thank goodness we had the drinks and you know, one time we had a game last, so five o’clock in the morning, Saturday, whereas we couldn’t call a winner. And we continued the game. 11:00 AM that Saturday, we went home, got sleeved and everybody came to our place and we started to gain. And that’s when I said to my wife, I said, you know what, I’m going to start this liquor brand. Good. Call it black momma vodka. I was like, Hmm. Okay. That’s what you want, honey. I said, I’m black. I’m the mama.

Rich (22:11):
The size is 11:00 AM. And we’re out of hock.

Vanessa (22:18):
Right. Friends came over and we talk about this to this day. I kid you not, we probably were still, we hadn’t sobered up yet because you know, we were drinking for five, eight years, like college day. Right. And we’re playing this game. And I said,

Rich (22:34):
You’re not, you’re not building bridges anymore. So like exactly. Right.

Vanessa (22:41):
And I said, you know, I wanted a upside, a heart, the upside down heart. I think it was the spades game or whatever the hell we were drinking. Somebody smoking something I’m leaving. Yeah. I don’t smoke. I’m a drinker. And we literally, during that game on a napkin, I have it to this day, my husband drew that the heart, you know, he’s like, you know, make it an upside. Then they get like a, woman’s behind with a tramp stamp on it. And I’m like, Oh, that’s cool. What’s the tramp stamp. And he’s like, Oh, you know that tattoo you have on the back of your, you know, the best of the right. I don’t have a tattoo on the back of my face. So

Rich (23:27):
That’s someone else’s, who’s got that stamp.

Vanessa (23:33):
Right. That’s what I heard. That’s what they call it. That’s where you put out. Okay. But, you know, he drew it out, then they all said, Oh, why don’t you turn it upside down? And he was literally born in that 20 minutes of all of us, either being drunk or smoking a beautiful design, as you see on the bottle of black mama. And I didn’t have to hire anybody.

Rich (24:01):
Hi. Okay. So then let’s, let’s talk about launching it though. Like how did, um, so you decided you’re going to do this and, um, and obviously you know how to distill and um,

Vanessa (24:11):
Because you don’t just distill, you gotta take the 195 proof and proof it down and blend it. Yeah.

Rich (24:20):
And your 90 foot group, that’s like moonshine there. Right.

Vanessa (24:22):
When it comes out, it comes out 200 proof. You want to be able to have one 92 to 200 proof because that’s, what’s coming out in neutral grain spirit. So then you add how to use a hydrometer and you got to proof it down and blend it with whatever you want to blend with. That’s the secret, you know? So that way you have the heart of the liquor, but yes, once you’ve done all of that, just thinking about it, once you do it and you bottle it, you, you launched a brand, you know what, launching the brand is getting into a store.

Rich (24:54):
Yeah. Well, that’s really what I’m getting at is like, you got it. You can distill it, bottle it. So then how did you actually get it out there? How did you get the word out and get people?

Vanessa (25:07):
It’s not just the social media, but back then in 2012, 2013, I watched it, um, February of 2013, I had a party, um, to launch the brand. I had big daddy Kane come. And we had a lot of friends that came to, um, was it the hard rock? It was a hard rock cafe. I can’t even remember now, but it was a club in LA that was acting everybody was trying to get in. So, you know, you have your watch brand, which was really good, you know, but even if you launch it, you gotta have clients just like anything else. It’s great to have the hoop a lot. You know, that’s what our say. But the true meaning of launching the brand is when you’re collecting a check and it’s on the shelves and what I did. Thank goodness Mr. Phil Albertsons became my first client Albertson’s supermarket.

Rich (26:08):
Hmm. Wow. That’s big. Okay.

Vanessa (26:11):
Yeah. I realized how big that, that was. And when you can’t, when you got like 10 cases, you drop putting in your truck and you’re taking it to the Albertson’s. But what I did, you know what I had to use my, my little head, I went to Albertsons. I was going to Albertsons every day. Cause I lived across the street from it and they knew me. I went to the general manager and I asked him, I said, listen, I’m launching, you know, this liquor black mailbox that you guys carry liquor. Yep. I can sell direct in California with my license. And he said, sure. We know you miss Braxton spending money all the time. Right, right. That’s the key. I said, Oh, that’s so nice. He said, before you think you can bring it, you got to go to our head office and meet with Mr. Mr. Woo. I can’t even remember his name, but he set up the appointment for me. And I went to the main office. I drove, I brought the, the vodka with me. He didn’t even drink it. He looked at it and he said, Jason, like, you you’re ready. I was like, Oh, okay.

Rich (27:23):
He probably looked at it. He said, what a great name. And he still thought people will buy it. Like I don’t need to taste it. Cause I, I believe that people will see it and say like, I, I, I want to try that.

Vanessa (27:34):
Right. Right. And you know what, he’s, you know what I’m thinking in my head, Oh my God, I’m going to have all these orders and the hardest, excuse my language, that I’ve ever done.

Rich (27:49):
That’s when the fun begins. Right. Be careful what you wish for, with those,

Vanessa (27:55):
Because now you got all these stores that want to order and I’m like, okay, how do I get, you know, it was just me. And not only that, I got to go pick up the kids from school, you know, at three o’clock and make sure my husband’s dinner’s on the table, whatever it is, I didn’t have to cook, but whatever I bought was there, but I made it work because for me, I was like, okay, I didn’t have a distributor at that time. But July, it was like July 4th or July 2nd. I remember it was on the shelves of Albertson’s. He was on the stacks of Albertsons. My first client. It was, it was that moment like,

Rich (28:41):
Oh my God, it’s on the shelf. Seeing it right there.

Vanessa (28:44):
It was in that it was on an end cap, stackable deal. It was on sale. If you buy six bottles, 2399, it was the, it was even though they had like maybe 15 cases or 10 cases, it was the most rewarding feeling I ever felt in the world. Other than having birth, giving birth to my children. It was such a great feeling. But also, you know, it was even greater when my kids came into, they were little when my kids walked into the supermarket and saw the brand and sat on the shelf and saw that stackable and my daughter said, Oh, what black mama does she just let her mommy that’s so really good. And I was like, Oh wow. I can’t believe this is happening. And I’m like, Oh, we to bring it on the money. Okay. That didn’t happen.

Rich (29:47):
But it was, it was a proud moment. It was a problem for you. And, uh, it was a proud moment for them too.

Vanessa (29:52):
Yes. But also, you know, it was really good. I was in cut a check right away. It was good to get a check immediately when I delivered,

Rich (30:03):
Other than them saying like, wow, can we have 60 days? And then like, you’re, you’re always behind.

Vanessa (30:10):
No liquor industry is the best industry in the world to get it. When it comes to payment, if you don’t get paid, the government will come after them and they’ll lose their license. There’s no 60, 90 days in a liquor license. Oh yeah. You know, and sometimes they have to pay up front, you know, but in a big company like that, like Alderson supermarket, they are deep. They were at the time decentralized. And this is what businesses should learn, learn what their distribution tactics are. People don’t think about it. Sometimes you can deal directly with the store. If they’re decentralized, like they don’t have, like, you don’t have to deliver directly to a distribution center. You can deliver directly to the store. And then you can, after you have in that one store, they’ll give you a check. They gave me a check immediately on the spot. Then I brought an invoice. It was like, you have the invoice. And I was like, okay, I’m so nervous about my invoice because I, you know, I didn’t know what it, you know, I did a plain invoice on QuickBooks, but it didn’t even matter.

Rich (31:16):
Does this look professional enough? You know?

Vanessa (31:22):
And then I got the check. I was so happy. I was just so static that I couldn’t believe this was him. So that was my, my, my greatest experience with that. And then what I did, I really learned that, all right, marching, a brand, you can launch a brand, you can launch a brand in anything, but it’s getting the sale. You, you want to be able to have a client. So when you get that one client, you want to leverage that one client to get other stores. So I started calling all the other Albertsons and then I even asked him to call. I was like, Oh, sure. Contact. The other general manager, I’ll call him because then they’re all working in the same circle. So if I’m in his store, you know, why not have his colleague be in his colleagues store? You know? Cause then it will be a domino effect. And so that’s what I utilize. And then when I, and then I got my, my major second client was, um, the Virginia state, not university, the whole state of Virginia as a control state. So Neil ans nice woman, she’s retired. You know, I control States are controlled by the government and they’ll distribute your liquor for you. And I learned that and you see why research is very important. Yeah.

Rich (32:41):
Yeah. You got to learn the lay of the land and then you know how to operate in that environment. And so we learned how it worked with the different stores, doing their own buying and like, um, and that you could work that to your advantage and you learn that certain States, they actually do the liquor distribution and that’s what you need to do.

Vanessa (32:58):
Yeah. And I like the control state, you know, the control state is controlled by the government. There they are your biggest advocates for grants. They love to work with you. It’s almost like a government contract, but it’s not. And you know, it’s a controlled state. And when you get into a store, they’ll make sure it’s delivered there. They wire transfer your money. They make sure no problems that you can have their own way. I love the control States, but a lot of people don’t like dealing with the control States. And I think for me working with the government member, I worked in government. So for me it wasn’t, it was okay to do the paperwork. Yeah.

Rich (33:47):
You knew the lay of the land. You kind of knew how government operates and that helped you. So it’s kind of, it led up, it was part of the journey that led up to that success here. Those other things that you did and hearing, working in government, um, and, um, you know, and of course researching. Right. And, and that’s what helped you be successful with that? Um, it was such a great, um, conversation. Um, one thing I wanted to, to, uh, touch on is, um, well, two things. I mean, first of all, that, um, that your roots in part go back to Scotland and you discover that your great granddaddy is, uh, was a, uh, um, a, um, a distiller liquor maker.

Vanessa (34:32):
I don’t know if they call it Dylan back then, but he made scotch shyer, shyer, Scotland.

Rich (34:41):
And he was someone who was an inventor and a mathematician and an engineer. And yeah,

Vanessa (34:46):
Well, not him, not, not, not, not my great-grandfather, but my aunts like his great, great, his great grandfather, his grandfather in the 16 hundreds. Right. Because my great-grandfather’s in the 18 hundreds when he settled in Renfrewshire Scotland, you know, and of course he was married to, you know, you think about it in Diana. I ended up finding out the story that he left Diana back to Scotland because he met a black children with a black woman. You know, his father was a slave owner in Diana Dutch, Diana. And of course, you know, he had children with a black woman, you know, there wasn’t the times of doing that, but she also went in and that’s what produced my grandfather and my father. So that’s how I found out about that story. And he settled in, on rent franchise, um, Scotland. And, but his father was still in Diana, you know, who’s the governor of a squib world as it was called the great Sandy as well, known out there. Um, they played in politics in government and of course he was, you know, he wasn’t African-American, but,

Rich (36:02):
And you’re, you’re honoring that legacy though by your, your launching, um, it was on days, his name Sandy, and, uh, and you are, um, you’re launching graves and a scotch.

Vanessa (36:16):
Yeah. So to honor my great great-grandfather to honor my family’s name. I need, you know, I can’t change the past, but I do have the genes, you know, so yeah.

Rich (36:28):
Virtue to where you are today. Like it was all part of the journey, right?

Vanessa (36:32):
Yeah. That’s amazing. And just to look up, um, Willem Greg’s Andy, which is our ancestor, he was the one that was inspired, Isaac Newton, a mathematician inventor engineer. I showed it to my kids and I was like, wow, that’s, you know, that’s amazing because when you think back of your genes and you have someone way down the line from the 16 hundreds that you’re related to, you still have the same genes. You, you, you, you still have the same traits that pushes you forward in life. Isn’t that something

Rich (37:12):
It really is. It really is. And, uh, um, you know, and you’re, and you’re also, um, launching a brand to honor your husband’s side of the family, the Braxton.

Vanessa (37:23):
Yeah. He’s ecstatic about that. I don’t know if he’s a static, but it’s because my kids are Braxtons and yes, my husband’s family are Tony, Trina. Paymar all I speak for Trina all the time. You know, people always ask, are you related to Toni Braxton? It’s not my blood. It’s my husband’s. So, but I’m very close to them. So I speak with, you know, trainer all the time. She and I have a closest, so we, you know, I’m creating something for her to, at my distillery. Well, you guys will definitely see something, you know, coming from one of the Braxtons on that side. So yeah, I’m doing Braxton gin scotch, so honor that name.

Rich (38:04):
So cool. Such, you know, so much to talk about. Um, so little time, right. I mean, uh, um, this already is longer, like one of the longer episodes we’ve had in many, a 30 episodes. Yeah. Usually, um, usually we go just on the 30 minutes, I think we’re probably at,

Vanessa (38:25):
Yeah.

Rich (38:26):
I take an hour to, I asked for an hour, so we have some time before and after, but yeah. Typically typical episodes, uh, is, um, just under half hour and we’ve gone well beyond because there’s so much cool stuff to talk about. Um, and like, you’ve got so much to share, um, about your story and in terms of guidance for other people that are launching brands, uh,

Vanessa (38:48):
Blown into real estate, too

Rich (38:50):
Real estate too. And you all like you, you own many properties and

Vanessa (38:56):
54 commercial properties, 54. Yeah. Liquor has been real good to me. We’re going to have a conversation. Yeah. Yeah. You got to get into other areas, but I’m trying to also help other people to do the same thing and build well, you know, and, and, you know, use, and you still need engineers for that. I was just meeting with some structural engineers today from one of my properties.

Rich (39:24):
Well, like I said, I mean, there’s just so, so much, um, so many interesting things that are part of your journey and that you’re doing now. Um, like I, uh, you know, we’ll definitely need to continue this conversation.

Vanessa (39:36):
Absolutely, absolutely.

Rich (39:39):
Now, though, if people want to learn more about you or get in touch with you, how they go about doing stuff

Vanessa (39:44):
Well, they can go to, um, black momma vodka.com. So that way they can see, you know, black mom, they can buy it online, um, for my next batch, or they can also go to black momma teas.com. Cause you know, I blend the teas, you know, I’m the, also the largest African-American woman owned tea facility in the country. I have a huge facility. So we blended teas are known by me, my vodka from teas. I make a chai tea box bottles, green tea, baka soursop tea vodka. So, you know, those were the formulas that I created and it’s all natural. So, which is good. And y’all, Gabe’s, you know, so, you know, this helps employ communities. I’m very much into employing people from the black and Brown community. So if I can do my part as a manufacturer, I can help those communities that you know, that I’m in manufacturing. And we got to bring one, bring back manufacturing, United States of America,

Rich (40:45):
And he’s got to bring back manufacturing. And it’s just awesome that you help communities.

Vanessa (40:50):
That’s where my real estate and my manufacturing is. I got to hire the people from the community out,

Rich (41:02):
Vanessa, so great having you on the, on the program. So thanks so much for taking the time and we’ve got to continue this conversation. So thanks. Thanks again.

Vanessa (41:10):
Oh, anytime I appreciate you having me and you know what? I’m here. Rich. I know Richie rich Richie rich. No problem. Have a good one.

Outro (41:26):
Thanks for listening to innovations and breakthroughs with your host, Rich Goldstein. Be sure to click, subscribe, check us out on the [email protected] and we’ll see you again.