Women on a Mission

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When a woman launches her own business, there is often a beautiful story of mission and purpose behind it. Fawn Weaver, author and investor, found herself pursuing such a mission when she stumbled across a New York Times article unveiling the original mastermind behind Jack Daniel’s whiskey, an African American named Nathan “Nearest” Green.

As she learned more about the previously untold story, Fawn was compelled to raise public awareness about the master distiller. She also established a new distillery called Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey that produces award-winning whiskey inspired by the legacy of Green.

Fawn was successful on several levels. Not only was her promotion of Nathan Green a tipping point for Jack Daniel’s to announce Green as its first master distiller, but she was also able to create the most-awarded new whiskey in America. Uncle Nearest currently produces two whiskeys that are “curated by descendants of Nearest Green,” 1856 Premium Aged Whiskey and 1884 Small Batch Whiskey, which hit the market in summer 2017 and together have won whiskey awards including World’s Best by World Whiskies Awards, Top 5 Whiskies in the World by Cigar & Spirits Magazine, Chairman’s Trophy, Platinum and Double Gold by SIP Awards and Best American Whiskey by New Orleans Bourbon Festival. Reviews say the 1856 tastes like “biting into an oatmeal raisin cookie.” The purpose of the Uncle Nearest products is to honor African-American heritage in whiskey production in America. That’s something whiskey fans can drink to.

If you want to feel good about what you drink, another business that produces beverages with a purpose is Me and The Bees, founded by Mikaila Ulmer. Some women latch onto a vision from a very young age, and Mikaila is no exception. At the tender age of four, she was stung by a bee, and her entrepreneurial spirit flared into action. She began crusading for the protection of honey bees as a critical part of the American ecosystem. She created an award-winning lemonade based on her grandmother’s recipe. Now, ten years later, Mikaila’s company produces lemonade in four flavors: mint, ginger, iced tea and prickly pear. All the lemonade is naturally sweetened with local honey from Mikaila’s stomping grounds in Texas. The lemonade can be purchased from Whole Foods Market and other organic and natural grocery stores nationwide as well as online. Through its own non-profit, The Healthy Hive Foundation, Me and The Bees supports honey bee research in America and helps teach needy families around the world the craft of beekeeping.

If style in storing and drinking your beverage is just as important to you as what you’re drinking, there’s another upscale product just for you made by a woman with a cause. Sarah Krauss signed a pledge to stop using plastics as an environmentally concerned college student and then took it one step further, pursuing her dream to end the use of disposable water bottles entirely. She founded the company S’well, which produces trendy reusable water bottles. The bottles are triple-walled, including a vacuum seal and a copper layer, so they don’t collect condensation while they keep drinks cold for 24 hours or hot for 12 hours. The company gives back to the environment and the community by donating its reusable bottles to public school students in New York City.

Another woman who uses her products to support a clear philanthropic mission is Kendra Scott, who started her own jewelry business with only $500 while she was on pregnancy bed rest in 2002. She consistently emphasized her core values of family, fashion and philanthropy to build a billion-dollar company that employs 98 percent women and supports charitable causes including cancer awareness, Habitat for Humanity, and its own Kendra Cares Program, which teaches creativity through jewelry design to patients in pediatric hospitals. Today, the jewelry line is sold in stores such as Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus and in 75 Kendra Scott retail stores in the U.S. and London. Offerings include a range of items from the luxurious Nia 14K yellow gold earrings in white diamond to the top-selling Sophee Drop Earrings in silver.

Another fine jewelry maker, Nina Berenato, adopted the mission of empowering women both in personal style and in business. Nina found herself developing her own style because she couldn’t afford the brand names of her affluent classmates, and she soon discovered that jewelry can make women feel strong and confident. She began handcrafting unique jewelry that caught the attention of Vogue and Elle magazines. Nina Berenato jewelry is sold in boutiques across the country and online, and its bold designs can also be made to order. The company emphasizes sustainability, using only recycled and refined materials. Nina strives to pass the torch to other women on a mission by offering grants to women entrepreneurs with small startups. ■

Sources: nytimes.com, unclenearest.com, meandthebees.com, forbes.com, swellbottle.com, kendrascott.com, atxwoman.com, foundingaustin.com, ninaberenato.com.