Be Prepared to Sacrifice — To build a successful, sustainable business, you must make sacrifices. No vacations and a paycut are some sacrifices you may have to endure in the beginning but, those sacrifices are worth it when you build your business. I had to sacrifice my personal time in the beginning and found myself wearing different hats and taking on different roles before delegating responsibilities to my growing team.
The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.
As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Weston Holm.
Weston Holm is the founder, co-owner and distiller behind Blue Clover Distillery which is Oldtown/Downtown Scottsdale’s first-ever micro-distillery producing premium, small-batch gin and vodka. Weston Holm is a third generation farmer who is transforming his family’s legacy by hand crafting, gluten-free corn-based spirits. Prior to establishing his own distillery, restaurant and spirit line, Weston worked on an oil rig and found parallels between the oil distilling process and alcohol distilling.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I am a New Mexico native and grew up in a farm family with grandparents and parents who were farmers. Blue Clover Distillery is a tribute to my ancestry — “Blue” pays respect to my Danish farming heritage while “Clover” signifies my Irish love for fire and great spirits. We also incorporate corn from family farms in our spirits to represent my farming background as well as hatch green chiles in our food, spirits, and cocktails. Albuquerque is the capital of hatch chiles and it was important for me to include my Southwestern roots and New Mexico flair in our food and beverage program.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“The best way to predict your future is to create it.” I left my previous, secure job in the oil refining business and took a risk to make my vision come true. I learned a new industry and took fate in my own hands by opening a distillery, spirit line and restaurant.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
I listen to an Apple podcast called “Spectacular Failures” which teaches how to improve your business and shares real-life entrepreneurship stories of how company and CEO failures have been pivotal moments. The host, Lauren Ober, shares a whole new perspective on business and what you can do as a business owner to avoid those pitfalls.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?
Before I opened and founded Blue Clover Distillery, I worked in the oil production industry for a decade. Entrepreneurship runs in my family with three generations of farmers and I discovered there are parallels between the oil refining process and alcohol distilling process. I spent many hours researching the distillery business and in 2017, I opened Blue Clover Distillery, the first microdistillery in Oldtown Scottsdale, AZ that handcrafts the finest artisan gin and vodka with my business partners, Duane and Scott Koch.
What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?
Blue Clover Distillery made a nimble yet challenging decision to turn spirits into sanitizer and we were the first in Arizona to offer distillery-made sanitizer. We quickly turned our distillery into a sanitizer facility and first started supplying hand sanitizer for the Phoenix and Albuquerque communities. We had immediate support from our neighbors, frontline workers, local businesses and organizations like grocery stores and hospitals, and Phoenix/Albuquerque residents — they chose us for their sanitizer needs.
While the state of Arizona was ordered to shut down dining rooms and bars, we pivoted to opening a retail walk-up window where we sold hand sanitizer, our locally-made spirit bottles, ready-to-make cocktail kits, and to-go pizzas and salads for pick up/to-go.
With the growing demand for microevents and at-home events, I created an events division for the Blue Clover brand and we now offer mobile bartending and custom spirit bottle labeling. We offer a mobile bartending service where a professional bartender and mobile bar will go to you and can even create customized craft cocktails for any small event like weddings and holiday parties. We also create customized labels for our spirit bottles which can be personalized for events and even be custom-made with names of co-workers, clients, or friends. They are great as wedding favors or as holiday company gifts.
Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?
It’s important for me as a small business owner to support the Scottsdale/Phoenix community and the other small businesses that were struggling to survive because of the COVID-19 pandemic. There were local shops, restaurants and bars who couldn’t get access to sanitizer due to the shortage and I wanted to create sanitizer for people/businesses in need. I also thought about all the front line workers like nurses, teachers, fire fighters, police officers and grocery store clerks who are working hard and selflessly in the trenches everyday and Blue Clover’s sanitizer is able to keep these local heroes safe and healthy.
How are things going with this new initiative?
Within a couple of months, we were able to expand our hand sanitizer from a local distribution to national distribution with nationwide shipping.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My sister Holly Holm has been a supporter for Blue Clover Distillery since day one. She is a UFC champion and is the first fighter in history to hold championship belts in boxing, kickboxing and MMA. With her busy schedule, she still makes time to support Blue Clover and has from the beginning, encouraged me to make my dream of owning my own business.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
We had a three-hour waiting line outside our distillery as soon as we launched our hand sanitizer. It was incredibly astonishing and unexpected. We were overwhelmed with joy to see our community come out and support us during these trying times and we are very grateful they chose us for their sanitizer needs.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
Be Prepared to Sacrifice
To build a successful, sustainable business, you must make sacrifices. No vacations and a paycut are some sacrifices you may have to endure in the beginning but, those sacrifices are worth it when you build your business. I had to sacrifice my personal time in the beginning and found myself wearing different hats and taking on different roles before delegating responsibilities to my growing team.
Focus on a Niche
When people start a business, they think big. There’s nothing wrong with that from a goals perspective, but not being hyper-focused can prevent growth. Find your niche, instead of selling multiple services or products. At Blue Clover Distillery, we focused on producing artisan vodka and gin first and grew from there.
Pivot, Pivot, Pivot
Companies will need to pivot and evolve over time. It’s important to adapt to the changing market conditions and consumer needs. Expect changes and embrace the process. As a distillery and bar, we will always need to evolve with the twenty-something demographic. Millennials are now in their 30s and are still part of our demographic however, we had to learn the consumer behaviors of Gen Z which are very influenced by social media.
Businesses in a competitive space are constantly ahead of time. They are not adjusting to the present time, but they create the future time. You need to be able to think in advance, in order to be the first. We were the first distillery in Arizona to first create distillery-made sanitizer.
Learn from Others’ Mistakes
Mistakes are great learning opportunities, but we don’t necessarily need to make them all in order to learn from them. I’m in a network of business owners and we share honest advice and experiences to learn from previous mistakes or lessons. I also listen to an Apple podcast about big corporation failures and how to improve your business based on those mistakes.
So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?
I have connected with other neighbors and local businesses and it’s been a wellness lifesaver to have a support system and to help each other during these current times. We have collaborated with local gyms, hospitals, fire departments and restaurants to help them with their needs and they have been able to support us and tap into new customers.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Simple — pay it forward and be kind to your neighbors. Kindness is free and we all need to support each other and be kind to each other during these difficult times.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
Jimmy Kimmel! He is funny — I hear he likes spicy food and I’d love to have a cocktail or spicy Bloody Mary with him.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!