Philip Risk — As Richard Branson says, “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” Our employees are considered family. To speak Frankly is to speak honestly. As a leader, I always challenge myself to step back from the significant ups and downs of a startup and focus on creating a positive, empowered team that embraces and drives change. In our company, there are no “executive teams.” Everyone is expected to be willing to get their hands dirty. Leading by example continues to show our team we are in this together.
As a part of our series about lessons from Thriving Power Couples, I had the pleasure of interviewing Philip Risk and Kristen Risk.
Philip Risk Co-Founder & CEO at Frankly Organic Vodka. A native of Indiana, Philip’s passion for ethical business excellence is evident through the daily grind of successfully bringing a product to market. He earned a B.A. in Marketing with a French minor from Ball State University. Philip brings 29 years of CPG experience across a myriad of diverse industries. Prior to founding Sublime Marketing Group in 2006, he held Sr. VP of Sales and Marketing roles in both corporate and entrepreneurial industry-leading companies including Samsonite, General Electric, Con Edison Solutions, NorthPole, and Bay Travel Gear. Philip has expansive and comprehensive expertise in product development, sales, marketing, international sourcing in addition to working with the world’s largest retailers across all channels of distribution. He is certified in Six Sigma from General Electric, speaks conversational French, car and motorcycle enthusiast, enjoys snowboarding, and revels in hiking the Swiss Alps.
Kristen Risk, Co-Founder & SVP Marketing Communications at Frankly Organic Vodka. Born in Connecticut, Kristen grew up overseas in Italy, Taiwan, Spain, and Switzerland before returning to the United States and earned a B.S. in Business with a minor in Photography from Rochester Institute of Technology. Kristen has over 18 years of CPG experience in sales across all channels of distribution, marketing, and photography. She has worked in both corporate and start-up companies including Samsonite, American Tourister, and currently a partner of Sublime Marketing Group. Additionally, Kristen manages advertising, public relations, media relations, photography, philanthropy, and creates cohesive marketing plans for Frankly Organic Vodka. Kristen is an avid home chef who embraces organic and medicinal ingredients, enjoys strolling farmers markets, adores dogs, delights in traveling the world, and speaks conversational Italian and Spanish.
Can you tell us a story about what brought you two to your respective career paths?
Kristen Risk: We met while working for Samsonite Corporation, married, and raised a family. While I remained home, Philip continued traveling the world holding executive positions for a plethora of diverse firms. When the corporate world no longer aligned with his goals, Philip ventured out and developed his own CPG company, which continues to be successful after 15 years.
In our mid-forties, we began to run marathons, engaged in a healthier lifestyle and didn’t give much thought to what we were drinking on the weekends. We did, however, enjoy our daily wellness shots after working out which led us to explore the development of a better-for-you cocktail. We set out to create the world’s first functional spirit, using USDA-certified organic ingredients like turmeric root, maca root, wild cherry bark, and ginger root with ingredient transparency at the forefront, a rarity in the industry.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you two got married?
Kristen Risk: Reuniting with my husband in the CPG world after a hiatus spent raising our family has been an interesting journey. Our character strengths aligned with different aspects of Frankly that empowered us to lead separate initiatives while employing our past experiences. The business connection we once embraced became a renewed business relationship we honor and respect.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Attribute to: Philip Risk
I thought our experience in the CPG world could be easily translated into the spirits industry. We clearly underestimated the intricacies of the government’s 3 tier system requiring distribution partners. The funny part is the three largest distributors all declined our brand to distribute so we went with a small wine distributor and quickly outgrew their capabilities. We built the brand through grassroots marketing and getting liquid to lips. One year later, we were approached by the two largest distributors and signed a national partnership with Southern Glazers Wine & Spirits.
Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Philip Risk: As CEO of Be In Good Spirits, LLC, I keep a nimble mind, pivot without hesitation, and continue to strategize with my team.
What do you think makes your company stand out?
Philip Risk: Today’s demanding consumers want to clearly embrace a company’s ethos. Specifically, how a product is made, transparency, social responsibility, and who is behind the brand. I believe a few characteristics help us stand out within the crowded vodka category; ingredient transparency, crafting with real organic ingredients, the use of functional ingredients, award-winning taste, and lastly our philanthropic mission, Frankly loves ️Fido.
Can you share a story?
Kristen Risk: It’s so rewarding to personally conduct tastings with thousands of consumers. We have the opportunity to connect with our customers on a deeper level and share our story with them. It’s so amazing to hear their reactions to what we are saying, and what they are tasting. We find that people are impressed by Frankly and where we are taking the company.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now?
Philip Risk: As a small company, we continue to invest in product development for brand extensions across beverage segments. New projects begin with extensive due diligence in market research, not only in the spirits category but more importantly in the organic food and beverage space. We see significant opportunities to introduce innovative better-for-you options to consumers under the Frankly Organic umbrella.
How do you think that will help people?
Kristen Risk: The organic food and beverage industry has seen steady increases. Educating consumers and providing them with better and tastier options ultimately lead to a cleaner planet. Organic farming supports sustainable agriculture practices and leans on biodiversity. That, in turn, has a positive impact on our planet and the people that inhabit it.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
Philip Risk: Our small entrepreneurial company is not for everyone. We have a need to work harder and more nimble than the large conglomerates. I communicate this in every interview reinforcing that our company is a family. At Frankly, our core values include the requirement for our team to be passionate, determined, humble, like the product itself, and build honest relationships through communication. As a small business, we create process-driven opportunities for improvement. We do this to ensure that we have a foundation upon which the business can run more efficiently and effectively. This provides the necessary platform for success. We focus on enabling our team to have autonomy and make decisions as if it was their own business.
How do you define “Leadership”?
Philip Risk: As Richard Branson says, “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” Our employees are considered family. To speak Frankly is to speak honestly. As a leader, I always challenge myself to step back from the significant ups and downs of a startup and focus on creating a positive, empowered team that embraces and drives change. In our company, there are no “executive teams.” Everyone is expected to be willing to get their hands dirty. Leading by example continues to show our team we are in this together.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
Kristen Risk: In 1992, Philip and I started our professional sales careers at Samsonite Corporation. Their investment in employee training and development has provided us a solid and impactful foundation for professional growth.
Can you share a story about that?
Kristen Risk: We were young, and as new hires (with cool new company cars), we underwent formal training that incorporated a myriad of tasks, including role-playing. The humbling experience of performing a pitch in front of your fellow co-workers was a burden both Philip and I still reminisce about, often with good laughs. We were fortunate to have master instructors and world-class motivational speakers that empowered us to rise to the occasion while providing a solid foundation for business.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Kristen Risk: It was important to the founders to give back to the community. Frankly’s philanthropic mission is to provide 1% of our revenue to animal welfare organizations. We connect with individual animals in need, help alongside those who rescue, and financially assist a diverse group of organizations. Financially supporting a mission is important, however, we also support hardworking organic farmers who take pride in the soil they sow their seeds.
What are the “5 Things You Need To Thrive As A Couple”? Please share a story or example for each.
Kristen & Philip Risk:
- Communication- The importance of listening to one another and being present.
- Respect — Respecting each other’s views or decisions allows us to support one another.
- Separating Business from Personal — This is the most difficult aspect of owning a business together. There is a concerted effort daily to respect the necessary limited time away from the grind.
- Time Alone — Sometimes we just need space for rejuvenation, wellness, and personal hobbies. It always brings goodness to our relationship.
- Perspective — Keep the business in perspective.
You are people 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? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Kristen Risk: Creating a ‘Clean Food Movement’ would educate consumers on the abundance of toxins that are used on most commercially grown food. Cancer and disease are skyrocketing in the USA, yet doctors rely on pharmaceuticals as a resolution rather than addressing the cause. Lobbying for organic farmers, the regeneration of soils, and an educational platform that empowers people to grow their own food or shop at farmers’ markets and take responsibility for their health. I am a firm believer in food as thy medicine; incorporating functional ingredients, medicinal mushrooms and a diet rich in plants all assist in maintaining a healthy body.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?
Kristen Risk: “Awareness is the greatest agent for change” — Eckart Tolle
Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Kristen Risk: Heightened awareness allows me to live consciously, hence make better decisions, which ultimately leads to greater happiness. It affects all aspects of my life; where I purchase my food, what type of food I ingest, the clothes I wear, the places I go, and the people I choose to engage with. Awareness has led me to spend more time with meaningful people but mostly has taught Philip and me the fragility of life.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them:
Philip Risk: Richard Branson and Leonardo DiCaprio are two individuals that continue to inspire me. As Branson famously says, “Business opportunities are like buses, there’s always another one coming. You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.” DiCaprio remains selective in working with proficient directors while remaining low profile and humble. His philanthropic efforts supporting organizations and initiatives dedicated to securing a sustainable future for our planet are inspiring.
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