Align yourself with people within your industry that you admire and can lead you in the direction of success. I had a mentor in the beginning who introduced me to people in the alcohol industry in the Midwest, however, these people tried to discourage me from moving forward because they didn’t think a Black woman could make it in “their” industry. They also felt that my desire to have an all-natural product in this industry wouldn’t be of interest to consumers.
I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Dee Tutt.
Dee Tutt has always loved to host a good party. She loves bringing those closest to her together to connect, celebrate, create memories, and “cheers” with her homemade rum concoction. The homemade rum drink quickly became a guest favorite and in 2020 she debuted the latest premium version — Savîle Tropical Rum Cocktail, available in single-serve cans with 15% alcohol by volume.
Savîle, a loose French translation meaning “a taste of the islands,” combines the highest quality rum made with the purest sugar cane, delivering that Caribbean essence in every sip. The goal was to create the perfect cocktail that is ready-to-drink, without aftertaste, while focusing on the “health-conscious consumer.” This product is proudly all-natural, gluten-free, non-GMO and vegan-friendly. This is the first of many cocktails Dee and her team plan on developing to reflect her own values and taste.
Dee didn’t start in the spirits world, but her journey to get here is full of grit and grace. After nearly 4 decades of making subtle changes to her recipe, Dee finally believed she created the perfect formula. Encouraged by family and friends, Dee decided it was time to bring her beverage to the masses She called upon her dream team of advisors which included her husband, Carl, daughter, Patrice, and son, Brandon, to help bring it to life. Thus, the brand that consumers know and love called Savîle was born!
Savîle is a drink for all audiences of legal drinking age and portrays what Dee stands for — an all-natural, clean brand, that can be shared by all. Just pour over ice and you’re ready to get the party started! Rebranded, refined, and now available in a convenient can, Savîle is back, better than ever! Let the island taste of Savîle take you away!
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My first career was as a hairstylist. I had never even dreamed of becoming a brand owner of anything, let alone the manufacturer of an alcohol brand. My brand, Savîle, started 35 years ago as a drink I would make for parties with my family and friends. People always looked forward to my Caribbean-inspired rum concoction. Over the years, I made subtle changes based on the feedback I received from family and friends. Those same people kept encouraging me to turn it into a business and a product that I could market and share with the world. When I felt ready, I finally decided to take a chance, and a big leap of faith, and formulate a commercial recipe for distribution.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I was born and raised in Los Angeles, yet I never aspired to be in the “Hollywood Crowd.” I love and respect what actors and musicians do, but I didn’t pay much attention to those in the industry. I do enjoy the Hollywood atmosphere, and it is a great space for me to exercise and grow my brand and we’ve been lucky enough to have Savîle featured at many Hollywood events.
Our first event for the first iteration of our brand, Savîle Rumtini, was at an Oscar party for the American Black Film Institute. Savîle was the featured cocktail of the evening and we received so many good reviews and positive feedback from those in attendance. This was the first time I really felt that we had something special on our hands. That first event was the catalyst that got us invited to many other high-profile events.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
In this industry, mistakes that are funny are hard to find because those mistakes usually cost money. We made many mistakes when first launching our brand, but we learned from them. I now know that I need to surround myself with other successful entrepreneurs in the beverage industry that have had successful brand launches on a budget, and study their techniques. I need to be discerning and be careful of who I trust. If I feel like something isn’t right, it probably isn’t.
Can you share three reasons with our readers about why it’s really important for a business to have a diverse executive team?
When developing a product, people with diverse backgrounds will bring different experiences and cultural tastes to the table. This helps you to see the big picture so you can successfully market to the masses versus focusing on the demographic you’re most familiar with.
More broadly can you describe how this can have an effect on our culture?
A diverse team of people working together to create or run a business helps the consumer identify with that company and their products because they feel as though they are being represented. I think it can be inspiring for children as they can identify with someone from their background and see the possibility of someone they can become.
Can you recommend three things the community/society/the industry can do help address the root of the diversity issues in executive leadership?
Level the playing field. All schools and industries should offer equal opportunities no matter the race or gender and the media should show more diversity. We should not focus on one race or make them more prevalent.
Corporations and companies should hire diverse teams. They should hire people who are qualified to do the job and not just pull from the pool of people they are comfortable with.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
A leader is a person who can direct or influence a team or group of people toward a common goal. This person doesn’t have to have all of the answers, but they are willing to listen to others in order to guide the group toward the best possible solution.
I have an advisory board that I work with to help with business decisions. When I bring something to them, I listen to their feedback and evaluate their viewpoints. As the leader of my brand, it is my job to vet advice and opportunities, but ultimately make the best decision for my brand’s integrity, even if it is not an easy decision to make.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Launching a brand is even more expensive than you think. I knew launching a brand wouldn’t be cheap, but I had no idea how much money is really needed. I didn’t budget nearly enough money to get my brand recognized.
- Align yourself with people within your industry that you admire and can lead you in the direction of success. I had a mentor in the beginning who introduced me to people in the alcohol industry in the Midwest, however, these people tried to discourage me from moving forward because they didn’t think a Black woman could make it in “their” industry. They also felt that my desire to have an all-natural product in this industry wouldn’t be of interest to consumers.
- I found that when looking to raise funds, investors basically invest in people who look like them. I believe It’s hard to raise funds from potential investors because I am a woman and the statistics show that women receive approximately less than half the amount of what men receive, and being a minority woman, that amount is even less.
- Marketing is everything. You can have the best product in the world but if no one knows about it, how are you going to make it? We honestly didn’t think long-term on how we were going to get the product to the masses and I believe we wasted a lot of money trying to get an industry influencer to endorse our brand.
- Time, patience, and perseverance are key when launching a brand. You have to put in the time if you want to be successful. I learned early on I could not continue being a full-time hairstylist and part-time brand manager. This is a 24/7 job. I have been at it for eight years now and have gotten us this far, but we still have a long way to go.
You are a person of enormous 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. 🙂
I am a true believer in doing what you are passionate about. I was a hairstylist for 19 years and never felt truly fulfilled. When I started this venture of developing a cocktail for the masses, I felt like I was doing what was innate for me. I was creating a drink that sparks conversations, is made for entertaining and creates good memories. I have a brand that promotes a mindset of a forever vacation. These are all of my favorite things to do!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Anything worth having is worth waiting for.” Launching a brand doesn’t happen overnight and you’re not an instant success. I believe that if you ask something of God and it lines up with His plan for you, he will provide you with what you need to forge ahead and he will encourage you not to quit when things get tough.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
This is a difficult question because I think of two people for two different reasons. The first is Oprah Winfrey because she is a great motivator and she gives great inspirational advice. The second is Rihanna because I believe she gives off the vibe of my brand. She is from the Caribbean and is a great influencer.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Follow us at facebook.com/DrinkSavile, on Instagram @drinksavile and on Twitter @drinkSavile. For more information and buying options visit www.savilecocktails.com.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much!