Be willing to take a gamble. America is designed for that. I’ve failed many times and made many mistakes. I’ve had to close a couple of bars. I think it really all depends on the quality of your employees.
Is the American Dream still alive? If you speak to many of the immigrants we spoke to, who came to this country with nothing but grit, resilience, and a dream, they will tell you that it certainly is still alive.
As a part of our series about immigrant success stories, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Gerard.
A true Aussie from Sydney, Australia, now an American with a proper southern accent, Michael Gerard began his career as a young entrepreneur by opening Michael Gerard Marina at Birkenhead Point Marina, Sydney. In 1992, he moved to the US and opened Marthasville Brewing Company, Atlanta’s first microbrewery. He successfully learned the art of microbrewing, serving up numerous original craft beers until 1996 when he opened the Brewhouse Café in Atlanta, GA with his wife Denise. One of the most popular destinations in the Southeast to watch international soccer, Brewhouse Cafe was named one of the top three soccer bars in the US. He sold the bar in 2019 to build a new brand that has changed the alcohol industry.
Utilizing his skills in brewing, Michael decided to fine-tune a technology to distill spirits he’d been working on for more than 10 years. His idea was to invent a new way of perfecting the purification of spirits — — while maintaining the ancient art of traditionally aging. He reached out to two old friends Kenny May and Johnny Allen, and between the three of them started the research and development process.
The idea was to reduce the impurities “toxins” by breaking down the molecules. The multi-step process would then purify the liquid before the molecules return to their original state resulting in smooth, pure spirit with at least 50 percent less impurities. Once the plans were laid out they began bringing their vision to reality. After several years of R&D and many barrels for testing, the result was SpiritsUSA’s patented Quantum Purity technology.
Not only does the technology work as originally planned, it exceeded expectations by also removing the high heat in alcohol, allowing for an extremely smooth finish that has been coined “All Flavor…No Burn.” And by reducing the impurities, it was discovered that you could enjoy several glasses of any of the Legends Spirits and wake up the next morning with no headache or nausea, allowing consumers to #TakeBackTheMorning.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I was born in Sydney, Australia and grew up on the water sailing and scuba diving, and was a proud member of the Sea Scouts (Like the American Boy Scouts). The only son, I left school at age 16 to work on the railways in Queensland, then spent four years traveling the world. I left with one pair of jeans and one pair of shoes and made the decision to wear the native garb or costume wherever I was. Coincidentally, I was In Iran when the Americans were held hostage.
Was there a particular trigger point that made you emigrate to the US? Can you tell us the story?
I guess it would be that I had just broken up with my girlfriend and was free to go, and then I met an American. More below.
Can you tell us the story of how you came to the USA? What was that experience like?
I sold a yacht to an American who worked for Bell South, and his brother-in-law came over to see me and asked me to invest in his micro brewery. I said, “I’ll not only invest, I’ll move to America.” So in 1992, I sold my business, ironically six hours before Sydney was announced to host the Olympics. I’ve lived on three continents and wouldn’t trade north Georgia for anywhere.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped make the move more manageable? Can you share a story?
My mom always said, “Go, traveling will be your education.” She traveled the world when she was young and encouraged me to do the same. When I was nine I saw the Americans land on the moon and my dad said, “Only the Americans could have done that.
So how are things going today?
Very well. As it turns out, our patented technology has proven to be not only a hit with consumers, but the spirits industry, as well. Legends has won more than 20 awards, including the “2019 Vodka of the Year” award before we even released our vodka. We also won “Best of Class” Platinum at the 2020 Sip Awards and multiple Double Gold’s, Gold and Silver medals. Most recently the Legends 87 Bourbon won “Top 6 Must Try” at the 2020 Bartender Spirits Awards.
Our demand is growing and we have plans to release additional products, such as Legends™ Gin, set to launch this summer 2021 and Legends™ Sweet Georgia Brown Whiskey, being released in the fall of 2021.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Our aim is to give back. Sales of our products benefit the Humane Society and we are a sponsor of Angel Flight. All staff members are owners of the corporation, which was important to me as CEO.
You have first hand experience with the US immigration system. If you had the power, which three things would you suggest to improve the system?
I would toughen it up. We need tradesmen/women in this country, so let them in. On the flip side, if you don’t have a trade to offer, US Immigration should be more discreet.
Secondly, I believewe need a true third political party. Two isn’t working any longer. And to the immigrant coming to America, assimilate. Americans are open and welcome if you’re willing to work as a new American. And never underestimate a Southerner. They are the smartest people in world.
Can you share “5 keys to achieving the American dream” that others can learn from you? Please share a story or example for each.
1.Good work ethic. Your handshake is your bond.
2. Be willing to take a gamble. America is designed for that. I’ve failed many times and made many mistakes. I’ve had to close a couple of bars. I think it really all depends on the quality of your employees.
3. Be flexible. We must be able to change directions at any time. A great example is when COVID hit when we were attempting to launch a new product. We faced no means of distribution or sales, so you do what you can do when you can do it.
4. Give back. Be community driven. It’s great that we contribute to the tax base of our county, but it’s even better to be involved. Since the vaccine is in full drive, we have big plans late spring and early summer for some hands-on, face-to-face interaction with our community.
5. Be a mentor as a boss. My staff has always been part of my family and I’ve helped launch business careers. I had one server who I hired at the time because the wage wasn’t too steep, and with patience and guidance, that employee ended up owning two of his own restaurants.
We know that the US needs improvement. But are there 3 things that make you optimistic about the US’s future?
- When the s*#t hits fan in America, America becomes one.
- I believe in the future generations. 10% of every generation keeps us going.
- We are more open to race in the US than any country in the world. In France, for example, even with a family of six generations of French Moroccan heritage, you’re still considered Moroccan. This is the only country I know of that hyphenates.
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 whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Elon Musk, @elonrmuskk, @elonofficiall. That satellite network he’s developed will be the most powerful company in the world. The world is controlled by communications and he will take the power away from Google and Amazon.
What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!