…Creating a sense of community. It’s easy today to get lost in your day to day job or demands of life and to spend too much time online rather than connecting with others in the real world. We think it’s really important to develop a sense of community and help everyone rise together. That is why we collaborate with like minded brands here in Los Angeles. We offer our space to other brands to use complimentary for pop up events so long as we are helping cross promote each other. We are also launching the Our/LA podcast which features local entrepreneurs, content creators, and influential leaders highlighting the culture of our city. There is a big need toward a movement of community, especially in a big city like L.A., and we are hoping to bring that.
I had the pleasure to interview Rupert Runewitsch and Anton van der Woude the founders of Our/Los Angeles Vodka
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us about your “backstory”?
The parent company, Pernod Ricard, works with local partners in the various cities where they launch the brand. So each “Partner” for OUR/Vodka is unique in their own sense meaning that they understand their city, they love their city and they know what the locals want. In every other city, the partners are originally from that city. Although we (Rupert Runewitsch and Anton Van Der Woude) are from London originally, we both have experience in the alcohol industry and fell in love with Southern California when we moved here. We were thrilled Pernod Ricard took a chance on letting us lead the Our/Los Angeles brand. We’re two Brits, who truly know and love L.A
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?
We hold vodka tours and tastings at the distillery. At the front counter, we also have a display of our bottles and these bottles are filled with water as they are just for show to display the bottle design and label. During one of our tastings, I was describing the process of how we make our vodka and how smooth it is while the guests were doing their tastings. I didn’t realize that the bartender helping me had used the display bottles, not realizing, and had made everyone water martinis. It was quite funny!
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that was relevant to you in your life?
Quality over quantity. It sounds simple but it really is an important lesson for life. This applies to both business and personal life for both Rupert and I. It is really how we live our lives.
How exactly does your company help people?
There are two really unique things about this product. The first is that for the first time ever in the history of the spirits industry a brand has both a global and local identity. Traditionally, alcohol brands are either craft and operating out of a micro-distillery or mass produced before being shipped around the world. Our/Los Angeles is different in the sense that we have both a local and national identity at the same time. We operate under the OUR/Vodka family of 6 distilleries worldwide, but each city is run independently as its own brand with their own micro distillery, that distills conforming to the same global recipe but using locally sourced ingredients. This means people can resonate with the brand around the world but drink locally in each city.
Although the bottles all look the same, each city has local characteristics that differentiate it from other cities in terms of flavor profiling and brand positioning. For example, the Londoners have positioned their brand as “vodka for wine people,” whereas OUR/Los Angeles is more about a celebration of the all that is iconic to this city and the LA lifestyle, and taking advantage of all there is to do here in Southern California.
The second particularly unique thing about the vodka is the yeast. We ferment a Non-GMO strain of yeast that is traditionally used in wine making. It is incredibly sensitive and is exclusive to Our/Vodka. When this yeast is fermented it releases specific fruity and flowery aromatic molecules which are what give Our/Los Angeles its unique flavor. The double wheat blend is what makes the vodka so smooth.
Perhaps our most exciting activation at the moment is Our/Los Angeles podcast and accompanying ‘zine which will be unique to Los Angeles. The podcast and zine will feature local talent as guests that fit the Los Angeles culture. This way hotel guests, locals, and visitors can get the full OUR/Los Angeles experience! They can sip locally, listen locally and read locally. It’s full circle.
Creating vodka truly is a science and our equipment was custom made for our unique ingredients and streamlines this process. Come in for a tour!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person or mentor who you are both grateful towards/admire?
For me (Rupert): In terms of help, I wouldn’t say that there has been anyone who has helped me directly and put a lot of that side of things down to hard work and learning as much as possible about the industries I’ve been a part of. In terms of mentors and influencers (not the current form), there are several obvious ones such as Elon Musk and Steve Jobs that have inspired me. In terms of my current influences and mentors, I would have to say Gary Vaynerchuk, Virgil Alboh and Tim Ferris form a big part of my direct and indirect mentors. Gary Vaynerchuk, who I worked for and is an investor in my other company Vista, is someone I’ve learned a lot from, as is Tim Ferris from all the amazing content he produces. Virgil Abloh, the Founder of Off-White, current Creative Director of Louis Vuitton, is doing so much and so well and I find that inspiring. Especially as I’m trying to do a lot at the moment.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share a story?
Well, I wouldn’t call it success just yet, it is early days and will be a while before we can achieve anything meaningful. We try to support the local community by offering up our space for pop-ups to other like-minded brands that don’t have access to a beautiful brick and mortar in one of the most creatively up and coming parts of the city.
What 3 things would you advise to someone who wants to emulate your career?
Work with brands that are innovating and adapting, given the saturation of the market and fickleness of the consumer, innovation is the key to survival.
Never give up and don’t take no for an answer, it can be tough out there and very demoralizing at times, people are flaky in this industry. It takes years to build a brand.
Quality counts. If the product is good and ingredients you use are ethical, this will make a difference. “You can’t flog a dead horse”, as they say… In the UK anyway!
Is there a person whom you would love to share a drink with and get advice from. Who and why?
Kate Moss. She would love Our/Los Angeles.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started my company” or you would tell someone starting out in their company and why. Please share a story/ example for each.
1) Consistency is equally as important as quality, in all things, but especially with regards to the spirit industry. Having a consistent product that people can rely on will mean the difference between success or failure.
2) Innovation is crucial. Your company or brand will live or die by the measure of how well you can innovate and adapt to changes in your consumer demands and industry. For our brand, if you cant innovate, you won’t last because their is so much competition in the spirits market. Our next innovation that we will be releasing soon are our infusions. There is a trend right now toward flavored vodka but our brand is never going to release something like a citrus Our/LA bottle. We won’t compromise on the high quality of our vodka. However, we will release infusion kits that come with a tea bag so you can infuse Our/LA at home with flavor in that way.
3) Don’t be scared about making mistakes, you will get stuff wrong! This seems obvious but too often times fear holds back innovation and progress. Sometimes the very best thing comes right after a mistake.
4) Source the highest quality ingredients. Whatever your brand or product, don’t skimp out on production. You may think you are saving money and may save money in the short term but in the long game, you will hurt the end product and the brand reputation which is everything.
5) Trust the people on your team to do their jobs. At Our/LA we each bring our own skillset to the table and as a small team, we have to rely on each other to do our jumps. That said, we are also always wearing many hats and are ready to jump in and share the load with each other when needed. You have to invest in your people because at the end of the day, the people are the company,
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Creating a sense of community. It’s easy today to get lost in your day to day job or demands of life and to spend too much time online rather than connecting with others in the real world. We think it’s really important to develop a sense of community and help everyone rise together. That is why we collaborate with like minded brands here in Los Angeles. We offer our distillery space to other brands to use complimentary for pop up events so long as we are helping cross promote each other. We are also launching the Our/LA podcast which features local entrepreneurs, content creators, and influential leaders highlighting the culture of our city. There is a big need toward a movement of community, especially in a big city like L.A., and we are hoping to bring that.
Originally published at medium.com