Food & DrinkFood Features

Taylor Redd Breaks Barriers as Redd Rose Vodka Founder

Blazing a trail for women in a male-dominated industry

a portrait of Taylor Redd holding her product while smiling
Taylor Redd with a bottle of Redd Rose Vodka. (Courtesy of Redd Rose Vodka)

Any entrepreneur will tell you about the hardships that come with building a business: seed funding, analyzing supply and demand, marketing and any number of other tasks. Taylor Redd, founder and creator of Redd Rose Vodka, has experienced all of these challenges with one added caveat: having to sell herself as a competent Black woman in a male-dominated industry.

“I’ve been a mixologist for 11 years,” she said. “One thing I recognize is the lack of women representation in the industry— and outside of that, even when it comes to the bar owners, the salesman, all of the places. Women dictate the cocktails, but they don’t support us.”

Redd launched Redd Rose Vodka, a strawberry lemon flavored vodka that can be consumed on its own or with a mixer, in 2018 and sold her first bottle in 2020, becoming the first and still only Black- and female-owned flavored vodka in the state of North Carolina. 

“It feels like I’m supposed to be here,” she said. “It feels surreal. It feels like I am changing a narrative. It feels like I’m doing exactly what I said I was going to do.”

Redd named the product after her grandmother, Rose Redd, an entrepreneur who sold goods at flea markets and eventually expanded to operate her own flea markets. Rose inspired Taylor to strike out in carving her own path in a male-dominated industry. 

“Rose created a safe space for women,” Redd said. “She inspired entrepreneurs, she was a very tenacious woman in her industry. So in honor of my grandmother and her legacy, I wanted to create that safe space and create that change and drive that narrative inside the spirits industry.”

Channeling her grandmother, Redd aims to make a more inclusive space through her product. Infusing her vodka with strawberry lemon flavors, she strives to make her product more palatable in more ways than one.

She set out to create a vodka that was not only smooth and enjoyable when drunk straight but also versatile enough to enhance any cocktail. 

”Vodka is the number one selling spirit in the world, but people stray away from vodka because they know it’s very harsh and abrasive,” she explained. “But when they taste Redd Rose, not only are you enjoying the flavor profile, but you are also getting a sip of a legacy. You are getting a sip of a story that you can relate to.

a photo of a bottle from Redd Rose with a white lamp in the background
The First bottle of Redd Rose sold in 2020. (Courtesy of Redd Rose Vodka)

“Not only that, but in the world full of spirits, how many founders do you know?” she continued. “How many founders can you touch? How many founders can you have a conversation with? And how many of them are women?”

Moving to CLT

Redd, who refers to herself as a “mompreneur,” came from Cincinnati, Ohio, where she worked in the courthouse. She became burnt out with the legal field and had to make a decision. 

“I was working for the district court judge and I didn’t want to work for another judge, and I was trying to figure out, ‘Do I want to stay in Ohio? Do I want to leave?’” she recalled. “At the time, Ohio didn’t have a whole lot to offer, and I just wanted more.”

Ultimately, she decided to leave. Her contract ended on a Thursday and she had her car packed and ready to go by Monday. She went to Atlanta first because she had family in the area and lived there for a time when she was younger, but quickly realized she didn’t like it there any more than Ohio and didn’t want to raise her son in the area. 

“I came to Charlotte on a wing and a prayer,” she said, adding that she had no family or friends here. “I had no plan when I came down here. I just packed up and left.”

Unsurprisingly, she fell in love with the Queen City and decided to stay. She took a bartending course, became a mixologist, and got an apartment. 

After a while, though Redd didn’t have a plan when she originally set out for Charlotte, one began to bloom. As a mixologist, she became acquainted with Jennifer Moxley, a project manager at Sunshine Media Network whom she met in March 2020 while organizing an event that would in the end get canceled due to COVID-19. 

Despite the unlucky circumstances behind their meeting, the two stayed in touch. 

“We connected on a friend level, which is what is common with my clients and I, because I only work with people I believe in, so it’s easy for us to become friends beyond that,” Moxley said.

Redd had technically already launched Redd Rose Vodka when she met Moxley, though she hadn’t done much with it just yet. Moxley remembers being impressed with Redd Rose to the point that she was shocked she wasn’t further along in her business venture. 

a portrait of Taylor Redd laughing in front of her company's products
Taylor Redd (Courtesy of Redd Rose Vodka)

Redd told Moxley then that her goal then was to sell a few bottles, maybe a dozen, but Moxley urged her to aim higher. Redd increased the goal to 100, ultimately surpassing that by selling 130 that year. Redd Rose Vodka has seen steady growth since that time, and is now regularly sold out at local ABC stores. 

“Taylor has built a national spirit brand against insurmountable odds and I’m so proud of her and her work,” Moxley said. “There’s still a long way to go but she’s celebrated in so many places as a pioneer.”

Hurdles, obstacles, and what’s ahead

After proving herself as a mixologist, Redd had a few options for where to go next. She said she landed on launching a spirit brand because she felt it could make a bigger impact on people’s lives.

“If I open a bar or restaurant, I can only touch the area that that bar or restaurant is,” she said. “If I have a flavored vodka, I can touch the world. It just is different than having a restaurant. I can really be that more dynamic and have more offerings with owning a physical spirit that’s on the shelf.”

To make that impact, Redd is on a constant search for investors. Moxley said that Redd has an additional hurdle because she has to find people to invest not just in her product, but also in her.

“I sat in investor pitches with her and it’s disgusting how people talk to her,” Moxley said. “It’s like she is treated like this is a hobby, like it’s cute. We all hear these, ‘Oh, your little business’ comments. She deserves investors at a multimillion dollar level for her company, not just because of the quality of the product that is a solution she identified in the market, but also because of the work she’s put in to get to this point against all odds in the industry.

“And she’s a mom on top of all of it,” Moxley continued.

Redd said that it has felt like an uphill battle to make people take her seriously as an independently owned company, but also feels that can be part of her appeal if people would just give her a chance.

So many of the known spirits companies were founded decades if not over a century ago and have become so corporatized that there is no face or personality to connect with. 

“Conglomerates and major corporations own these brands and create them with no narrative, no story,” she said. “They just pump out brands. They have the money for marketing. They shove the marketing down our throat. So of course, we go and buy it. But what if you could buy a brand that you know that you can actually believe in?” 

Redd said that when she asks people why they are loyal to a given spirits brand, they often can’t even answer. 

a photo of redd rose's vodka bottle held in the air with the sky in the background
A bottle of Redd Rose (Courtesy of Redd Rose Vodka)

“They have no idea. And then I say, ‘Well, why would you drink Redd Rose?’ It’s because you know me and it’s because you believe in the story … I’m approachable,” she said, laughing. “Talk to me. Hey, invite me out. The bigger picture is, let’s conquer the world one step at a time.” 

However, Moxley warns that Redd faces more than funding and brand recognition hurdles. 

“It’s not just a personality sometimes with a founder,” Moxley said. “Sometimes it is an expectation because of systemic racism, sexism, classism and the intersectionality of all of it, that so many incredible people such as Taylor are expected to be humble and underestimated because there aren’t a lot of people who look like her doing it.

“Her barrier is something I see frequently with my clients who are predominantly women or minority entrepreneurs and experts,” she continued. “Other people aren’t recognizing the value and amplifying them the way they deserve. [Redd] didn’t just wake up one day and decide to do this. She’s literally a founder’s dream story — she was a mixologist who heard a problem in the customer base and created the solution.”

Despite the barriers, Redd has no plans of slowing down her dreams. 

While she owns the Redd Rose recipe, Redd currently partners with a husband-and-wife duo who make the vodka from their independent distillery in Minnesota. 

Her next goal is to buy her grandmother’s land back from the city of Cincinnati so she can develop her own distillery and/or distribution center and create jobs on the same property where her grandmother created jobs.

She added that she would have no intention of leaving Charlotte, however, as she would headquarter the brand here and hopefully create more jobs.

Moxley said she is ready for her friend to take off.

“I’m excited for her success and her growth and that one investor that sees her value,” she said.

Redd feels that she is just getting started. With more events being brainstormed and more flavors being concocted, she thinks her story will plant seeds for others to grow. 

“It’s not easy being an entrepreneur,” Redd said. “Especially when you don’t come from wealth. But there’s a way that you can make it happen, and you have to solely focus on that. If I can help one more person become a full-time entrepreneur, I am more than willing to do that. I’m not here to say it’s easy, but I’m here to say it’s worth it.”

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