– 3 Counterintuitive Moves for Building a Great BrandEstimated Reading Time: just 2 min

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Sometimes, your best business decisions are those that go against what everyone else is telling you to do. 

This often has been the case for Fawn Weaver, founder and CEO of Uncle Nearest, a spirits brand named for the distiller who mentored whiskey legend Jack Daniel. Founded in 2016, the company’s blends have won more than 150 awards. Most recently, her Shelbyville, Tennessee-based company was a 2020 Inc. Best in Business honoree for helping Covid-19 responders and other Black-owned businesses during the pandemic.

More than 210,000 U.S. locations sell Uncle Nearest. Landing that kind of distribution was the result of one of the many counter-intuitive decisions that Weaver made in growing her business. The story was among those she recounted to Marli Guzzetta, executive editor of Inc., during a recent Inc. stream event in the Your Next Move series.

Weaver says she declined an offer from a nationwide liquor distributor because of a strategy she calls “catch and kill.” Meaning, that if a large distributor takes your product nationwide, you might become a threat to one of their larger brands. Then, you might end up in a corner of their warehouse, with the distributor giving you excuses as to why it didn’t sell. 

Instead, she hired the best distributor from every state to sell her spirits and put each distributor in competition with one another for sales. In doing so, her reach grew from one state to 50 in less than two years.

“I did something that everyone told me not to do, which is the story of my life,” Weaver said. “if it had failed, it would have been the worst decision ever. But as it turns out, the smartest decision we’ve made so far.”

Here are two other tips from Weaver on key decisions that go against contrary beliefs.

Market to whomever you like

American whiskey has been largely targeted towards white men, according to Weaver, who says she was pushed to either market to this dominating whiskey consumer, or to the African American consumer simply because she’s a Black woman herself. But Weaver had no interest in dividing her target market.

“If I did that, that means that I don’t think that my product is good enough for everybody,” Weaver says. “What we have in common is far greater than what we don’t have in common. So all we have to do is target those things that are similar.”

Weaver didn’t break down her customer by demographics. Her target customer is anyone who was willing to pay for a $50 or $60 bottle of whiskey, she says.

Ignore limitations imposed by others

Weaver is the first woman of color to run a major spirits com­pany and the first person of color to found one. Her advice for anyone who is a minority in an industry is to ignore the fact entirely.

“The moment that you begin looking at the fact that this has never been done before, then that’s the moment that you have now set up boundaries for yourself,” Weaver says. She adds that surrounding yourself with mentors and peers who have a similar mindset and confidence is key.

Finally, she suggests interviewing people who have done extraordinarily well, and people who have failed. Somewhere in between the two extremes, she says, is where you should start.

Author: Anna Meyer
Date: 2021 02 26

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