Discover The Stories And Journeys Of The People And Brands Of Our Programs

Image of owners of BlackLeaf Organic Vodka

BlackLeaf Organic Vodka

Business Incubation Program 2023-2024

Following a chance encounter while vacationing in Cognac, France, Kevin Larkai forged a distillation partnership with Bertrand Laclie, owner of Maison Rene Laclie, a fifth-generation Cognac house, and created Blackleaf Organic Vodka. Complementing Kevin’s financial background, Monte Burrow, experienced spirits operations and marketing leader, joined the Blackleaf team and together they are living out their dream of creating and building a unique spirits brand.

Image of owners of Mission Craft Cocktails

Mission Craft Cocktails

Business Incubation Program 2023-2024

Meeting at a charity event and forging a friendship, Amit Singh and Marcin Malyszko are making their way onto the spirits scene by way of their mission-oriented ready-to-pour cocktails crafted with quality hand-selected ingredients and authentic spirits. They are as committed to having a product that does good as much as it tastes good with 5% of proceeds being poured back into the communities from which the products and ingredients are sourced and made.

Image of Tracie Franklin holding a bottle of Uncle Nearest Whiskey and a bottle of Jack Daniel's Single Barrel

Tracie Franklin

Leadership Acceleration Program 2021-2022

Tracie Franklin is taking her experience and knowledge to the world as a whiskey educator, industry diversity advocate, consultant and much more. Franklin launched SPIRITED TRACIE and traverses the industry near and far with boundless energy for the world spirits and the people who love our brands. Tracie earned a BFA from California State University-Fullerton and previously worked with William Grant & Sons®, Whersky, and SPIRIBAM©.

Image of Chris Montana, Du Nord Social Spirits founder

Du Nord Social Spirits, Chris Montana

Business Incubation Program 2021-2022

A gem among small batch distilleries, Du Nord Social Spirits emerged from our Business Incubation program in 2021 stronger than ever. Founder and leader Chris Montana toiled tirelessly to rebrand his portfolio, overhaul package design, and take a fresh approach to the Du Nord Social Spirits online experience. All the hard work has not gone unnoticed, Delta Airlines has chosen Du Nord as their global supplier of vodka.

Founded in 2013 by Chris Montana, the Minneapolis, Minnesota based distillery produces gin, vodka, liqueurs, and whiskies. Du Nord continues its commitment to diversifying the craft alcohol community by actively recruiting underrepresented communities of women and racial minorities.

Image of Byron Copeland, Nearest & Jack Initiative Leadership Acceleration graduate

Byron Copeland

Leadership Acceleration Program 2021-2022

Byron Copeland, one of our first graduates of the Leadership Acceleration program, has been on the move and giving back.

After graduating from the program in September 2022, Copeland carried his learnings from our program as well as his experience as an Operations Team Leader at the Jack Daniel Cooperage to his new role as Manager of Leadership Acceleration & Maturation Innovation at the Jack Daniel Distillery. Copeland is also a key organizer of the Spirits on the Rise Summit held each spring.

Byron joined Brown-Forman in 2015 after previous operations roles for Sabra Dipping Company®, Target®, and Atlanta Gas Light. He earned a BA from Morehouse College and MBA from Columbia Southern University.

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