Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of FOU-DRE Vodka
Meet Chanel Turner: The Black Woman Behind Her Own Vodka Brand And Festival
We can’t say it enough, Black women are truly magical. They’re running businesses, getting degrees, and competing and winning in markets that have consistently been dominated by men.
Florida native Chanel Turner is among them. After moving to the Maryland-D.C area to attend college at Bowie State University, Chanel began working as a contractor for the government. One night while out with friends, they realized that Vodka was one of the few spirits that doesn’t go down smooth when taken straight. They were tired of having to mix sugary sodas and juices just to enjoy it.
So, at 25-years old she set out to change that by creating her own brand of smooth and clean Vodka.
“There are not a lot of American-based vodka brands that have the quality like Russian brands,” Chanel told Travel Noire. “I wanted to create spirits that were smoother minus all of the impurities and things that give you hangovers.”
After 6 months of researching, Chanel stumbled upon a distillery in South Carolina that was using a new technology to do just this. She met with them and loved what they were doing.
After testing around 87 different formulas, she found her winner and FOU-DRÉ Vodka was born.
Next, she wanted to create a bottle that helped her to stand out on the market. She found a glass company in France to help her develop the design. It is a lightening bolt and the name of her brand, FOU-DRÉ, is said to be a play on the French word for lightening.
“March of 2013 my first set of bottles went out for distribution around the D.C. market. In 2014, I landed a big contract with a distributor in Singapore after getting my bottle design patented. They are now selling my brand across Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, and the Philippines.”
These Asian markets are currently Chanel’s largest markets. They buy her Vodka at $91 per bottle whereas the cost is only $51 stateside.
Creating the Black-owned spirit and wine festival
Around late 2014, Chanel read an article from Black Wall Street that gave nods to Black-owned spirit brands around the country. FOU-DRÉ was among the 12 or so brands in that list. But, Chanel noticed something. While she may have heard of one or two of those brands, she honestly didn’t know any others beyond that, and that was an issue.
“There are a lot of Black-owned brands in the industry, we just don’t all know about each other. To know that there are others out there like me, I had to somehow get to know them,” Chanel said.
Chanel and her team set out to create what is now known as the Black-Owned Spirit and Wine Festival.
Now in it’s 4th year, this D.C. area festival will feature around 30-35 Black-owned spirit and wine brands in hopes of giving them more visibility to consumers.
“These brands are well-known in their respective cities and markets, but most aren’t known nationally. If we’re going to drink and spend our money on liquor, why not drink something that WE created.”
The festival will be held on September 28 from 2pm-8pm at Dock 5 in Union Market. In addition to the spirit and wine vendors, there will be food vendors, an outdoor cigar and whiskey lounge, as well as live cooking demos.
Tickets can be purchased via the festival’s website: www.blackownedspiritfest.com.
Advice to aspiring Black owned sprit makers
“Do your research and get the right suppliers. I have seen some pretty bad things happen just from people not choosing great suppliers. Also, building relationships in this industry is just as important as the money you need to fund things. You need relationships to help you maneuver through this sometimes tough market.”
Chanel plans to incorporate panel sessions into the festival starting next year. She wants aspiring spirit makers to have resources and knowledge from people who are already closely tied to the industry.