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The Bourbon State is… Iowa?

Best wishes for a wonderful Mother’s Day weekend! This newsletter and podcast is for innovators, change-makers, and entrepreneurs, and features stories about the people – past, present and future – who change the world. They make decisions and take actions enlivened by what I call The Entrepreneur’s Ethic. The Entrepreneur’s Ethic infuses people, organizations and places where the future is created, and the world is made a better place.

In this episode, I explore today’s distilling industry with Rob Taylor, Co-Founder of Revelton Distillery, a business located in south central, Iowa. More alcohol is distilled in Iowa than any other state – by a significant distance actually – but most of it goes into cars as ethanol-blended gasoline.

Christi and Rob Taylor

Rob is distilling for a different purpose. We discuss the origin story of the business, Rob’s grain to glass strategy, his ‘go big or go home’ approach, the role of artisans in alcohol and why the weather in Iowa is good not just for growing corn, but for making fine bourbon. There’s also discussion of the role of mentors, another important part of The Entrepreneur’s Ethic. I enjoyed this conversation with Rob and know you will too.

Good Reads

-Venture Capitalists Should Bet on America - Katherine Boyle and David Ulevitch, Wall Street Journal

Three Things I Think (I Think)

1. First there was wine. Then beer. Now distilled spirits. – The post-prohibition re-emergence of wineries gained momentum in the 1970s and 1980s. Home brewing in the 1980s morphed into microbreweries and the emergence of craft beers in the 1990s. And in the last ten years, the number of craft distilleries like Revelton has exploded. The article above cites a report projecting a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 30.6% in the global craft spirits market. This is interesting to me because of the emergence of craft and artisan products… well, everywhere. My world is agriculture and food, and we see artisan products upsetting the applecart of traditional supply chains. Profitability and the value of assets and businesses flows away from large brands toward the artisan.

2. The risk part of early-stage investing is not always as high as usually assumed – Investing in early-stage businesses, angel or venture investing, is typically and rightfully assumed to be a risky asset class. Many startup businesses fail after all. If a venture capital fund has a portfolio of twenty businesses, the usual math is that three of those will have exceptional returns that will carry the portfolio where many return zero and the others very little return. But what if that, at least in some portfolios, isn’t true? I was part of a panel this week for the CFA (Certified Financial Advisor) Society of Iowa, and I posed that question. I realize that a higher interest rate environment will probably drive money from venture into other asset classes, but still…

3. We all need to create our own spine sweat moments – The entrepreneurship course I teach at Iowa State University wrapped up this week with eight rooms of students pitching to panelists. A hearty thanks to those panelists for taking the time to be sharks for two hours. It’s just another university course for students in some ways, but in another way it’s so much more. Students have developed their own idea for a startup business and worked to bring it to life. They stand in front of experienced entrepreneurs, investors and business people that they have never met and try to credibly articulate why their startup is worthy of existence. It’s a spine sweat moment for the students, and I can’t help but reflect how important those moments are over the course of careers aiming to make impact. If you don’t occasionally find yourself in the position of nervousness, lack of surety, and the potential for embarrassment and failure, then you probably aren’t pushing yourself all that much. What’s your next spine sweat moment?

Farm to My Table

Last year, I had the opportunity to meet Pete and Cathy Seghesio at Journeyman Meat in Sonoma, California. Their boutique Salumificio crafts artisanal salumi using local seasonal ingredients, local wines and Iowa pork. A sausage club? Absolutely! I received my shipment this week. The Holy Mole! with dark chocolate and cherries is fantastic.

two packages of sausage and one sausage sliced


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