When Chaunci King first started Royalty Spirits back in 2014, she often struggled to get her products placed in stores, restaurants and bars.
But just recently, her Portland, OR-based company completely sold out of Rex small-batch rye whiskey, practically overnight.
“It’s tough being a woman, and it’s tough being a Black woman in this industry,” King says. “It’s a very male dominant industry. To be totally honest, I had to play the game where I would have to send in someone who didn’t look like me.”
Despite these challenges, King persevered, an now her Miru vodka and pear vodka, her whiskey and line of CBD-infused mixers are sought out, and her business is growing. “I did a lot of this by bootstrapping, budgeting correctly and just saving and making my way,” she says.
As support surged for Black-owned businesses, King’s industry colleagues began sharing her social media posts, and her online sales at www.royaltyspirits.biz began to pick up. They especially promoted her posts and her products on July 7, Blackout Day in which people were encouraged to buy products and support Black-owned businesses. “All of a sudden, I kept hearing my phone ting, ting, ting, and I had 20 orders before noon,” she says. “My friends shared my posts, and their friends shared my posts, and then, suddenly, I’m sold out of my whiskey.”
King’s whiskey is back in production, and the stock of her number-one selling product is being replenished, to be sent out to waiting customers. “I’m beyond grateful, and I’ve never seen anything like this,” King says. “We need to hear and see such positive things in the midst of so much negativity.”
With the whiskey selling out, she hopes more customers will try her other spirits, her Miru vodka and pear vodka, as well as her line of CBD-infused mixers, which she just debuted in January just before the pandemic hit. The line of three mixers – exotic berry, sweet and sour, and vanilla ginger are already infused with CBD oil, as well as all natural ingredients. “CBD is not a trend,” she says. “It’s something here to stay.”
And it’s something she developed because she saw that bartenders were adding CBD oil and tinctures to cocktails. While she developed it primarily for bartenders and for home bar enthusiasts, King discovered that her customers love using it in non-alcoholic beverages like smoothies, teas and coffee drinks.
“My first product was my pear vodka,” she says. “I have a degree in psychology, and I worked in HR, but I always enjoyed bartending, and I love cocktails, but not ones that are so sweet and sugary…so I decided to start my own spirits company.”
King had to do a lot of research, and then, she launched her company in 2014. In late 2019, she decided to launch the line of mixers, and she got her license to manufacture them within 30 days, and then within another month, her line was in production. “I’m just driven,” she says. “When I want to get something done, I get it done.”
But it took a lot of education – and a lot of hard work – to get her products in stores. “I heard a lot of no’s before I heard yes’s,” she says.
Because the process of getting in the liquor industry was so challenging, King wants to make the process easier for other women so she’s been organizing a Women in Business Expo in Portland on Sept. 12. The expo was originally scheduled for May, but it’s been postponed because of the pandemic. “My goal is to give women business owners a platform to showcase their businesses and to meet other folks in the industry, to network with different people,” she says. “I would love to have an academy where women could learn the adult beverage industry because I didn’t have that.”