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Carin Luna-Ostaseski is a first generation Cuban American and one of the first Hispanic personalities in history to start a Scottish whiskey company. Knowing that colored entrepreneurs in the United States were less likely than their colleagues to raise capital, Luna-Ostaseski wanted to do something to fill this gap.
Working with activist, actor and producer Wilmer Valderrama, she decided to set up the SIA Scotch Whiskey Entrepreneurial Spirit Fund. She sat down with Jessica Abo to discuss how this initiative challenges convention and inspires others to achieve the unexpected.
Jessica Abo: Tell us a little bit about what made you want to get into the scotch whiskey business.
Carin Luna-Ostaseski: I was a creative director for almost 20 years and towards the end of my career I would stare at my screen every day creating designs so everyone else could stare at their screens and their little phones all day. I thought, "I don't want my legacy like this."
What I love about scotch whiskey is something that brings people together in real life. It slows you down, you walk slowly, you take a moment with your friends and you really enjoy and enjoy that moment. And that's when I knew I wanted to realize my dream of creating a Scottish whiskey brand.
What was the first step you took?
I started mixing scotch whiskey from my own collection in my kitchen. And then it finally came to the point where I created a blend where I thought, "This is it. So I was able to introduce scotch whiskey to a whole new category of people." It's smooth, accessible, you can drink it straight or in a cocktail, and it was just perfect.
When you decided to start this company, you reached out to Kickstarter. What was your thought behind it?
I love kickstarter. In 2012 I was involved in a number of projects and I really enjoyed seeing the entrepreneur's journey behind the scenes. How they developed their logo, what challenges they faced. And I thought this is a great way to show my friends and family and people around the world how I started SIA Scotch Whiskey.
How did you integrate philanthropy from the start?
I knew giving back was a big part of the SIA Scotch Whiskey ethos. All along, people have been helping me get my brand off the ground. That's when I knew that it was really important to give something back. And every year at the end of the year I would add up my sales and give a percentage of that to a different group that helped other entrepreneurs grow and scale their business.
Now you are taking your philanthropy to the next level. Tell us about your latest announcement.
I am very excited to announce the launch of the SIA Scotch Whiskey Entrepreneurial Spirit Fund. We're giving away $ 250,000 in the form of $ 10,000 to 25 colored entrepreneurs. We will also support them with mentoring opportunities. We do this in partnership with Hello Alice, a free online platform that helps entrepreneurs get the tools and resources they need to scale and grow.
Tell us a little about who should apply.
We are accepting applications from now until August 10 at siascotchfund.helloalice.com. If you identify yourself as a person of color and you are a for-profit company with less than $ 1 million in gross annual sales and operating your business in at least one of these states: California, Florida, Illinois, Nevada, New York, and Texas, and you are 25 years or older. The winners will be announced on September 14th and grant recipients will receive their money by October 8th.
You have chosen to team up with the women of the Entreprenista League, a community of pioneering women entrepreneurs who offer curated online events and access to business support. Why was that so important to you?
I think the community is so important as an entrepreneur, and the Entreprenista League has done a great job providing their community with all the tools and resources they need. I am really proud to say that I personally donate a one-year membership to entreprenista.com/theleague to all scholarship holders.
In conclusion, what is your top piece of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Find a community. If there isn't a community out there, go out there and start one. I was fortunate enough to find a fellow entrepreneur who contacted me about the Women & # 39; s Cocktail Collective, a group of 25 founders of liquor brands. We don't compete with our business. In fact, we work together on cocktail menus and trade events, and it's just wonderful to have a soundboard where you can lose your vigilance and just be honest.