Meet Bridgette Taylor, The CEO and Founder of Harridan Vodka
Meet Bridgette Taylor, The CEO & Founder of Harridan Vodka
I’m Bridgette Taylor – the CEO and Founder of Harridan Vodka! I am a lover of all things cocktails (no dry January here), and currently reside in the West Village neighborhood of NYC.
I’ve always loved making cocktails, but I became mixology-obsessed during the early days of the Pandemic. As I experimented with recipes, I found liquor brand discovery half the fun. I found countless tequila, whiskey, and gin brands with fascinating brand stories, gorgeous packaging, and a high-quality liquid to match. Yet when I explored the vodka category, I couldn’t find that same innovation. The top five brands I saw over-and-over again on liquor store shelves were the same top brands as twenty years ago. The entire category felt dated and boring.
And then there was the spirit industry gender dynamic. I learned female founders were few and far between, and the brands marketed towards women were mostly run by men. I felt like this male-dominated industry demanded I buy pink, flowery, and low alcohol products – which reflected neither my style nor my taste preferences.
With time on my hands (#pandemiclife), I decided to be my own agent of change. I looked to make a new type of vodka brand – one that was relentlessly committed to quality, artisanship, and flavor, while promoting exclusively female main characters. The result was Harridan, a word which aptly means, “an angry, belligerent woman.”
Persistence is everything. This wasn’t a lesson I necessarily learned at Harvard, but rather one I learned by necessity as I built Harridan. People are resistant to change, which meant I heard countless “No’s” before I heard one “Yes”. I was lucky to have a support network who believed in me and my vision. Without them, I don’t think I could have mustered the determination and grit I needed to make Harridan happen.
Bridgette wears the Jody Midi Dress in Navy
The alcohol industry was one of the few industries to weather and emerge from the darkest days of pandemic relatively unscathed. This meant I fortunately avoided any challenges related to the financial solvency of my suppliers and partners.
The challenges I faced were largely in the form of convincing retailers, bars, and restaurants of the market opportunity Harridan looked to address. Unfortunately in the alcohol industry, spirit brands cannot sell direct to consumer in a meaningful way. The only way to reach our end consumer is through third party partners (e.g. liquor stores, bars, and restaurants). So while I saw the value and opportunity of an ultra-premium, overproof, female-centric vodka, the liquor store / bar owners – most of whom were men – oftentimes did not. I had one liquor store owner tell me that, “women don’t buy their own alcohol,” and advised me to instead cater towards the men who buy the alcohol for them. In the early days of pitching Harridan to these business owners, I frequently questioned myself and the value of my idea.
To overcome these challenges, I did two things. First, I did a massive amount of customer research. I conducted multiple focus groups, interviews, and general web research to back-up Harridan’s value proposition with data and insights. When I received pushback that Harridan’s market didn’t exist, I pointed to all the metrics and quotes that proved it did. Second, when I eventually got a handful of liquor store owners to put Harridan on their shelves, I asked my friends and family to purchase the bottles immediately – clearing out the store in 2-3 days. Although this was a bit of a smoke-in-mirrors strategy, I could at least tell future liquor store partners that Harridan had a stellar track record in multiple locations. Thankfully, the more Harridan sold, the easier pitching to these third-party partners became.
Our priorities at Harridan are to use the highest quality, locally sourced, and organic ingredients – distilling in batches of 1,000 bottles or less to ensure the flavor and character of the liquid can really shine. The end result is a vodka that truly tastes like nothing else on the market.
Yet liquid is only part of our craftsmanship promise to customers. Customers see and touch Harridan’s packaging before they taste our vodka – which made the quality and character of our bottle extremely important. We use recycled glass, made by artisans in Mexico, for the bottle itself, and we print our labels on an old school letterpress instead of a digital printer. After our distiller fills the bottles with vodka, he hand seals the glass with our signature black wax. All of these elements add a distinct texture and richness to our packaging, which is a beautiful metaphor for the vodka inside.
A snapshot from Instagram, follow along at @harridanvodka
As I mentioned above, persistence is everything. Don’t get discouraged by the word, “No”, and don’t give up.
I prioritize shopping women-owned businesses, and knowing that Mestiza is not only female-founded, owned, and designed, but also committed to championing female voices, makes the brand really special to me. And obviously the designs are simply incredible. I still remember the Mestiza jacket I wore on my first day of Harvard Business School – a day I was so nervous and wanted to both look my best and feel myself. Whenever I wear Mestiza, I feel confident, feminine, and unique – which makes it the perfect brand to wear any time I want to shine.
To me, wearing fun earrings with Mestiza is an absolute must. I also typically amp up my beauty routine with bold colors – like a bright lip or thick black eyeliner – to complement the fierceness of my Mestiza piece. Lastly, I always, always wear heels with Mestiza, as an ode to the elegance of the brand and style.
As cheesy as it sounds, believe in yourself and surround yourself with people who believe in you. Entrepreneurship is the most exhilarating experience, full of the highest highs and the lowest lows. You’ll never feel alone along the journey if you have friends, family, and mentors to encourage, challenge, and champion you.