Business in Focus: Uncle Nearest

February 1, 2021 | Business In Focus

A closer look at companies executing leadership excellence
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When entrepreneur and author Fawn Weaver saw a 2016 New York Times article about Nathan “Nearest” Green, who while enslaved, taught Jack Daniel how to make whiskey, she moved to Tennessee from California to see if she could turn the story into a book or movie. Shortly after arriving, Weaver found that the site of Green’s distillery was for sale. She made an offer and quickly set about to give the godfather of Tennessee whiskey his due. If you’re curious about the quality, you may be interested to learn that Uncle Nearest was the most-awarded American whiskey or bourbon of 2019 and 2020.

Fawn Weaver, Founder of Uncle Nearest

Fawn Weaver, Founder of Uncle Nearest Whiskey

Not only did Weaver revive the lost heritage of a formative Black American crafts­man, she also became the first woman of color to run a major spirits com­pany and the first person of color to found one. Her dedication to diversity went beyond the CEO’s office. Weaver assembled an all-minority board and an all-female executive team–a rarity in the field. In 2019, Uncle Nearest named Victoria Eady Butler, Green’s great-great-granddaughter, a master whiskey blender, the first known African American to be so distin­guished.

In late spring of 2020, the Black Lives Matter move­ment hit the spotlight. As a builder of the most suc­cess­ful African American-owned spirits brand, Weaver imme­diately felt that she had to respond. She began working on multiple fronts to encour­age people of color to enter the spirits industry, elevate existing talent, and help small Black-owned brands succeed.

Uncle Nearest is on track to sell some 125,000 cases this year. Separately, Weaver launched the Black Business Booster program, which is helping 10 Black-owned spirits enterprises with everything from branding to distribution to capital.

Kudos to Weaver for reclaiming an iconic American story, building a diverse leadership team, and supporting Black-owned entrepreneurship. To learn more about the history of Nearest Green, click here.

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