Nicole Young is the CEO and Co-Founder of the highest-rated flavored whiskey, Frisky Whiskey. The first and only Black woman to own a flavored whiskey brand, Nicole is proud to have co-created such a highly decorated beverage in arguably the fastest-growing category in the spirits industry. The dynamic trailblazer also channels her vast professional experience - which spans fitness and modeling to clothing and costume design, to media relations and mixology - into compelling content for broadcast television, print and digital media outlets.
During our interview, Nicole shares her journey to becoming the highly-lauded CEO of Frisky Whiskey, what it takes to be an effective entrepreneur, and misconceptions about whiskey being a"man's drink."
Thanks for sitting down with Confidence Daily! Tell us about what you do.
It is my pleasure! Thank you for having me. I am the Co-Founder and CEO of Frisky Whiskey, the first and only Black-woman-owned flavored whiskey brand on the market. I am also a TV lifestyle expert and writer. I have hosted and produced television packages and contributed articles to a number of publications.
My career spans many different industries, and all of these diverse experiences led me to my career creating content for broadcast television, print, and digital media outlets. Everything I speak about relating to lifestyle are things I’ve professionally done, from styling to makeup artistry to cocktail creation and recipe development. Now moving into whiskey, owning a whiskey brand is an extension of my love for flavor and creating new recipes. With Frisky, I’m proud to have created such a highly decorated beverage in arguably the fastest-growing category in the spirits industry.
How do you cultivate confidence?
It is so important to believe in yourself. One of my key takeaways as a Black female entrepreneur is that virtually everyone will doubt you and your ability to succeed. You need to put in the work and let your product speak for itself. Don’t waste time seeking other people’s approval. The only people you have to impress are your target audience.
What does being a woman-owned business mean to you?
As a woman who owns a business, I believe in empowering other women. Women have a much harder time being taken seriously by investors than men, which deeply hinders our ability to level the playing field regarding entrepreneurship and business ownership. I am incredibly thankful to my female-led team and am genuinely humbled by their hard work in ensuring Frisky Whiskey's great start.
What was your business origin story?
As a recipe developer, I’ve always loved using flavor to expand people’s palates. I created a flavored whiskey brand to transform people’s preconceived notions about whiskey and what it should taste like. When the opportunity presented to launch a flavored whiskey brand, I jumped at the chance to help expand the whiskey audience.
Okay, coming up with a great idea and actually taking the steps to become an entrepreneur and launch your company are two very different things. How did you know it was time to take the leap?
Many businesses start with a great idea but don’t make it because they can’t be sustained. A great idea and perseverance are necessary but must be backed by financing and a solid business plan. You have to do your research and put yourself out there.
With Frisky, after extensive market research, we determined that a void could be filled in the whiskey space, specifically for flavored whiskey. In contrast to what flavored whiskey meant before Frisky, we created a premium whiskey with natural flavor without a fruity taste and no artificial flavoring or dessert-like aftertaste. We found that void and really zeroed in on what needed to be done.
Sometimes entrepreneurship can be a hard and isolating journey. How do you stay confident along the way?
I like to think back about what we’ve accomplished so far. Thankfully, Frisky has been so well received. Distributors, retailers, and, most importantly, consumers like our product and our brand. That is not to say that there have been no challenges. Yet here we are. Whenever I face uncertainties or setbacks, I remind myself that it is all just part of the process. Hard work and determination will come out on top in the end.
If you had to list three traits or attributes that have been pivotal for your success, what would they be?
Resilience. Success doesn't come overnight.
Strong delegation skills. Build a strong team and trust them to get the job done.
A balanced perspective on the positive and negative. Knowing how much to focus on both sides of the coin is super important!
What's one myth you'd like to debunk about your line of work?
Whiskey is not just a man’s drink. Women whiskey consumers are an ever-growing market. The stats don’t lie; there’s a market and a formula for success in this category. Brands are making whiskey more approachable and bringing a new audience as a result.
What advice would you give to burgeoning entrepreneurs?
Would advise them to work their hardest to finetune what they’re trying to do and find the money to make it happen. Once they have those two things in place, don’t give up.
What words do you live by?
Surround yourself with people that inspire you. I make it my business to surround myself with individuals who I can inspire but who also inspire me.
Any final words of wisdom?
Entrepreneurship is hard and really can take its toll on a person. If you’re starting a business, don’t forget to prioritize your health. There is a deep connection between health and performance at work and home.