We all love our black-owned spirits. Here at BLAC, we support black-owned liquor by concocting our favorite cocktails on BLAC Happy Hour.
So when we heard about a partnership that aims to put more Black representation behind our favorite cocktails, we needed to know more. BLAC sat with Dia Simms from Pronghorn and Lazar Favors from Black Sprits Legacy, LLC to learn more about their new project in Detroit.
BLAC: Can you tell us how did you meet? How did this idea of putting more Black representation in the spirits industry come about?
Dia: I’ve been in the spirits industry for about 25 years. Out of the gate, I and the two other co-founders of Pronghorn didn’t want to do things small. We wanted something for the long term that will have meaningful systemic effect.
Lazar: In May, I started hosting tasting events for Black-owned spirits. I reached out to one of the brands that Dia represents, Lobos. We started with that partnership. Dia and I started this conversation about putting Black-owned spirits out there.
We talked again in August, and Dia was hinting about something big; she didn’t say what. Come November, when we got back on the phone, I saw Pronghorn.
I was like, “Whoa! this is aligning with everything that I’m trying to do.”
Pronghorn looks like it could help with what I’m trying to do: trying to get these spirit brands into a larger space, into a place where they can function.
BLAC: What is Pronghorn and how did it start?
Dia: A pronghorn looks like an elk. It’s one of the fastest land mammals in the world. It could run up to 55 miles an hour. It’s second only to the cheetah. And if a pronghorn races against a cheetah, the cheetah will win in a sprint, but, for a marathon, the pronghorn will win every single time.
When we try to diversify an industry, we have a lot of ground to cover. We have centuries of inequity to catch up with, and that will take a lot of time. We must go fast. So, we thought that the pronghorn is about going far, while also going fast. So, we called our company Pronghorn.
Our initiative will drive 2.4 billion in economic value in 10 years through investing in Black-owned founders. We are making sure there’s more Black people reflected in the industry. We are looking at getting 1,800 people hired to work in this lucrative $353 billion industry of which we are currently grossly underrepresented.
BLAC: What are you doing right now to reach this goal of putting more Black representation in the spirits industry?
Lazar: We are looking for brands now. Go to our site, sign up, submit. So, we can start talking to you.
Dia: We’re investing in people who may have an idea, but you need the money to get their business running. If you’re interested in doing business in the spirits industry, please check our website at pronghorn.co.
We help entrepreneurs with everything: distribution, supply chain, marketing, and eCommerce. Example, helping businesses find very hard to source materials like glass, and helping them understand how to market their brand.
We have built a library of information, training materials, and relationships just to level the playing field for a population that is starting from a deficit. We don’t just want to get them up to a level playing field. We want get them up to plus 10, so that they can compete with other brands.
We’re just launching now. Diageo came on as our anchor investor. We’re fully funded and ready to go for the next 10 years, which is awesome. So, the first step is really getting the entries in.
BLAC: How has the response been to the efforts of Pronghorn?
Dia: We started off with our own research. We’ve found over 200 with Lazar helping us. With every conversation I’ve had with stakeholders in the spirits industry, they had no idea that the number of Black-owned suppliers is this many. Some said they’ve only been able to find 20 or 30. So having found 200, we’ve already gotten some of the work done.
BLAC: Why Detroit?
Dia: I think Detroit’s a beautiful place to start because we know this is a city where, if you put your mind to it, you can do absolutely anything.
I think Detroit is such a beautiful representation of what we’re trying to do in America. It’s just rich with culture. It’s not just American swag but a lot of fly things started in Detroit. Like how one cool evening on a block in Detroit could reverberate around the globe.
BLAC: What do you see as the opportunity In the city’s spirits industry?
Lazar: For me, it’s highly important to increase the awareness of these Black-owned spirit brands. We’ve been doing this for a long time, and this partnership with Pronghorn can help businesses in the industry move forward at a rate that they couldn’t have otherwise had Pronghorn not been around.
I want these brands to move at a certain pace, running like a pronghorn. Exactly like a pronghorn.
BLAC: What are some of the barriers and challenges for African Americans in the spirits industry?
Dia: It’s a tricky industry for anybody to get into. This is the only industry that has legit regulatory hurdles that are difficult to navigate. If you are operating in one county, the next county could have a completely different set of rules. So, if you’re a small business owner just trying to sell a lot of your product, it is hard.
BLAC: What advice would you give to an aspiring entrepreneur looking to get into the game?
Dia: One thing I will say: if you’re nervous or just don’t know if should try to own a business, let the math lead you.
The stats shows that the average Black person who owns anything is worth 12 times more than the average Black person who’s strictly a 100 percent employee, from a net worth standpoint.
We need to change our relationship with risk. Pronghorn will help bring some cash to the table, help you to do better advertising, build a strong business, and join in the dividends.
BLAC: Why is this important to you?
Lazar: Black Owned Spirits have always been in the spirits world. I know that we come from excellence. It’s important because we need to embrace this excellence. It’s just hitting a switch. Activating it. I don’t use the word can’t ‘cause I know we always can. You always can. My grandparents used to tell me, you can do whatever you want to, baby. I believe that. I walk with that, and I share that every day. So that’s the reason this is important.
Dia: And for me, it’s very similar. I have an eight-year-old daughter. I tell her that there’s a tribe that doesn’t use can’t in their language. They do not use should, would, or could. Let’s just burn those words from our vocabulary.
No matter what goes on in this country, I still love it. I’m a proud American. But, lets fix it. Like how you want the people you love to be the best they can be. I will do every thing I can to make it happen.
BLAC: Anything else you would like to tell the BLAC readers?
Lazar: Be intentional about where you spend your money, who you support. You know, I eat at Black restaurants. If it’s Black-owned, I’m there. I drink Black spirits. I drink Black water. I drink Black tea. Like that is my agenda. I’m very intentional about everything I do. Be intentional. Find out what you don’t know. ‘Cause once you do know, you have a choice.
Dia: I see sneakerheads spend 63 hours just to get the right kicks, like they’re doing Ph.D. work on it. Do the same thing to pick out which vodka you’re gonna buy. It’s not that hard anymore.
Look at your bar, look at your pantry. If you don’t have one Black-owned brand, make a change. You don’t have to be Black to make that change. We all should make that change.