Pronghorn helps Black entrepreneurs break into the spirits industry

Pronghorn will develop a talent pipeline and accelerator for Black entrepreneurs in the spirits industry.

The booze industry in the US is pretty white.

Pronghorn helps Black entrepreneurs break into the spirits industry

A 2015 James Beard Award-winning article tackled the issue in the craft beer scene, while a Forbes expose looked into racism in the wine industry.

Sorel founder Jackie Summers became the 1st Black American to hold a distilling license since Prohibition… in 2012.

To close the gap, industry vets Dia Simms, Erin Harris, and Dan Sanborn launched Pronghorn, an incubator and accelerator, in 2021.

According to Pronghorn’s research…

… Black Americans account for 12% of alcohol consumers, but only 7.8% of the industry’s employees and 2% of executives.

Dia Simms is the CEO of Lobos 1707 Tequila & Mezcal, but has worked in the industry for 20+ years and understands the challenges newcomers face.

“It’s the only industry that has a constitutional amendment dedicated to it, so there are regulatory hurdles that are unprecedented in other industries,” she told The Hustle.

For example, rules and regulations don’t just change by state, but by county, which can be confusing.

Meanwhile, it’s also full of legacy families, which can make it hard for new players to break through. And just like in any industry, it’s often about who you know.

“One of the biggest problems with diversity in this country, I think, is social segregation and the fact that people just don’t actually know each other,” Simms said. “Let’s figure out how we bridge the gap.”

Pronghorn has 2-pronged approach

Over the next decade, Pronghorn wants to:

  • Place Black employees in 1.8k roles within the industry. “Hiring is a pipeline for future entrepreneurs.”
  • Invest in 57 Black-owned brands, providing not just capital but also access to resources, industry experts, data, training, and connections.

“Diversity is not a zero-sum game. It’s an opportunity for us to add more seats, not necessarily take [them] away,” Simms said.

If you are or know a Black spirits entrepreneur, submissions for Pronghorn’s programs are open now.

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Topics: Vice

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