Uncle Nearest's all female-led leadership team: Victoria Eady Butler (Left), Kate Jerkens (Center Left), Fawn Weaver (Center), Sherrie Moore (Center Right) and Lucia Creed (Right). Image Source: TBG Press Team.
Fawn Weaver founded her whiskey company in 2017 in honour of Nathan Nearest Green, the Black man nicknamed 'Uncle Nearest' who taught Jack Daniel how to make whiskey.
In less than two years since its founding, Weaver and her all-female executive team have expanded the brand to all 50 states and, within its first three years of operation, won over 160 whiskey awards.
Kate Jerkens, the SVP of global sales and marketing, has been with Weaver since the company's genesis. A veteran in the hotel and hospitality industry, Jerkens has over 15 years of sales and marketing experience in the field.
"I actually brought her over from Grant Sidney, my parent company where I make most of my investments," Weaver told The Org. "Kate was already VP of sales and marketing, so I brought her over to work specifically on Uncle Nearest."
Reporting to Jerkens is Sherrie Moore, the director of whiskey operations. Moore is a descendant of Jack Daniel and has spent over 30 years working for the family business at Jack Daniel’s distillery. At Uncle Nearest, she oversees the entire whiskey-making process, from barrel entry to filtering and whisky maturation.
"It is her responsibility making sure that the whiskey is great in every aspect," Weaver said. "She came out of retirement in order to make sure that our whiskey was perfect."
Master blender Victoria Eady Butler also reports into Jerkens. Butler is the great-great-granddaughter of Nearest Green and joined the company in 2019. After retiring from an over 30-year career at the Department of Justice, Butler is now the first Black female master blender in the American spirits industry.
Butler discovered her talent for whiskey-making after Weaver reached out to Green's descendants, inviting them to join her in continuing his legacy. Butler’s first, second and third batches of whiskey won multiple awards. After realizing her talent, she went to Moonshine University to study blending, becoming a certified bourbon steward.
"I don't want to sound like I'm bragging or anything, but I did a good job," Butler said in a phone interview with Food and Wine. "I picked according to my palate, and it felt pretty natural for me, oddly enough."
Another executive team member at Uncle Nearest, and a direct report of Jerkens, is Lucia Creed, the director of marketing. Creed, a former bartender of eight years, joined Uncle Nearest in September 2020 and now oversees marketing related strategies at the company.
"All the things, whether it's displays, magazine articles or billboards that is then under Lucia," Weaver said.
For Weaver, building a solid company culture has been a key to Uncle Nearest’s success. She said she considered her employees to be family, adding the team did things together that family and friends do like celebrate birthdays and weddings, and just hang out in general.
"Whether we're working or not working we really enjoy being around one another and I think that's very unique. Not just in our industry, but it's unique in every industry. I've never come across another company where people choose to hang out with each other," she said.
Looking forward, Weaver wants to keep growing her company and shattering records, while building a solid foundation in the “finite amount of time the team has in this lifetime.”
"We want to establish this company at the highest level within the spirit industry while we're all still here, and do it in such a way that it ensures that the next generation can't screw it up."
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