Getting the Most out of Life

Windy Hill Spirits: Moonshine Meets Entrepreneurial Partnerships

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A large contingent of Millennials graduated during the Great Recession and were faced with entering the job market during a time of mass unemployment. The economy has vastly improved today, but it’s still getting back on track, so it’s no surprise that members of this generation are exploring options outside corporate America. Some are considering the entrepreneurial track. While starting a business is no easy feat, fearless Millennials such as Patrick Dillingham and Sean Koffel, founders of Windy Hill Spirits in Nashville, Tennessee, are well suited for the challenge.

The Taste of Tennessee

In 2012, former Marine Corps Captain Sean Koffel partnered with Patrick Dillingham, a former quarterback for the University of Notre Dame, to start a new business in Nashville. Since then, Windy Hill Spirits has had the mission to bring authentic moonshine whiskey to the American public.

With its booming music industry and magnolia-lined streets, Nashville embodies the sweet smell of the South. Historic homes with large front porches are reminiscent of warm summer evenings sipping a cool drink. During the Prohibition era, that drink of choice was likely homemade moonshine. Koffel and Dillingham, who met while in business school at Stanford University, plan to bring back this southern tradition.

An American-Born Partnership

A love of southern culture sparked the partnership between Koffel and Dillingham. They each left their jobs in 2011 and traveled to the South, interviewing former bootleggers with stories to tell and gathering recipes for their venture.

Choosing a solid business partner who can share in your struggles and triumphs is an important part of launching a successful business. The right business partner can also make a difference to the bottom line; partners tend to earn more than sole proprietors, and business partners with a common interest and diverse skills can grow a business exponentially. While founding a business with a partner can be challenging, many successful companies were founded by two partners: Apple, Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, and Google, to name a few.

Windy Hill Spirits launched their first (and signature) product, American Born Moonshine, in October 2013. A year later, the company employed 24 “bootleggers.” By March 2015, Windy Hill had raised $11 million in investments, and the distribution of American Born Moonshine had expanded from Tennessee to 18 other states.

Choosing a Business Home

Starting a successful business is not just about choosing the right partner. It’s also important to choose the right business home, because cost of living and related taxes could mean a significant difference in revenue and profit.

Some of the best states for entrepreneurs include those with a low cost of living and a thriving community. Seattle, Washington, and Austin, Texas, are two of the top cities for entrepreneurs because of their cultural scene and lack of income tax. These entrepreneurial hubs house large corporations and start-ups alike. On CNN’s list of the top 10 cities for entrepreneurs, Tennessee appears twice: Memphis and Windy Hill’s hometown of Nashville. With a low cost of living, small business incentives, no state income tax, and tax only on dividends and interest, Tennessee is a prime location for start-ups.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit

When it comes to entrepreneurship, Millennials are leading the way. With more than a quarter (27 percent) of Generation Y self-employed, these young people are motivated to create their own success through entrepreneurship instead of relying on the corporate world. And because Millennials may not yet be ready to buy a home, they can easily pick up and move to the city best suited for their entrepreneurial endeavors.

Entrepreneurship may be a great path for many Millennials, but starting a successful business requires more than desire. Finding the right business partner and choosing the right business home can ultimately lead to a successful venture. As Windy Hill Spirits continues to grow, it shows that the location for your small business means more than just dollars and cents. It is the embodiment of local culture in the product or service you offer.