What’s it like working with brands to hone in on their brand story and design? Kristin Shirtz, Thoroughbred Spirits Group, Head of Client Services / Design Director, took a few minutes to answer some questions as to how she found herself in that career. Her company focused on launching distilleries and designing brands with both short and long-term partnerships, so she gets to work with brands of all types and sizes. Our favorite quote: “This is an exciting industry and you will learn something new every day if you are paying attention.”
BW: How did you end up working in the industry?
KS: I moved to NYC in 2000 and my goal was to be the next Barbara Walters. While I was pursuing that dream, I had bills to pay, so I contacted a temp agency that placed me at a company called Remy Amerique (known today as Remy Cointreau). I was the Marketing Assistant for Mount Gay Rum and absolutely fell in love with the brand and spirits in general. Over the years, I worked in Brand Management, Field Sales Marketing, POS sourcing/production, Brand Development, Promotional Marketing, and Brand Production. It’s been 23 years and I still learn something new every day.
BW: What was your previous background – and how do you use your background in your role today? How did you background prepare you for your position in the industry today?
KS: At Remy, I learned about Marketing Brand Management, and Field Sales Marketing. At William Grant, I learned about POS, production, and sourcing. At Proximo, I learned how to build a brand from the ground up. All of the skills I’ve learned over the years, and the contacts I’ve made in various supporting industries, allow me to work with our clients to teach them what it takes to bring exciting products to the marketplace and be successful. At Thoroughbred, we start with developing the brand story and designing the packaging. We work with vendors across the world to develop custom bottles and embellishments to enhance the packaging and make products stand out.
BW: What was something surprising you learned in your early days at Thoroughbred Spirits?
KS: It still surprises me, in a good way, that more and more craft distilleries are popping up all over the world. It is inspiring to work with and observe all of the entrepreneurial spirited makers who take the time, effort, care & expense to build their brand and/or distillery.
BW: What similarities and differences are there between your former career/position and this one?
KS: When I worked for medium-sized supplier companies, my direct “customers” were my sales teams and colleagues. I helped them achieve their goals by ensuring I did my job to put out a great product with excellent packaging and marketing messaging. At Thoroughbred, my customers are my clients who I help navigate through the packaging design and execution process. I truly feel like a partner with them as we take the journey together to launch a new brand and/or distillery. It’s very meaningful and our clients are very appreciative of the expertise and guidance we provide.
BW: After working in the whiskey/spirits industry for all this time, what are some of the changes you’ve seen?
KS: I have seen lots of trends come & go – but that quality always wins out. Strong, established brands are experiencing more & more pressure from smaller, interesting brands that keep them on their toes to strive to stay relevant. Consumption patterns are constantly shifting. Lots and lots of new formats have been introduced over the years.
BW: What’s one thing you wish people understood better about your role or the initiatives you’re working on?
KS: I think most people know this but there is no easy or quick solution to anything in the spirits business. It takes a lot of patience and follow-up.
BW: What’s something in your role and/or company that inspires you or gets you going in the morning?
KS: I love helping others. It gives me purpose and pride. It gives me so much joy to see people in this industry (and in life) succeed.
BW: What advice do you have for women who want to step into a similar role or carve a similar path?
KS: Immerse yourself in this world, channel your passion, collaborate, be patient, and be prepared to work hard. This is an exciting industry and you will learn something new every day if you are paying attention.
BW: Tell me about your perfect whiskey weekend in your state/city:
KS: Sagamore Spirit or Catoctin Creek!
You can see more about Thoroughbred spirits on Insta here: @tbspirits