By Abena Boateng
Feature Photo Credit: Marc Pagani/BlackBourbonSociety.com
“Too much of anything is bad, but too much of good whisky is barely enough.”Mark twain
Whether you are a whisky lover or an avid bourbon enthusiast, Black Bourbon Society creates a space where African Americans and the spirit industry join to build a more inclusive and diverse place. Through their social media and exclusive excursions and events, Black Bourbon Society connects bourbon enthusiasts from different places in the world to share their love for bourbon and the value of the spirit in a mature and sophisticated way.
The mastermind and founder behind this organization is Chief Bourbon Executive Samara Rivers. This may sound surprising since it’s very rare to hear about African American women entrepreneurs in a male dominated industry. Growing up, Rivers began her creative and entrepreneurial ways in her teen years. “I’ve been an entrepreneur since high school. I have always had some sort of side hustle,” Rivers said. She was an avid wine drinker and when she got introduced to bourbon it was a match made in heaven. She began to break barriers by turning her love for bourbon into a business. With a background in event planning and production, she launched Black Bourbon Society on May 21st of 2016.
“I’ve been an entrepreneur since high school. I have always had some sort of side hustle.”
While it wasn’t easy for Rivers at the start of her business, she was able to receive some support from her ex-husband, who was there for her and their two kids in the early stages. Unfortunately, as business began to boom, her ex wasn’t as comfortable with the idea, which ultimately affected their relationship. Thankfully, it wasn’t hard for her to find other African American bourbon enthusiasts who were interested in her organization. She started hosting small events in the Bay Area of San Francisco, where she lived at the time, and with her superior networking and interpersonal skills she received support from many other enthusiasts. Six to seven months later, Black Bourbon Society made a name for itself. “All of our growth is essentially organic; we never really had to advertise since we’ve always gotten great press and great highlights,” Rivers said. Starting with just a few members, Black Bourbon Society has established valuable relationships over time while also connecting people with common interests in the spirit, and have now grown to over 15,000 members.
The organization has also partnered with many popular whisky brands such as Wild Turkey, Makers Mark and Four Roses. Rivers considers many of these brand ambassadors as friends and family after years of working and creating events together. Social media also plays a huge role in the way Black Bourbon Society connects with their audience and fellow BBS ambassadors across the world. From their online talk show Whisky Weekly, to their virtual happy hours, Black Bourbon Society produces content on their multiple social media platforms four or five days out of the week.
The organization also gives their members a choice of a ‘Black Card’ membership, where members receive exclusive perks and discounts. “I wanted members to have their black card and really show their prize for being a part of the Black Bourbon Society,” Rivers said. What started off as a joking phrase, “Your black card is revoked,” turned into an exclusive membership card which allows you to show your Black Bourbon Society pride. “We make sure that we have representation internally within the brand, but also making sure that we are still marketing standards that are targeting and approaching power audiences, especially consumers of color and women in a genuine manner,” Rivers said.
With ambassadors in Chicago and Los Angeles, they plan to expand more members all over the world. Currently, they have ambassadors lined up in New York and Dallas helping Black Bourbon Society members stay connected through events such as Bottle Pickups and Signings. Currently, Black Bourbon Society still does virtual happy hours and are consistently uploading new content on their Facebook and Instagram pages.
“We make sure that we have representation internally within the brand, but also making sure that we are still marketing standards that are targeting and approaching power audiences, especially consumers of color and women in a genuine manner.”
Being a mom and entrepreneur, Rivers is used to working from home where she can do both business and mommy duties. Her love for whisky has always been a passion of hers since trying it. What started as just an interest in flavorful bourbon, Rivers turned it into a business where other African Americans who enjoy whisky can feel at home. “We were all bourbon enthusiasts before we got started, it’s just that we didn’t know that there were other people like us who drink whisky across the country,” Rivers said. A 5th generation entrepreneur on both sides of her family, Rivers always knew she wanted to be a business owner, she just needed to find her muse, which ended up being whisky. If you’re looking into the bourbon industry or simply enjoy the taste of whisky, always remember the following ABC’s of bourbon:
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