Founder/The Black Bourbon Society
In the introduction to this publication that appears in every issue, I talk about how Bourbon People got started because I simply saw the need for it. It's a different take on a profile than anything else you will see out there. This doesn't focus on career history, a personal biography or list of achievements... it focus on a person... the real person. What they are actually like and not necessarily how they want you perceive them.
What I truly appreciate about Samara Rivers story is it unfolds in much the same manner. She noticed that while she loved bourbon, and many of her friends and professional associates did, when she looked at advertising for whiskey she didn't see herself as a professional African-American woman, or the people she knew where consumers depicted in ads. Instead, if there was any advertising targeting African-Americans, it seemed to be targeting what could best be summarized as an urban clientele.
Samara, on the other hand, is a professional woman who owns her own business, she's a mother, dating a very successful business person in his own right (my buddy Armond Davis)... clearly not the people she saw depicted as African-American consumers of whiskey. Now, there are many forks in the road here. What do you do? Ignore it? Complain?
What Samara did, was start the Black Bourbon Society, a group now 9,000+ strong and growing quickly. What I truly love about her approach is the manner in which she does this. While recognizing African-Americans were underrepresented in the industry, she didn't form a group to be exclusively African-American bourbon drinkers, she took an approach of being inclusive... focusing on simply being bourbon fans, all levels of interest and knowledge are welcome regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, you name it. Bourbon is for everybody. It's refreshing and Samara's group is wonderful. Facebook can be a cruel place and bourbon groups are no exception, but not in Samara's. If you are new to bourbon and have a question, throw it out there and people will help you, not attack you for not knowing what they know. (Check out Samara's group by clicking here).
So behind the scenes, what's Samara really like, though?
My honest answer is beyond amazing. She's a caring friend and someone I can rely on for business advice or even personal advice. I like to say, we come from the "Class of 2016" since that's when both of our businesses really got rolling. There isn't a blueprint for what we are doing, we're just kind of winging it as we go through to separate, but very parallel bourbon journeys. The greatest thing about what we are doing is there is friendship, appreciation and best of all, we root for one another. There isn't any level of competition between us. When something cool happens for her and her company, I'm elated. It feels like the more doors Samara has opened for her, her business and her group, the more that open for all of us. I know she feels the same when the ABV Network has a big win.
The bottom line is that Samara is just a great person. Bourbon has brought us together like so many friendships I've been lucky enough to get since staring writing about it. This is why you have to love the power it bourbon. It's a great consumer product, but its a wealth of American culture and history and it's a tie that bonds people together.
Pretty powerful stuff!