ARTISANAL VODKA &
PAUL RYAN ELLIOTT
Founder. Regular guy. UNC – Chapel Hill Graduate. Love for Vodka.
Set out with a strong desire to create and innovate within the beverage space. During the summer of 2014, in a loft in downtown LA, loft&bear artisanal vodka was born, hence the name, loft&bear. Paul continues to work toward fulfilling long-term sustainable success and having an impact within the business space.
How we can build business with more diversity and inclusion – how do we cultivate more ownership?
Will Hollywood ever make a Back to the Future Part IV?
LETTER FROM OUR FOUNDER
I consider being an entrepreneur courageous; a courageous struggle consisting of endurance and tireless work. A small percentage of entrepreneurs see long-term success, while statistically, most will ultimately fail. When I set out to launch a craft vodka brand, Loft & Bear was originally driven by a desire to own and operate a meaningful business of my own; to advocate for and inspire the thirst in all of us. I enjoyed sipping vodka alongside my ‘square’ friends that were all pursuing higher-level graduate degrees, but I knew, for many of them, they would rather have been designing shoes or painting a masterpiece in the solace of their home- sharing their true gifts with the world. I had previously owned a construction business with my mother, and the ‘Elliott’ name had owned thousands of acres and a department store on Black Wall St. in the early 1900’s. Back in 2013, the craft spirits industry was ripe with opportunity. At the time, there were only 4 or 5 black-owned DSP holders of 500+ permits- just barely 1%, and Loft & Bear would become one of them. From 2010, when I cracked the first page of my business plan on the East Coast, to now- 2020, as we open the doors to our new distillery in South Central/Huntington Park, Los Angeles, the journey keeps getting better and better! I am blessed.
I’m proudly black, my father Jamaican, and my mother a petite, fair-skinned, strong, black-woman from Tulsa, Oklahoma. Her mother, my grandmother, college-educated, top of her class; summa cum laude. My mother’s father, equally smart and well-educated. I am very proud of the Elliott name. My mom and I talk almost daily; we talk about the business, what’s new and exciting, plans for the week, amazing new customers, the struggles….always the struggles. Moms are amazing! Love Moms! Inevitably, my mom always asks that I be safe and avoid “risky behavior.” Even despite the accolades and what I consider to be proud accomplishments of Loft & Bear, she’s aware of the instances of me being pulled over in places like Santa Monica- the generally “expected” profiling of black men in America. She’d like me to maybe consider not running at 2 am because that could end up ‘badly’. I tell her “I’m putting in work…staying healthy.” She knows of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, the lynching “suicide” a bit more recently in Los Angeles. I’ll be very honest, It is NUTS that these are real concerns for my mother and my family. I own a business… a budding, community-oriented business! Up at 5 am for the last 7 or 8 years- I’ve been intent on outworking my competition; no way something so egregious happens to me. Nevertheless, I capitulate; my mother is right. Her concerns are rooted in reality for many Black Americans; business-owner or not, I am a black man and my skin color is the first thing people see.
A few years ago, as I explained to a member of my Loft & Bear team what happened during the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921, she was brought to tears. She had never heard of this wonderful piece of American history known as Black Wall Street. I did not create Loft & Bear intent on leaving a legacy as prolific as that thriving community in Tulsa. Yet, as I learn more about the success of my generational bloodline, Loft & Bear has become that much more meaningful – a comeback story for the ages. As a team, we fundamentally believe that hard work is the key to success. We continue to remain hopeful and inspired by the opportunity to bring something of joy to the world. The common thread that weaves together all successful business people, no matter the race or ethnicity, is hard work.
With this as my foundation, I realize that we all have a collective responsibility as business people to add value to our society and the people that we employ. This is the hard work that is necessary for success.
As Loft & Bear grows, we’ll find more ways to be a blessing to others- to bring a diversity of thought and inclusiveness to the beverage space. As distillers, brand owners, distributors, restaurateurs, bar owners, and just good-hearted business people, we should not be here just to make money. Good or bad, people love and appreciate a tasty beverage- fortunately, that is what we do and what we do well! How we utilize this recent awareness to uplift, reposition, and restructure our actions will be the true testament of the compassion and love we all have for spirits & human spirits, alike.
Paul Ryan Elliott,
Chief Executive Officer
South Central Los Angeles
WHO WE ARE
CREATORS, CHANGE AGENTS & MUSES
Who are crafting a better future for all of us.