Charles Michael Vaughn is the President and Founder of LeSin Vodka. He also owns a federal and state licensed distilled spirits import company. He has created two of his own distilled spirits brands. In addition, Charles Michael Vaughn established LeSin Vodka, an ultra-premium vodka brand produced and imported from Cognac, France. Charles also created Blue Lava Tequila which he imports from Jalisco, Mexico.
Charles Vaughn has been in the industry for over 17 years. He started working for a publicly traded Australian Wine company based out of Atlanta, Georgia. When the company made the decision to move to Napa, California, he did not make the move with the company. After researching the spirits industry a bit more, Charles quickly discovered there were more opportunities in the distilled spirits industry. As a result, he obtained his federal and state permits and began helping other companies bring their brands into the country.
In 2002, Charles Michael Vaughn began working with third-party brands as well as distributors. As a graduate in tax law, he was able to use this knowledge in the regulated spirits import industry. He spends his time creating and building brands. He travels all over the world to promote his brands. Furthermore, Charles Vaughn has written many articles on how to brand your product. He works as a consultant for other companies to assist them in bringing their own brand from concept to market.
As a hobby, Charles loves aviation, travel and the outdoors. He enjoys learning about new cultures from around the world and enjoying the food and spirits of each culture. These free-time passions meld well between his business and his pleasures.
Charles Michael Vaughn plans to continue expanding his brands into the Asian markets. He will continue to expand LeSin Vodka and Blue Lava Tequila further in the U.S. and abroad.
How did you get started in this business? What inspired you to start this business?
I first came into the industry when I was working as a finance manager for an Australian wine company. I learned the industry and the laws governing the business and I knew that it could be a very lucrative business. When the company decided to move to the west coast, it was not a move I wanted to make. One of the last transactions that I had done was the acquisition of another wine company. Through the consolidation process in the United States, they reshaped and reorganized how they were going to do business. I took the culmination of knowledge and experience gained over the four years I had with the company. I decided to take the opportunity to start my own spirits company.
How do you make money?
When you are buying someone else’s brand, you are purchasing your inventory at cost and sell to wholesalers at a markup. Alternatively, if you are producing your own brand(s), you focus on premium raw materials as cost effective as possible, and manage your GSA expenses accordingly
How long did it take for LeSin Vodka to become profitable?
If you are selling third-party brands typically you are profitable between years two and three. Under my own brand, the profit is much different. It took twelve to eighteen months to gain a lot of traction. There are regulations we have to follow that take time to yield results. You also have to have a distributor in agreeance to carry your product. It is a three-tier selling system. We can only sell to distributors. Distributors can only sell to retailers. Retailers can only sell to the public. We have to adhere to that three-tiered market. It takes time to build that market. Two to three years is a good time for a solid foundation.
When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
I think everyone goes through doubt. It is easy to give away the house when you’re first starting out. If you can identify the places that will not let your product get dusty on the shelf it makes it easier. You have to have a good marketing plan. Sometimes it takes longer than what you would like. We can’t predict behavior. We can try to influence them through successful communication. Communication is a little bit different through digital media now. I have been more concerned about my rate of growth rather than merely focusing on time frames. You have to have good people around you to remind you that it is ok to take a little longer to grow because it makes for a more solid foundation. Growth is growth, you should just appreciate it.
How did you get your first customer?
Each customer (a distributor) potentially means an entire state in this industry. I got my first customers from getting on the phone, emails, and mailing packages. I was on the ground. I personally introduced my product to the distributors. It was just hard work and being personally involved in the process.
What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?
Our marketing strategy for LeSin Vodka is to effectively establish LeSin as The World’s Sexiest Vodka. We aim to bring back the elegance, charm, respectability, class, and grace of what true sexy really is. We have a five-step process that works with the personification. We call it “FLIRT.” It fits in with the sexy vibe.
F Familiarization – When someone first experiences your brand and they become familiar with your existence. The goal is to create packaging and an aesthetic that catches the consumer’s eye.
L Learn – After someone meets you, they read your labels or ask questions. They learn about your origin and your brand story. You get a sense of the brand after seeing and reading a bit more about the product.
I Interact – They consumers like what they see so they like and follow you on social media and begin sharing, tagging, and commenting on your videos, stories, and pictures.
R Relate – When the consumer likes the message and feels connected to the brand. You’ve established yourself as a brand they can relate to.
T Transact – The final step in the process. You’ve established a solid foundation with the consumer. You are relevant and relatable to the consumer. The final step is them purchasing your product.
We have experienced great success with this method as the catalyst to establishing a long-term loyalty brand relationship with our consumers. So, FLIRT is what we use for our brands.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
The toughest decision I’ve had is to identify what positions to create and fill. Do I want a dedicated social media person or a marketing person? Do I want both a marketing and social media person? Staying in tune with the digital marketing world is a challenge. Staying on top of social media is fun but it is a huge challenge as well. I need the right roles AND people to affect both our marketing and growth plans.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
I think that I am successful because I create each product based upon my own personality. I can identify with the brand. It is a part of the Charles Michael Vaughn DNA. My personal connectivity gives me a unique perspective and insight. It paves the way for something that is authentic. This is not just an idea on a piece of paper. It is well thought out.
What has been your most satisfying moment with LeSin Vodka?
My most satisfying moment was when we were at a launch party in Atlanta. We were sponsoring an event for a Grammy Awards Artist at the Renaissance Hotel. I was inconspicuously walking around the room and there were people ordering LeSin by brand name. They were not just ordering vodka martini or vodka on the rocks. They were ordering a Dirty LeSin Martini or LeSin on the rocks. They were knowing it, liking it, and embracing it. It was the pinnacle of our weekend. I have heard it many times since, but that was the first time it had happened, and it was the best.
What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?
I am excited about our growth that is rooted in a great foundation. LeSin Vodka has stood the test of time. We have a lot of things planned for the music and fashion industries. There are many synergies between our brand and those industries. We are also expanding into Japan, Korea, Thailand, and Singapore. We have also had people who are excited to get our brand in their states. We are excited about continuing to bring the LeSin Vodka experience to all the Sexy People Around The World !!
Money is the measure that shows us how well we are doing, but that is not the point. Our goal was to set out to create something quality that people would enjoy. Something that is priced right that the people will gravitate too. We have achieved what we have set out to accomplish. Brand, Price, and Quality.
What business books have inspired you?
The Phoenix Project
Frank Sinatra The Way You Wear Your Hat.
The Paris Wife
What is a recent purchase you have made that’s helped with your business?
A public relations and social media platform with Cision. Cision is a leader in the dissemination of news releases, marketing information, and effective communication with the public and press. People do not buy what they do not know exists. This is the most pivotal investment we can make to get our message to the market.