After a long and masterfully navigated career in the spirits industry, Charles Vaughn manages to spread his passion and enthusiasm for LeSin Vodka, Blue Lava Tequila, and his newest project Primed Craft Cocktails, with the world. As CEO and founder of these ultra-premium brands, Charles often engages in conversations for guidance on how to become successful in this space.
Charles Vaughn is sharing the mastery of the liquor & spirits industry by shifting his attention to 40-80 Spirits Group. The creation of the 40-80 Spirits Group is the result of always being in the R&D phase for their existing portfolio and constantly being in the entrepreneurial mindset of a new product start-up.
By sharing his vast knowledge of the industry, Charles has created a win-win opportunity for new brand owners to add their creative genius to the spirits industry. Meanwhile, Charles has the opportunity to add an exciting new product to his ever-growing portfolio.
Charles provides free content on YouTube and in articles on his industry magazine. His YouTube channel, Liquor CEO, features business strategy videos for entrepreneurs. The Liquor CEO website provides content to guide individuals through a step by step process of how to break into the liquor space and how to create a craft spirit. It discusses entity selection, the TTB rules, various state rules, and adherence to the three-tier system in the United States. In essence, He explains everything it takes to go from the supplier’s to the consumer’s hand.
As a great leader, Charles Vaughn demonstrated his business savvy and strategic market planning when he refused to lay anyone off during the lock-down, instead, he shifted his talent, putting all hands on deck on accelerated marketing campaigns. Marketing focused heavily on digital, social, and e-commerce initiatives. The laws changed to allow for delivery and for curbside pick-up. Our sales programs simply drove customers to e-commerce portals.
As a hobby, Charles loves aviation, travel, and the outdoors. He enjoys exploring the world and enjoying the food and spirits of each culture. These free-time passions meld well between his business and his pleasures.
Charles Vaughn plans to continue expanding his brands and sharing his knowledge with those who share his passion for creating premium spirits. He will continue to expand LeSin Vodka, Blue Lava Tequila, and the newest addition to his portfolio, Primed Craft Cocktails.
How did you get started in this business?
I have been in this business for twenty-one-years. I was introduced to the industry when I worked as a finance manager for an Australian wine company. I studied the industry and the laws governing the business. It was evident that this was a very lucrative business. The Australian company decided to move to the west coast. I had no desire to relocate. The last transaction I completed was the acquisition of another wine company. This company reshaped and reorganized the way they would do business. I used my newly acquired knowledge and experience of the industry and seized the opportunity to launch my own spirits company. We have pivoted often to take on the challenge of a changing market and have stood the test of time.
How do you make money?
I sell LeSin Vodka, I sell, Blue Lava Tequila, I sell canned cocktails, and I make money consulting with new brand owners. We are very select with our brand owners. We receive many inquiries monthly from potential new brand owners. Approximately 10-15% of all inquiries may be something that we are interested in looking at. Of those select few we maybe take one or two. We are not a consulting firm. We are brand owners first and foremost who may be able to help another owner create a cool brand. It would have to be something very unique and very different. It would have to solve a hole in the market, be creative, and clever. The owner also has to have the capital to see it through.
How long did it take for 40-80 to become profitable?
The 40-80 Spirits Group was profitable from day one simply because it is a service-based business. We cover our expenses. It is not our goal to partner with owners or to profit from their brands. We don’t take commissions, cuts, or equity. 40-80 was profitable from the start because it is part of a family that is successful anyway. It was never meant to be the primary money-maker of the group. It was meant to identify brands that may complement our portfolio, expand the brand, and leverage our portfolio with buyers.
How did you get your first customer?
You get your feet on the ground and personally walk into the account that you want and be passionate when you talk about your brand. Be respectful, courteous, and be professional. Take the time to go face to face.
What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?
The best marketing we can do is to take our brands and just do them extremely well. When people come across 40-80 as a potential consulting partner for their ideas, they can go through our site and see how well we are doing. Our success will speak for itself. Actions are credentials and they speak much louder than words.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
When a brand owner comes to the table and wants us to help, yes or no is always the toughest decision to make. It is extremely tough when you are on the fence. It could be our idea or an idea from an owner. If you turn it down you always wonder if it will be the next brand that will go through the roof. You just never know.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
We don’t approach 40-80 as a consultant, we approach it as brand owners. As we help a brand owner recognize their dream, We sit at the table as colleagues and fellow brand-owners. We share a lot of empathy. My suggestions on financial or capital matters carry a lot of weight with a new brand-owner. It makes our consulting more relevant and on-point with them. We are experienced and vested in their success.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
The most satisfying time is when a new product debuts. We are doing that right now with Primed Craft Cocktails We just canned our first production run and we are sending them to Florida, California, and New York. It is satisfying when it is the first production run. It is the result of everything that we’ve done along the way.
What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?
I am always excited about the creativity that people approach us with. I appreciate ideas that have ingenuity and creativity and the confidence to pursue it. Sometimes we may not be the right match for a particular idea. I never want to discourage an idea but it has to complement our portfolio. What excites me is the anticipation of an email with a new creative idea for us to consider. There have been a lot of great things that I have been able to add to our book. I am intrigued by the notion of pushing the boundaries of the space. Just when you think that you can’t come up with something different. Something different presents itself.
What business books have inspired you?
The books that have inspired me are Frank Sinatra, The Way You Wore Your Hat and The Paris Wife. The reason why these books are inspiring:
LeSin Vodka is a French vodka made in Cognac, France. It is a luxurious, elegant, and sophisticated vodka. It is like no other. We have taken the brand and come up with an off-shoot of its own. We are defining “the worlds’ sexiest vodka,” through redefining what classic sexy is.
Today sexy is a raunchy verb rather than a suave, classy, sophisticated vibe like Sinatra back in the day. It was a time when men and women held themselves to a much higher standard of respectability. We have taken that spirit and we’ve ascribed an old-school vibe personality to the spirit of LeSin Vodka. Frank Sinatra knew what it was like to be on-point with your dress your ambiance and your interactions with other people. We just don’t have that anymore.
LeSin Vodka sponsors a site called TipsForGentleman.com. There are several tips on etiquette, respect, and proper gentlemanly deportment. We are evolving and creating a podcast. Podcasts will provide a platform for both a male and female perspective to be shared. I think it will be great entertainment. We’d like to bring “the real sexy” back. The younger and older generations each have something valuable to share and contribute – This is an exciting project !!
What advice would you give to your younger self?
“NO” is just fuel to get to my own YES. I would tell my younger self not to wait so long because it is fulfilling. If you fail, it is a lesson because you will learn from it and move on. Don’t be afraid to fail. The lessons have already begun. Don’t let it deter you when people tell you no. Just keep moving.
Are you willing to be a mentor? If so, how should someone contact you?
Absolutely! On 40-80spirit.com there is a contact form that can be filled out. Or, you can click on the homepage to set-up a 30-minute conversation with me and add it right to the calendar. I have dedicated time each week to speak with people interested in discussing ideas.