Constellation Investment Q&A

Montanya Distillers is one of the first female-founded distilleries to receive investment from the Focus on Female Founders Venture Fund at Constellation Brands. The fund invests in strong female founders of alcohol beverage companies who have built disruptive and interesting brands with inclusive cultures. Women have historically only received only about 2% of corporate venture funding in the business world, so we’re grateful Constellation saw this gap and stepped up to invest in women-led companies.

This investment goes straight into Montanya Distillers to help us reach our longtime goals of improving distribution, expanding production, and continuing our many social and environmental commitments. We also know that with change comes questions, so here are a few answers to questions you might have:

Are you selling out?

No. In fact, we are getting stronger while remaining in the driver’s seat. One of our greatest challenges, as many of our customers and fans know, is getting customers access to our rum where they live. Montanya Rums can be so hard to find, and it has been Karen’s goal for many years to improve availability. That can be so hard to do as a small producer. We need more feet on the ground in the marketplace getting our rum on shelves, back bars and creating the necessary and lasting relationships with bartenders, liquor store owners, and tastemakers. This relationship with Constellation, and the investment that accompanies it, will help us increase production and distribution.

We actively sought out this partnership in order to be more effective in our weaker areas and this is exactly the symbiotic partnership we have been seeking. We’re excited to become partners with Constellation. We’ll get to learn from their wisdom regarding sales and distribution, which we can no longer do alone, while sharing our expertise with them in many areas as well, such as how to build diversity, foster a sustainable brand in a competitive environment, and how to drive the dream of making “American-made” reality.

How will this affect your culture?

Our culture is still being guided by the same people as it always has. Karen remains at the helm driving strategy, decision making and mapping the company’s future. Constellation created a unique fund to help propel strong female founders and their companies because they have struggled so much more than their male peers to get access to venture capital and financial backing. Constellation selected us to partner with partly because of the culture we have built. We definitely don’t want that to change that, and neither do they.

What about your B Corp status?

This deal does not affect our B Corp certification, which will remain intact. We remain committed to maintaining our status as a B-Corp and even improving the many business practices that helped us attain this coveted certification in the first place.

Why do you need a corporate partner after eleven years in business?

It can be easy to see Montanya Distillers’ double-digit growth and think we must be crushing it financially. The truth is, the more we grow, the more rum we need to make and age, which is costly and takes more and more time as we age rums longer. All of our incoming cash gets reinvested into growth. In fact, Karen and Brice pay themselves less and receive fewer benefits than many of their own employees because they are investing in this future.

Although Montanya could have continued to do what we’re doing and see success, Karen has always wanted the company to have a widespread national and international presence. She’s passionate about growing a business that can be a force for good locally and globally. As an international rum company, we can set new standards for gender diversity and environmental sustainability in the spirits industry, and better support our employees to thrive locally all year round in a seasonal economy. We’ve always known that we would require a strategic partner to handle the heavy demands of growth. Constellation Brands has exceptional expertise in some of our weakest areas, and is strong on the networks that will help us reach our goals.

Will this affect your small-town charm?

We have no plans to leave Crested Butte or change the character that people have come to love about our local operations. We serve obsessively crafted rum, cocktails and cuisine in a laid-back atmosphere where people can relax, grab a cocktail after skiing, hiking or mountain biking. Our customers will continue to enjoy all of this and even live music. That’s what we hands-down intend to keep doing. After all, this is our home. Plus, the unparalleled mountain aquifer water we use to bottle just outside of town at our second facility is the number one ingredient in the rum and is part of what makes Montanya rums so special.

Will you expand outside of Crested Butte?

We do plan to expand our distilling operation, although we will do this in Crested Butte. No specifics have been finalized yet, so we can’t speak to what this would look like. We will definitely expand our distribution and availability outside of Crested Butte.

Why Constellation?

This was the only one of the opportunities that came our way that met our own strict criteria. We wanted a minority partner who would bring expertise and technical support for the areas in which we have struggled most. We wanted a company with the wherewithal to stay with us as we grow, not max out after the first stage. We also wanted a partner that could honor who we are without trying to morph us into their own image or make us too “corporate”.

Constellation Brands is the first alcohol beverage company in the world to publicly recognize the massive hurdles female founders face in securing funding to grow their companies. Historically, female founders get about two percent of the venture capital investments in the USA. CBV wants to put their money where their mouth is to help more women ramp up their success in business, without sacrificing a company’s heart, soul and ethos.

So are you rich now?

Haha! We can see why it seems that way, but all the money we’re receiving we’re putting right back into the company. We didn’t partner with Constellation to see a personal payout. We know Montanya’s best days are still to come and all money received is going toward the growth of Montanya.

How much is the deal worth?

We’re not at liberty to disclose those details.

First, it was craft beer and now craft distillers. It doesn’t seem like anyone is independent anymore.

This partnership is a minority stake, so we’re definitely still craft and still independent in our decision-making. The reality is that the brands that are really growing are the very special, very local, very transparent craft producers (vs. large corporate products). Investors realize that companies like ours are the future of the alcohol beverage business and that is why they want a stake in our success.