For almost six years since she released Black Momma Vodka, Vanessa Braxton has been a major force in the spirit industry in the United States.
In 2013 when she introduced her ultra-premium vodka brand, she made history as the first African-American woman owner and operator of a nationally distributed vodka.
She is also the founder of the country’s first black-owned tea and beverage plant. At the moment, her vodka brand is a favorite of many vodka lovers in the country.
Having started making teas in 2016, the 50-year-old has so far made business transactions with over 33,000 online and wholesale customers and has made almost $3 million in sales.
Last month, she made headlines again when she announced that she would be taking over three storefronts in a New York shopping plaza to open Black Momma Tea & Café.
When opened in 2020, the restaurant will serve about 160 different blends of tea, three flavored agaves as well as other organic and vegan food products.
And the Black Momma Vodka CEO is all geared up for her new venture.
With a huge experience in the government and corporate industry, Braxton, who was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, earned a bachelor of science degree in construction management and engineering from Pratt Institute in New York.
She then went through the executive program in negotiation at Harvard Law School and consortium with MIT.
Braxton subsequently started a career in corporate and government industries where she managed construction and engineering contracts worth over $350 million for the New York State government, reports Black Enterprise.
But while in college, Braxton was already selling drinks to her colleagues after having obtained a liquor license. This will push her to start Black Momma Vodka after retiring from her corporate and government work.
Black Momma Vodka is “distilled five times and filtered five times from corn for its signature smooth taste. It’s distilled through Crushed Diamond Lava Rocks and fused with Cascade Mountain Spring Water from Oregon,” according to its website.
In 2014, vodka lovers in over 30 states enjoyed selections that included a Green Tea, Pomegranate Tea, Chai Tea, Peach Tea, and Sour Sop Tea.
Braxton said at the time: “I am the only one that is doing teas, period. Not flavored, all natural. People are more health conscious of what they put into their bodies. I know I am.”
“People want something that is new, different and also as close as possible to natural to pair with their food.”
Since then, the mother of three has carved a niche for herself in the spirit industry and she now has a host of clients, including the Marine Corps MWR, US Embassy in Moscow, US Embassy of Columbia, US Embassy of Libya & the American Embassy of Lome.
Her next year’s 4,600-square-foot cafe and bar in Wheatley Heights, New York will serve as her company’s headquarters and training facility for her 300 franchisees who are ready to work with her.
Featuring food items such as wraps and muffins as well as drinks from other local businesses, the cafe will have meeting rooms for members of the community, and Braxton is hoping to partner with companies such as Microsoft for free classes, reports Newsday.
Having people from her background at heart, the retired structural engineer said she chose Wheatley Heights for her café because out of about 5,100 residents, more than 60 percent are black and Latino.
“I have plenty of places I could go,” said Braxton. “But I wanted to take the opportunity for people who look like me to see what I’m doing for the community so that they can step up and do the same thing.”
“I’m using a lot of small, minority, women and veteran-owned vendors, who never had the chance with larger places,” she said. “It’s economic inclusion for everyone.”
Braxton is one of the few black females making it big in the male-dominated spirits industry despite the challenges.
Recently, Fawn Weaver, who is the first female colored person to run a major whiskey brand, opened a new whiskey distillery in honor of Nearest Green, the enslaved African American who taught Jack Daniel how to make whiskey.
Author and entrepreneur Weaver met with Nathan ‘Nearest’ Green’s descendants, who gave her the permission to put his name on a bottle and start the Uncle Nearest whiskey company.
It is her way of honoring the man known as the Godfather of Tennesee whiskey and leading a movement to ensure that his whiskey legacy lives on for generations.