Charles Sachs & Mitchell Youssem are the co-founders of Blank Farm Vodka. Founded in early 2020, Blank Farm (along with its unique packaging) is currently flying off shelves across the country. Today we had the opportunity to go behind the brand and chat with the founders of this fast-growing Vodka brand
How many hours a day do you work on average and what does a typical day look like?
Charles Sachs: It’s hard to put a number on how many hours I work in a day because my mind is always focused on the brand. Working in the beverage alcohol space, traditional work hours don’t exist. Every time you walk into a restaurant, you are scoping out the back bar to see which brands have a prominent display or looking over the cocktail menu to see which brands are featured in a given drink. Some of the best ideas come from places least expected.
With that being said, on a typical day I wake up early to have some time to think for myself before our distributors and accounts start contacting us. Since we started our business during COVID, the majority of the day is spent on the computer or phone taking zoom calls. We are always trying to be more efficient in production while growing our distribution and overall brand footprint.
How has being an entrepreneur affected your family life?
Combined: It has its positives and negatives. I think every parent wants their child to pursue their dreams, and it can be an exciting dinner table or cocktail event conversation, but inherently being an entrepreneur and running your own business comes with sacrifices.
You’re always on the clock and “the buck stops with you” as people say, so part of the nature of being an entrepreneur is having some strange hours and random things popping up, which can cut into typical family time and hours… with the liquor business you’re often busiest around holiday times too, which isn’t always ideal.
Believe it or not, neither of our parents drink, so we’re floating our ideas by one of the toughest crowds, but they’re integral in sorting out your thoughts and are never afraid to call a spade a spade when you have a bad idea. Our parents actually have much more history in the art world, and so love the creative aspect of the brand and all the inspiration that comes with it.
What motivates you? How do you define success?
Charles Sachs: In a world where everything is moving online, liquor is one of those things that still lives in storefronts or restaurant bars. Being able to physically see your work come to fruition is an indescribable feeling.
Whether it be a new cocktail at a restaurant, a floor display at a liquor store, or even people posting pictures of your product on social, your hard work is rewarded. Once you start making these accomplishments, it continues to drive you further and try to recreate that success anywhere you can.
Mitch Yousem: It’s a very personal thing for me. I think it’s helpful to set goals and benchmarks to keep yourself on track, but at the end of the day, I’m motivated by being better today than I was yesterday. And that can mean in any facet of life – whether learning a new song on guitar, beating a previous marathon time, forming a new business relationship – to me, it comes down to continued growth at the individual level.
If you can approach every day with that mentality, then I think the rest will take care of itself. I think often times when people are looking at the successful or successful individuals they are just seeing the byproduct – that new job, new car, new degree, etc – and I feel pretty confident in saying that is usually not the end goal, but like Charles said it is the consequence of all these small victories adding up and driving you further.
How do you generate new ideas, and what is the inspiration behind this idea?
Combined: We don’t have any specific process or formula, but inspiration comes every day if you’re open to it. A lot of our idea creation has come from talking to and learning from other people. We may see or try to brand or position blank. vodka one way, and then talking to other people they may perceive what we are trying to do in a totally different light.
You don’t know what you don’t know, and you have to be open-minded and willing to take feedback in a constructive way. At the same time you want to be original, and something more innovative with a clear-cut message can go a long way when understood and appreciated by your audience.
This is what we tried to do with blank. vodka. The simple label concept has never been done before and is the single biggest differentiating factor of the product and brand. We wanted the consumer to take our blank canvas and really make it their own, which is why we left the front label open for design.
While most of the time a brand is trying to define you, our mission was to allow the consumer to define what our product means to them, and each bottle tells a different story. Watching the blank. community share their stories with each other using our product as the medium is one of the biggest inspirations for us – whether it’s an artist making a bottle his/her own, or friends sending each other messages as a gift – it’s an awesome feedback loop to be a part of.
What is your greatest fear, and how do you manage fear?
Charles Sachs: My greatest fear is regret. I never want to look back on a situation and regret decisions that I made or didn’t make. I manage that fear by making mistakes and trying to learn from them. With anything, you’re going to make mistakes, but the biggest mistake would be not to unpack that situation and come out stronger from it.
Mitch Yousem: I’ve got to second that. David Goggins always talks about how human beings are capable of so much more in this life, and yet leave so much on the table. I think you just have to accept that you’re going to fail and you’re going to fail a lot. It’s just part of life, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make that commitment to yourself and go all in, and say I’m not quitting until I get there.
Do you believe there is some sort of pattern or formula to becoming a successful entrepreneur?
Combined: I think the most important part of being an entrepreneur is working in a field you’re passionate about and coming up with a concept you believe in. We see burn out all the time in our industry – it’s a very real thing. However, at the end of the day, you have to be excited about what you are doing, otherwise, it’s going to feel like a job and work rather than a passion.
We can’t tell you how many times we’ve stayed up all night because we’ve got this idea in our head that we need to get out, or we’ve been brainstorming with someone else in the field who is incredibly excited about what we’re doing. That does not work for us, that’s fun, that’s pursuing your passions in life.
What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Combined: There’s a lot of great parts. I think the most exciting part is when people “get” your idea and what you are trying to do, but maybe the favorite aspect is just having the opportunity to try out new ideas and see their impact on a large scale.
It’s hard to get that at a larger corporation, where there isn’t as much flexibility in trying out or putting the resources behind the concepts that you believe in. As an entrepreneur, you’re your own boss, and you are able to control your own destiny.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
Combined: The first time seeing our product being used in a cocktail at a restaurant was a surreal feeling. To get an alcohol brand from just an idea to a business that is fully up and running and can be distributed to restaurants and liquor stores takes months and months of endless paperwork, design, supply chain meetings, sales assets creating, concept tweaking, etc. But it made it all worth it when we ordered that first blank. Vodka cocktail at a restaurant.