In pursuit of joy.

Oola TourOn Tuesday evening, I was thrilled to play host to a group of Seattle-based entrepreneurs as part of the Seattle Made annual celebration of our local food and beverage community.  We gathered a few dozen of these brave souls (really, you need to be brave to be a food/bev. entrepreneur) at a local event space which is conveniently located adjacent to the OOLA Distillery in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood for an evening of fun – one of the highlights of which was an OOLA tour and tasting opportunity.

During the course of the evening, one of our guests asked me: “what’s the purpose of the event?”  A decent question, to be sure, and one that I’d given some thought to over the course of the prior week while trying to distill the many things I wanted to say to our guests down into a manageable few words.

“Its a celebration,” I replied.

She looked at me as if I was joking.  But I wasn’t.

As chair of our firm’s Food, Beverage and Hospitality group, I’ve had the recent task of helping the group refine its vision for our practice.  And as I’ve done this, one fact has kept spinning around in my mind: our clients are in the business of joy.

This is easy to forget in the context of managing regulatory compliance, negotiating real estate leases, raising capital, trying to pay your excise taxes or handling problem employees.  But the fact remains true.  It is a rare individual who decides to go into the booze business (or the food business for that matter) out of anything other than passion. And you know – as you’re sweating away near a hot still – that the end goal, your ultimate objective for your product, is that someone will taste it and it will bring a smile to their face.  That moment is the whole point of the exercise.  It makes all the hard work worthwhile.

But when you’re scrubbing that still or hand-bottling your hooch, it can be easy to miss the forest of joy for the trees of drudgery.  So taking time every so often to celebrate is not only a good thing, it may actually be a necessary component of successful entrepreneurship in this space.

Of course even though joy is its own reward, it can certainly come with some collateral benefits – like having the clarity to see new opportunities.  That was fully on display Tuesday evening.  As our guests mingled, I had the great pleasure of listening to a series of conversations in which entrepreneurs from different areas of the food/beverage ecosystem discussed different ways they could collaborate.  When the restaurateur and the fair trade spice merchant come together for a project, we all benefit.  Its hard not to find joy in that – whether you’re an entrepreneur or a consumer.

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