I had the pleasure of interviewing Colby Frey, founder and CEO of Frey Ranch Estate Distillery. Frey’s family bought the Nevada ranch in 1918 and he has since turned it into the world’s only Estate Winery Distillery.
Jean: Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory” of how you become a founder?
I grew up on our family farm and have always had a passion and love for farming. In 2009, at the age of 25, I purchased the farm from my parents. We have always grown a diverse variety of crops, such as alfalfa, corn, wheat, barley and rye, and in 2006 I applied for and received a federal TTB license to allow me to distill alcohol. This sparked my idea of an “Estate Distillery” where I grow 100 percent of the raw commodities used for distillation. We can ensure that we are getting the best quality raw ingredients by growing the grain right here on our farm. It has always been my dream to create a product out of the crops that we grow.
Jean: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
The distillery is located on our family farm and is literally steps away from our home. We live it and breath it daily. We are one of the only distilleries in the United States that grows 100 percent of the grains used in a distillery. We even malt our own barley on-site. This means we have total control over the entire process, from seed selection, planting times, irrigation schedules, harvesting, storing grain, milling, cooking, fermenting, distilling, aging and bottling. When we bottle a bottle, none of the ingredients have ever left our possession. We are able to ensure no corners are cut and we get the best quality spirits possible.
Jean: Are you working on any exciting projects now?
In late 2018, our first batch of Bourbon and Rye Whiskey will be ready to bottle. At this point, it will be aged for four years. We did not want to release anything until it is at least four years old. It is very hard to be patient and produce product for four years while not selling anything. I think this is why it is so hard for most distilleries to make aged spirits. We are currently working on packaging and have narrowed it down to a few bottle shapes. We have always considered Bourbon to be our primary product, even though we haven’t bottled any yet.
Jean: Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?
I like Jon Taffer’s book called “Don’t Bullshit Yourself.” It talks about how you should not let any excuses keep you from accomplishing your goals. It is the way that I have always lived my life. I am really good at not taking “no” as an answer. This is how I was able to build our one of a kind distillery. A lot of people said I couldn’t do things, and I would say, “watch this,” and show them that they were wrong.
Jean: What are your “5 Lessons I Learned as a Twentysomething Founder” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
Don’t take no as an answer. — You might be discounted by someone because of your age. Show them that it is going to happen regardless of their involvement and why they shouldn’t doubt you.
Work extra hard while you are young. — You need to start building your “snowball” as soon as possible.
Surround yourself with positive, uplifting people.
Everyone makes mistakes — Try your hardest to get it right the first time. When you don’t, dust yourself off and try again. Do not feel sorry for yourself.
Nobody is going to hand you everything you need. — Go out and make things happen. Be self-reliant.
Jean: Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
I really like Mike Rowe. He is not afraid to get dirty, and understand that not everyone needs to go to college. Although I did go to college, I see the importance of skilled trades and a huge void in skilled labor. I think it is important to let everyone know it is okay to work a skilled trade, and we should encourage this.
— Published on July 19, 2018