Building Bridges: Troy Ball
As a mother of three boys, having two with special needs, Troy Ball exemplifies a great sense of spirit amongst the trials and tribulations we face in life. Moving to the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina from Austin, Texas to help find a better climate for her son’s health conditions, Troy Ball, along with business partner husband Charlie, were able to spark a new interest in ‘shiner lovers everywhere. Moonshine is the running drink of choice amongst the many traditions of North Carolina. Though the business of moonshine is deemed illegal in the U.S. if it is not approved by the federal government, many people still try to produce and sell moonshine illegally throughout the Appalachian Mountain areas from Mississippi to West Virginia.
After moving to North Carolina, one of Troy’s neighbors gave her the “good kind of moonshine” and from there a business (ad)venture ensued. Blending her entrepreneurial skills with great ambition and passion, Troy was able to start a moonshine company of her own, Troy & Sons of Asheville Distilling Co. and has been incredibly successful since, being the only woman to produce and sell legal moonshine in the U.S.
As a way to recognize women who are making strides in a male dominated industry, our guest contributor, Jennifer Rowe was able to catch up with Troy and examine her amazing spirit (pun definitely intended).
GAM: Do you find it harder to be a woman in a male dominated industry selling moonshine and whiskey?
TB: I actually find it easier being a woman in a male dominated industry. They often are pleasantly surprised to meet a woman who actually spent time in the back woods learning to distill with old men in the mountains.
GAM: How hard was it to get started with your business and come on the market?
TB: Learning to distill was the fun part. Building a business was much more difficult. Working through the federal system for a permit and label approval is slow and time consuming. Building relationships in cities scattered around the country is challenging, and don’t be mistaken this is a relationship business. The biggest challenge is in brand building. Getting the consumer to know who you are is vitally important and very difficult when you are opportune on a craft start up budget.
GAM: What were you doing before you decided to make moonshine?
TB: Before I became a distiller I was a full time mother of three sons, two with special needs, a part time real estate broker and a part time publishing partner with my son Marshall. He has written two books and appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show in 1999 and 2001.
GAM: Why moonshine? What about the “keepers moonshine” sparked your interest into making it? Were you always a whiskey drinker?
TB: Why Moonshine? White whiskey is an original American spirit, with deep roots. When I discovered the “keeper” kind of moonshine, the kind that was kept at home to enjoy, I realized that this “pure hearts” whiskey was not available on the market and that it would make beautiful cocktails. I wanted to be a part of the American Cocktail Movement that I knew was on its way. Why should we be using Russian Vodka in our cocktails when we could be using very clean white whiskey?
GAM: Would you like to see more women behind spirits that men are more known to gravitate towards?
TB: I hope to see better-made products on the market made by men and women. I can’t deny that it’s a lovely thing to see men enjoying fine whiskey made by women. Let’s not forget they drank from their mother’s breasts first. Why not continue the tradition of drinking women made products. (LOL!)
GAM: Being apart of the growing moonshine industry where much of it is still produced illegally with no regulations, would you like to see larger movements of those makers take on a similar role as you in producing it in a proper distillery? Or accept it as part of the culture?
TB: I think it is unlikely that many of the old Moonshiners will become legal for the same reasons they didn’t in the old days. It is costly to start a distillery, the taxes are high and legal brand building is expensive. I have great respect for the Moonshiners that care about the quality of the whiskey they produce and I enjoy knowing that there are a few still out there.
GAM: What advice do you have for young people in starting their own business and finding their own entrepreneurial spirit as you have?
TB: I applaud those with the entrepreneurial spirit. It takes total passion, and the willingness to work 18-hour days to hope to succeed. Young entrepreneurs need to be prepared for things to not go right (all the time). They need to be flexible and willing to make shifts in their plan without getting flustered. They must believe in themselves because it is likely others may not. Lastly, other than being well funded, they need to surround themselves with knowledgeable mentors and employees that are dedicated and very smart.
Support Troy and check out her three liquors released through Troy & Sons: Platinum Moonshine, Oak Reserve and Blonde Whiskey. Remember to drink responsibly.
Written by: Jennifer Rowe for Gents Among Men | InTheRowe.com