Image(s) courtesy of do-tell publicity
As a black female entrepreneur from Portland, Oregon, Chaunci King has broken several cultural and ethnic barriers as she climbs the social ladder. Her story can pave the way for others who might feel limited due to the triple threat - being a minority, a woman, and living in a low racially diverse and populated region - that can impede success. As the founder and CEO of Royalty Spirits, a luxury liquor company, Chaunci is not one of the very few women thriving in a white-male dominated industry but is also the first African American woman to be a liquor business owner in the Pacific Northwest. However, being the first Black woman in a unique geographic location was not enough for Chaunci. She also wanted to be the first business to offer a vodka that was uncommon in the market and succeeded by developing the Miru Pear Vodka. With everything she is today, Chaunci is the living embodiment of formidable, intimidating even the most successful men working alongside the liquor industry.
Being a prospering CEO is a high-octane position to hold in a field designed to make you lose. King can hold this much power because she knows what it means to not have power. As someone who fought for her sanity and life to leave an abusive marriage, Chaunci can testify to the importance of having such power over your life. During her interview with She’s SINGLE she described her marriage as toxic in ways she could not even imagine, saying, “Domestic violence is real.” Her former husband actively prevented her from pursuing her business, which further drove her to create it. One of the most heartbreaking aspects of female victims of domestic and marital violence is that they stay with the abuser because they are financially dependent on him as the main income provider. As someone who understood the defeating feedback loop, Chaunci made it her mission to pursue her business more than ever, a tenacity for what she could taste at the tip of her tongue. She just had to push through a bit longer until financial independence was as natural as breathing. Investing time into her business was her portal into a future so much better that it seems completely disconnected from her unstable and violent past.
As a present dating woman, Chaunci still encounters men who are intimidated by her wealth and success. Given her acquired intolerance to actions driven by jealousy and insecurity in men over the years, Chaunci can easily identify early red flags and walk away. Some men try to challenge King’s professionalism, using business as a means to transition seamlessly into dating or something of a sexual nature. Insecurity and unprofessionalism in men through business have made Chaunci cautious of giving excuses to men and move on quickly. She encourages young women to pay attention to the early red flags and listen to their gut. Do not ignore any form of discouragement, no matter how small and seemingly harmless. With little patience for games and immaturity, Chaunci would rather stay single than be in a relationship with standards below hers. She does desire a healthy and committed relationship but understands how valuable it is and wants to operate on high expectations. As a woman who knows how to work for what she wants in business, it only makes sense she wants a relationship that is also worth working for.
By fighting for her right to safety and freedom, Chaunci has shown the importance of fending for herself, a lesson she would have to re-learn. After she made a monumental stride by leaving an abusive marriage and jumpstarting her liquor business, she hid behind the scenes, and let white or light-skinned women secure transactions, bartend, and meet with clients. Starting a business was already risky and running the double risk of losing clients because she was Black compounded her fears. Chaunci temporarily traded self-empowerment for security, while mentoring other young black women on entrepreneurship. Her apparent hypocrisy to herself and others pushed her to the forefront of meetings, transactions, and anything business-related.
As a woman who had to become her own provider, breaking away from the financial reliance on a man, Chaunci knows the importance of financial literacy in helping women achieve independence in every sector of their lives. It is typical for women to let men manage bills, bank accounts, investments, and other major risky financial decisions. It is not the most entertaining skill to develop, and given that it is male-dominated, many women consciously steer away from finance. Men have been the authority for financial decisions in the household for decades to come and they are now the authority for financial decisions in business and politics as well. For a woman to be successful with her business, Chaunci heavily emphasizes being a connoisseur on all financial aspects related. She explains that some of the foundational aspects of a business to ensure longevity are the financial ones, such as creating a bank account, acquiring insurance, and making worthwhile investments. “Finances are the challenging part and worth persevering through. You have to budget, finance, and market. Learn how to get those departments in order -- create the business, legal structure, get business bank accounts, and QuickBooks. Keep your business and personal accounts separate. Stay on top of your taxes and payroll,” she advises.
When asked about some of the lessons she learned over the years of running her own business that she would pass on, Chaunci again brings up financial literacy. She came from a family that did not pass on generational wealth, so developing a business meant she needed to gain access to other financial avenues to be eligible for a loan. She bootstrapped, gathering all her finances and the money coming in from early transactions. Eventually, Chaunci found non-traditional forms of funding through nonprofit organizations, such as MESO (mesopdx.org), that supported minority-owned businesses. Some early moves people can make to develop financial history and security are maintaining a high credit score, paying bills on time, having an amount set aside for savings from one’s budget. “Even if you cannot afford to, apply for credit and build it instead of paying for everything,” Chaunci says. Many business moves are risky but being able to distinguish amateur risk from risky moves that have been proven to work are crucial for eventual exponential growth.
Having an entrepreneurial spirit and having a deep respect for financial literacy, Chaunci has plans to create a mentorship program for women looking to do business in the adult beverage industry. Her years of personal and business triumphs have made her a valuable resource for learning how to make it to the top. She is finally having her cake and eating it too, as people now seek her business instead of the other way around. Renowned chain stores and distribution centers such as Kroger and A&B Food Wine & Spirits are recognizing the quality of her products and reaching out to her with quotes so they can sell her liquor brand. If you ever want to know what success tastes like, a bottle from Royalty Spirits is the way to go.
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