Distilling a Spirited Tradition with Jamie Hunt
Jamie Hunt is the Founder and CEO of Fast Penny Spirits, an Italian Amaro liqueur company based in Seattle, WA. European adventures and a rich family history of wine and liqueur making sparked her dive into the world of Amaro. On today’s show, Jamie shares her inspiration for starting her own company and why she left her tech career behind.
Additionally, she discusses women empowerment, meaningful opportunities, and career mentorship for a growth trajectory. Furthermore, she gives some wonderful advice, speaking to the lessons and challenges she has faced in her career as a leader and a woman in a male-dominated industry.
Today’s episode is hosted by Diana Fryc of Retail Voodoo, connect with her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dianafryc/
-Fast Penny Spirits is the American version of Italian Amaro liqueur
-Switching career paths from the tech industry to the liquor and beverage industry
-Impactful opportunities, lessons, and proud moments in life and work
ABOUT THE GUEST:
Co-founder & CEO, Fast Penny Spirits
00:00 | Introduction
03:34 | Women-Owned & Operated Distillery
05:45 | Producing a Botanical Liqueur
10:43 | From Tech to Family Tradition
13:32 | A Culinary Passion Turned Career
15:58 | Charting a New Path
18:16 | Finding Inspiration Outside of Mentorship
20:45 | Liqueur of the Year
23:24 | How to Start Something New
24:52 | New and Limited Product Releases
26:33 | Exercise & Sleep
28:00 | 90’s Fashion Trends & Low ABV Beverages
29:36 | Admirable Women
31:52 | Learn More about Jamie Hunt and Fast Penny Spirits
This episode is brought to you by Retail Voodoo. A brand consultancy focused on building, growing, and revitalizing brands in the food, beverage, health, and wellness industries. If you are ready to find a partner that will help your business create a high-impact strategy that gives your brand an advantage, please visit retail-voodoo.com/contact to set up a discovery call today.
Produced by Heartcast Media
Diana: Hi, Diana Frank Here I am, the host of The Good, her podcast, where I get to talk with the powerhouse women in the food, beverage, and wellness industries about their journeys to success and their insights on business. This episode is brought to you by Retail Voodoo, a brand development firm providing strategic brand and design services for brands in the food, wellness, and beverage industries. Our clients include Starbucks, Kind RCI, PepsiCo, Nike, and many other market leaders. So if your goal is to crush your competition by driving growth and disrupting the marketplace with new and innovative ideas, give us a call and let’s talk. You can also find more on retail hyphen voodoo dot com. Well, today I’m super excited to meet somebody. Well, to introduce you guys. I’ve already met Jamie. Jamie: Hunt is the CEO and founder of Fast Penny Spirits, a women-owned and operated B Corp-certified Amaro Distillery based in Seattle. Did I pronounce Amaro right? Is that how we say it?
Diana: Excellent. Okay. After a successful career launching innovative digital products and experiences for global companies, Jamie: left the tech world with the goal of having a positive impact on the world with Italian family roots and a love of delicious food. She set out to make an exquisite and sustainable Amaro as her opportunity to show up, support, and empower others through their pretty penny program. The distillery gives 3% of bottle revenue to organizations that support women, communities, and the beverage industry. Well, Jamie: welcome. Hello.
Jamie: Hello. Thanks for having me.
Diana: Yes, of course. And so nice to see your face again.
Diana: Yes. Yes. For those of you that are not familiar with this, Seattle is in the process of putting together a natural program here, in our community, to be part of the natural network program. And so the last time we actually did, we saw each other in person or digitally. I can’t remember.
Jamie: I think it was in.
Diana: Yeah, it was in person. Yeah. So I’m always excited to start something new. Those of you that know me to know that. But this is super fun, too. So, Jamie, what part of Seattle are you in?
Jamie: I live in Wallingford area. Yeah. And close. Yeah. And our distillery is like it’s on the backside of Queen near the bar.
Diana: It is. Oh, okay. Great. Is it open, like for the public?
Jamie: It is open. We’re just reducing our hours to 4 hours right now. So Fridays and Saturdays. So Fridays, 49, and Saturdays, 1 to 6.
Jamie: But we’re working on some improvements to our tasting deck. And so we will be able to open up more afterward.
Diana: Okay. I like that. Excellent. Well, we’ll keep our eyeballs on that. But to start the podcast, why don’t we start with your brand? What are fast penny spirits? And what does the brand stand for?
Jamie: So fast penny spirits is no morreau distillery. Were women-owned and operated? And let’s see. I like to give people some context as to the name and everything. And yes, we are fast penny spirits. So a little while back, I ended up joining a burlesque class that I really thought was an exercise class but found out it was indeed for creating a professional burlesque dancer. Okay. My friend talked me into it and she also thought it was an exercise class, so it was really funny. After the first class, we looked at each other and went, Are we going to do this? Like, Well, why not? And so I am. My stage name was Volo, Javon, Perla.
Jamie: And Volo means fast in Italian and her stage name was Song Teen Bijou in Satin means Penny in French. And we used to do a duet together. And when we would perform, we were fast. Penny And so it was such an empowering experience that when it came time to name the distillery, that’s the first name that popped up. So it’s fast. Penny Spirits is really about empowering people, and in particular, we’re focusing on empowering women. And women identify business leaders so.
Diana: That is the best founder story you win.
Jamie: It’s when I don’t like it.
Diana: I’ve only done a couple I’ve only done like maybe a couple hundred of these, but that is by far my favorite as well. So quickly, it’s fast penny spirits, but we’re talking about a micro spirit. I’m going to tell you, I don’t know what tomorrow is, so why don’t you tell the rest of us that are out there that are like me, what is an Amaro and what’s its history?
Jamie: Okay, so Amaro just means bitter in Italian, bittersweet botanical liquor.
Jamie: So others in the same family are Apple and Campari or Net? Amaro No. Nino is used for playing cocktails and such and its history goes back centuries. So it used to be a medicine concern. Medicine. It’s me. It’s made all throughout Europe. But the place where I think the most focus for Amaro is in Italy. And so the monks and pharmacists used to make Amaro, they’d foraged or grow different botanicals, and also they would add it to other botanicals they get from the spice trade and so forth. And they were really doing it to help heal people of their ailments. And then when Western medicine came into vogue in the 1800s, then people started just adding sugar so that people would share it. And then they started just drinking it for fun. And so then that whole Amaro liqueur industry really started taking off. And Amaro is made regionally. So you can go to different parts of Italy and you taste the terroir because you can taste what grows there. So in the north, if you taste some of the northern Amaro Murray, they might have more of the alpine flavor.
Diana: Got it.
Jamie: And then if you go south, let’s say to Sicily, you’re probably going to get more of the citrus notes. Got it.
Diana: So is it a naturally wild-crafted type of product?
Jamie: You can source from wherever, but typically there’s typically a lot of wildcrafting that happens. So ours does have some wildly crafted material, but then we also source from organic, organic places. Got it. Our stuff is either organic or wild-crafted. That’s in the Amaro.
Diana: Got it. So it is distinctly northwest. The version of an Amaro, as I said.
Jamie: Yeah. So ours has some really cool botanicals. So we have truffle dogs that hunt for the black truffle, which is really fun. And that’s through Seattle, our truffle dog company. Okay, so, so fun. She also will take people out, by the way, really, to go out on a truffle dog bite. I met her because I bought a truffle dog. A lot of dogs can become truffle dogs, but no one is like Godo Roman YOLO. Okay, so I bought a la go to Rome and YOLO and I reached out to a woman and said, Can you help me train? So that was before I even started. Oh, really? Yeah. And so we also have his on that from the northwest in there. Yakima hops in there and Rainier cherries in there.
Diana: Love that.
Jamie: Yeah. So we tried to take things that were distinctive to our area, that grew in our area, and add them to other cool things. So we have like mascara, which is the fruit of the coffee bean that normally will get tossed out or composted by the coffee farmer. But because of the growing use of it, especially in beverages, now the coffee farmer gets paid for it and it’s a really beautiful botanical. Oh, wow. So, yeah, there’s really fun stuff like that.
Diana: Oh, my goodness. Well, that is so great. And then can I assume that fast penny spirits mean that at some point there might be something beyond Amaro? Or is that TBD?
Jamie: So we are in R&D right now working on vermouth. So that is technically part of the Moro family. Okay. But so we’ll stick with that kind of steam. But we’re also in R&D on a couple of ready-to-drinks.
Diana: Oh, hey, now that is exciting. Okay. Well, let’s go back in time, Jamie: if you can, and tell us about this journey of how, you know, how fast penny spirits came to ballet. We heard the burlesque story, but like conceptually, like, how did you go from tech to alcohol?
Jamie: So I’m going to go back a little further just to see her family. So my family for generations has made their own records course and made their own wine. Yeah. For family consumption. Family, friends. And so the idea of making something like this was. It didn’t seem weird to me. Not seemed like a natural thing. And then I also love to cook and love to make craft cocktails. But the impetus really came from, you know, I was in tech for 20 years and I was really wanting to get out of that and get into something that I could be passionate about, something where I could give back more than I could as an individual and something that would make a positive impact on the world. And so I happened to be. So I was in that frame of mind. And I happened to be at Rob Roy in Seattle drinking tomorrow. And Ronnie’s husband and I were there and we just asked the bartender about North American Amari. So I fell in love with Amaro, by the way, in my twenties, traveling through Italy. So I’ve been a super fan of them for decades. Okay. Now I can say decades. That just fell. I’m sorry. So we tasted some. And they were. They were. They were good. But they were like the really complex Italian style that I grew to love.
Jamie: And so just a little thing. When my head and I started researching it, I started playing with some recipes just from the garden bench in the cupboard, and then I felt like I could do that. Yeah, there’s a whole market for really great American-made Italian style. Amaro And so I decided to start the company in August of 2017, and I worked on the recipes for about two and a half years, and we launched in July 2020.
Diana: When do people really need it? Amaro I’m going to say.
Diana: The timing was a little bit tricky. Okay. Well, I am curious, you know, you and I talked about this. It’s possible that we had crossed paths at some point in the. Yeah. In our history. Right. And I wonder when you look back at your career path if you. Saw many moments. I feel like you’ve already said this. Maybe. Maybe you have it. But can you see moments in your history that were pointing you to this opportunity? Especially when you look backward.
Jamie: Yeah, I think there are a few things. There’s one because I love food and wine and cocktails so much. I did a boot camp at the CIA in Napa and thoroughly enjoyed it. I was exhausted. Yeah, sure, we won training, but it was really fun. And then I decided also just to go get my someone for fun because I just enjoyed wine and spirit.
Diana: So yeah.
Jamie: You know, there was that was kind of there and kind of guiding me forward. And then there was like I worked in a male-dominated industry and I had to fight like, you know, I’m not going to say the word, but like I had to really fight to, um, to get opportunities and to grow in my career.
Jamie: And I really wanted to help other women not have to do that. Yeah. And so I wanted to empower more women. And so I mentored different women throughout their careers. And for me, that was a thing like if I started fast money Spirits, that was always I think I built in a give-back model from the very beginning because that’s what I wanted to do and my focus is really on women. Yeah, first. And then, of course, I want to be inclusive too. So we appreciate all of our allies out there. I definitely could not do any of this without them. Yeah.
Diana: Yeah. Well, so speaking of that, then, because I always feel like some of the best mentors are the ones that kind of went through the most kind of. Oh, shit shows, for lack of a better description. So on that note, have there been any learning experiences or lost opportunities that changed the trajectory of your career and maybe the way you lead that I’m and I’ll maybe I’ll just leave it at that. Like, what’s happened in the past that kind of changed the trajectory for you as a leader and then into this direction.
Jamie: I think I always was. I don’t want to call myself a trailblazer, but I was always doing things to grow a business and kind of against a lot of obstacles and so forth. Throughout my whole career, I had been doing that at several companies and I did that at Barnard as well, and kind of hit up against a little bit of a barrier in that. My husband also was on the same career trajectory and so we just had to kind of figure out where, where we went. And so I took a global role and worked on digital strategy and innovation, and I enjoyed that. But I really miss my team.
Jamie: I get a lot of energy from a really great team and I miss them and I miss that. And so I decided to leave overnight and go to Earth, Shenyang e y and enjoy their digital group.
Jamie: And that was a great experience too. But it helped me figure out, like, I think I’m at the end of this road. I think I’m at the end of this chapter. Yeah. And I really wanted to go and start something new and fresh, something I’d never done before. And it’s scary, obviously, going from something you know so well into something you know nothing about.
Jamie: But it’s also exhilarating. I mean, I think I was prepped for that in a way because I was in consulting for so long. You have to learn new businesses so fast. Yeah. And come up to speed. So, you know, while sometimes it’s daunting, it was just part of how my career has gone. Yeah. So.
Diana: Yeah. Well, speaking of leadership, are there any instrumental mentors that you’ve had or you have that you look up to as you’ve been navigating this change in career path, and any specific advice that you kind of carry in your back pocket from them?
Jamie: I have really not had any mentors that I can speak of. Not directly. Sure, I’ve gotten inspiration from others and taken learnings from others, either peers or people that are before me or with me or in a different industry. So that’s mostly it. I wish I could say I had this great mentor and they helped open my eyes or said, but I just didn’t. And that’s okay. It taught me to look out for myself and make sure that I was staying ahead of the game and figuring out ways. Reading up on things. Listening to podcasts such as yours really inspires and teaches. Yeah. And broadening perspective.
Diana: Yeah, that’s really interesting. You know, I had a sales coach for a number of years or a performance coach, as we might be saying. But when one of the places you’re going to laugh at this, one of the places where I get a lot of mentoring is actually from RuPaul’s Drag Race. So-called RuPaul has a way of talking about business when he’s talking to the contestants on their show and he’s really talking to them in a kind of a business speak. But it’s all reformulated for entertainment, you know. But it’s pretty funny. Like I don’t have a mentor per say, but I would definitely say between RuPaul and Oprah, Lord, that’s why it’s that mash-up. Those two have given me a lot of my friends.
Jamie: I, you know, through COVID, I was just looking for anything for entertainment, inspiration. Yeah. And so I did the whole Masterclass series. You did? I watched RuPaul and loved love. Love what you had to say.
Diana: So smart.
Jamie: Yeah. So, yeah, that was really fun.
Diana: Yeah. Yeah. Okay, so let’s talk a little bit about Iowa. This is one of the questions that I ask everybody. What are you most proud of at this time? It could be with Fast Penny. It could be anything, any other part of your life. What are you most proud of at this moment?
Jamie: I have never been able to answer most of anything. He knows me either. Like some will ask me what my favorite food is and I’m like, I don’t have one, but I really love it. And then I go on. Yeah, I’m going to do something somewhere here, but okay, keep it shorter, sir. I think I’m still a little and all that. I was able to create a product that people are enjoying.
Jamie: And that brings them joy. I think that every day I’m just grateful that people enjoy what I produced or produce, I should say. I think every time I get to write a check or do a donation to a nonprofit, I feel proud. Now, the team that we have is small but super mighty and wonderful and positive. And so I feel very proud of our team, and what we’ve accomplished. And then, you know, there’s awards that we’ve been winning. And one of the most recent ones that I’m proud of is we went to Tails of the Cocktail and we entered the New Orleans Spirits Competition, and we’re named the Americano. Bianca was named the Liquor of the Year, no group.
Diana: And that is awesome.
Jamie: We got two gold medals, one for each of our products. And so that was a super proud moment. And then just recently we surpassed 100 K and our crowdfunding campaign was started in June. Oh, nice. That was also a proud moment. Yes, there’s several proud moments, I think, from a career standpoint, of course.
Diana: And, you know, when you birth a brand like it is very much a baby. We’ve worked with so many founder owners at various stages, sometimes very early, sometimes more mature brands. But my goodness, that brand is there, baby. And so, you know, any kind of when, you know, you’re putting that hovering picture up on your wall and you’re loving it. So when it’s gold, like, that’s the best.
Jamie: Yeah, absolutely.
Diana: I love that. What sort of advice do you find yourself giving other people that are on a similar journey to yours? And by the journey, I’m talking about moving from a place of comfort and strength into something brand. New and starting something that you just don’t even know where to start maybe on.
Jamie: So that the best advice I can give and I live it all the time is just taking the next step. So take that. It’s not necessarily a leap, but take the next step if you want to go off and do something. Do the first thing. Then do the second. Know where you want to go, generally speaking, so you can get there. But like for me, there are times I was making that recipe in those two and a half years and I was like, Oh my goodness, am I ever going to get to a recipe that is great? And we have 46 botanicals in our recipe. And so there were moments I had to just be like, okay, now just going to do the next test. I’m just going to test. I’m just going to add that. Yeah. And like, that’s the same thing that’s happening right now. We’re developing these for our TDs and it’s overwhelming how complicated everything is. And I’ve never done it before, but I’m reaching out to people that I am an expert sitting and talking with them, picking their brains, people that have just done it. So I always recommend reaching out to people and asking questions and just taking that next step.
Diana: Okay, great. I like that. Well, tell us a little bit about what’s next for you or for Fast Penny. Anything that you can share?
Jamie: Yeah. Well, as I said, we’re in the midst of fundraising, so that’s really fun. And we’re relaunching into the California market with Southern Craft Collection, so we’re excited about that to get more in that market for the holidays. And then we have the RTDs that we’re working on. We have the vermouth that we’re working on. So I think those will all be fun to release. And then another really fun release we’re getting ready to do a limited release is we took some Westland Peated barrels and we put our Americano in there. And it absolutely is. Amazing. Like, it is such an I love what it did to our product. And so we’ve seen that we have a subscription club called the Lotus Society, and so we release our limited releases to them first before they go out. And so yeah, so really excited for I don’t know how many bottles we’ll have because everyone keeps tasting it and tasting.
Diana: But we have to sell these guys. So that’s so funny. And it sounds like you have a lot going on. It’s not like one or two, but you really are. Doing lots of different activities is not like all marketing or operations or sales. You’re doing something in a lot of places.
Diana: Yeah. How are you? Keep in. Sane during that.
Jamie: Am I?
Diana: Maybe that’s good.
Jamie: So I do try to just stick with some form of exercise. So I think a dog walking them all the time just taking care of myself, and getting sleep is important. And so I do try to just treat myself where I can because I work seven days a week. Yeah. And it’s not like 12 hours, seven days a week like that.
Diana: No, it’s 20. Yeah.
Jamie: I try to work around it. People talk about work-life balance to me like I love what I’m doing. So yeah, working doesn’t really feel like working. So it doesn’t feel like a grind ever. And I think that’s important just to make sure it doesn’t go. I mean, just two days ago, I went and had my hair done during the workday.
Jamie: Why not do any of it? Yeah. What else? So.
Diana: Yeah, awesome. Oh, my goodness. Jamie: I’m really enjoying our conversation. Time is starting to wrap up, but I have a couple of last questions I like to ask everybody before I do. And that is the first one is what trends are you following? And I like this one. It doesn’t have to be in spirits. It doesn’t even have to be in food and beverage. Could be any trends. I’m always curious about what people are watching and staying on top of.
Jamie: Because I have a tween. I’m keeping up with the mom jean thing.
Diana: So are you now. Okay
Jamie: So buying my daughter clothes from the nineties in the nineties is really fun. I’m like, Oh, I used to have something like this. So I get to keep up with some fashion trends because it sounds good. And then like the RTD trend, of course, I’m keeping up with, and then the low AB trend as well. We put out for our folks who try to put out low AB cocktail ideas too, for those folks that don’t want to.
Jamie: High octane. And then we also have the collaboration we do with Yonder Cider, which is really fun. No, we have to take our Marcano and their cashmere cider. Yeah. Put it together and it becomes velvet cashmere.
Diana: Oh my goodness.
Jamie: It’s a negroni in a can. It is so delicious. It’s. Wow.
Diana: So where’s a girl? Get one of that yonder.
Jamie: Okay. Taproom for sure. But we have some cans at the distillery too, at our bottle shop.
Diana: Okay, good to know. I’m going to have to check that out. Right. Okay. My next and last question is, are there any other women leaders or rising stars out there in our industry or not that you would like to elevate or simply admire for the work that they’re doing?
Jamie: I have a few for sure. I would say Fawn Weaver, who is doing an amazing job bringing the uncle nearest to that story to life and really honoring him and his family and the whole culture. I think it’s awesome and just what she’s doing, period. The growth and all the metals and like, it’s just it’s a little mind-blowing. Okay. I always admire Sarah Blakely. The story is so amazing, the tenacity and just the grit and just getting it done and being positive like I know that and being real. Like, I love authentic leaders. I mean, that sounds kind of silly, of course. I think most of us would, but some really do ring true. And yeah, I love what Kara Golden did with water and how she just wasn’t listening to the naysayers. She just moved forward and built this amazing brand. And then another one, when I’m feeling a little bit down, like, I just need like a pick me up. I listen to Cathy Heller’s podcast. She was a songwriter and she ended up starting her own, like how to teach people how to write songs. And then it just has grown and grown and grown from there. Teaching people how to do her podcast is called Don’t Keep Your Day Job.
Diana: So I think I’ve heard of that one.
Jamie: Yeah, it’s motivating. Like when you’re feeling like, Oh God, I didn’t keep my day job and I just need a little motivation today. She has a best like she’s the best folk on and she’s just so, so authentic and so fun to listen to. And so. Those are my folks that keep me inspired.
Diana: Oh, I love that. Oh, wonderful. Thank you. There’s a couple of new ones for me to check out. Thank you. Well. Listen, everyone, we have been talking with Jeremy Hunt, CEO, and co-founder of Fast Penny Spirits. Jamie, where can people learn more about you and your brand?
Jamie: Well, we’re at we have our website and of course, fast penny spirits dot com. But we’re also on Instagram at Fast Penny Spirits. And we have another handle Amaro Amaro Marcano on Instagram, which is a little more national view of our brand. But yeah, and then I’m at Jamie: A Hunt 70 if you want to reach me. I don’t post that often. I needed to, but I’m terrible at it.
Diana: You know, in your spirit.
Jamie: A social media manager that does our posting for us, otherwise you would never hear from us.
Diana: So I understand. Totally understand. Oh, my goodness. Thank you so much for your time today, Jamie. I’m so happy to just have this one-on-one time with you. And I look forward to watching you grow. And I want to thank all of you listeners for your time today. If you like this episode, please share it with a friend. Otherwise, have a great rest of your day and we’ll catch you next time on The Gooder podcast.