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“Small companies need big personalities.”

Well, “big,” is a bit of an understatement. More like loud, in volume and presence. The guy who’s going to walk into a room, any room, and turn it upside down. How do we know? We’ve been working with him for 12 years. Joe Heron is bold, bracingly candid, sometimes coarse, and remarkably generous.

In a word: Fearless. The man just opened a brandy distillery in the bourbon capital of the world. Why? “Booze, baby!” Those words burst from the sly grin on his lips as if the answer is obvious. Ok, so there’s actually more to it than that, but before we get to the secret of Joe’s success, we should explain why you should listen.

“This is our third business started with Flavorman. Two have successfully been sold to major corporations. We would not be where we are today without Dave Dafoe, or, as they call him in France, Daveed Dafeux.”

In 2006, within 18 months of launching his soda company Nutrisoda, Joe Heron sold it to PepsiAmericas. His line of functional sodas stood out in the category by offering something that ordinary sodas don’t have: nutrients.

Two years later, Joe took on the beer giants, elbowing his way into the exploding craft beer category with Crispin Hard Cider. Crispin’s 200 percent growth in 2011 caught the eye of executives at MillerCoors, which purchased Joe’s company in 2012.

Now Joe is making a splash in the spirits industry. (Well, actually, more like a typhoon.) Within six months of opening, Copper & Kings American Brandy Company has expanded distribution of its products to seven states. You might say he knows a thing or two about creating a successful beverage. Here are a few of the principles he stands on, in his own words:

“Stand up – stand for something… and stand out.”

Starting a business: “Entrepreneurs are like dogs who bark at the stick in the water. Very few get wet. Just do it. You can only swim for one stick at a time.”

Moving forward: “An idea is not a business. Execution and luck are more important than strategy and analysis. Treading water is the same as drowning; it just takes longer.”

Staying agile: “Five-year plans change every five minutes.”

Differentiation: “Don’t take a knife to a gunfight. Look for the gap. For new businesses to succeed today you have to be imaginative and creative.”

Growing: “Survive before you thrive.”

His success: “Three cheats: read voraciously, good manners, always follow through.”


“So there you have it. Inspired? Likely. Intimidated? Definitely. But that’s life on the edge of the water, right? Swim for the stick.”

Written on October 21, 2014.