We have seen Black women take on business and entrepreneurship in numbers and be incredibly successful in the last decade. What we have specifically seen is Black women stepping into industries where little representation of not only women but Black women are present. The wine and spirits industry is no different.
In recent years, celebrity brands such as Ciroc and Dusse have risen in popularity in our culture, becoming the drink of the party. Black-owned vineyards like Brown Estates in Napa Valley are now changing the narrative around Black people and wine. Historically, we have had our influence in this industry for years but with less acknowledgment. Our taste profile coupled with family recipes have influenced brands such as Jack Daniels, a liquor that can be reportedly traced back to a Black man, Nathan "Nearest" Green.
Amber Ferrell Steele, CEO, and creator of Timeless Vodka is changing the narrative of Black women taking up space in this industry by creating a vodka line that is expertly crafted with everyone in mind. She is a wife and mother who has stepped out into uncharted waters and created a lane for Black women in the spirits industry. It was the creativity of Amber and her husband, Bruce King Steele, that led her to try her hand at creating her own liquor brand. This idea grew legs, and Timeless Vodka was born.
Courtesy of Timeless Vodka
Since then, the Timeless Vodka team has come together organically, with Amber's retailers, distributors, distillery family, and her own family rallying around her. Trust has been a major lesson for Amber because she has only met approximately 35 percent of her team face-to-face. She has had to learn to discern who has her best interest at heart in a very small amount of time, and so far she has been right.
To create her unique product and process, Amber used influences from her family and friends to develop a brand that can compete on the premium beverage stage and is inclusive of everyone. Even down to the smallest detail of the bottle shape, inspired by a syndrome that her daughter English was born with, points to inclusion for adults who still are affected. Without much experience in the industry and little information available, she was able to leverage her skills in sales, as well as her relationships to build her brand and grow it to multiple states during the pandemic.
If you are wondering about the taste, Amber uses a special process that ultra-purifies her vodka as it goes through a distillation process five times to prevent hangovers. It is a clean and elegant process that creates a drink that even when mixed, you don't have to work too hard to make a beautiful tasty cocktail. Amber's key to success? Well, that lies in the fact that she purposely created no plan B because plan A had to work. Amber calls this grit, and it is one of the things she says you need to have in business to be successful where you are not only the sole woman but the only Black woman.
Check out Amber's journey as she details how she built her Timeless Vodka brand and the obstacles she faced.
xoNecole: You have a full-time job and a family. What made you take on entrepreneurship?
Amber Ferrell Steele: Entrepreneurship wasn't something that I actually sought to do, honestly, this was a hobby. And it kind of grew into the business, and I would say entrepreneurship found me, I didn't necessarily find it. I'd be lying if I said it was easy. January 2020 was our official launch. And before we could even really get our feet wet in the industry, we only had a good month and a half before things started shutting down or the fear of things shutting down actually took place
"Honestly, this was a hobby. And it kind of grew into the business, and I would say entrepreneurship found me, I didn't necessarily find it."
I'd be lying if I said it was easy.I can say it's been a very fascinating year to juggle. I have a full-time job. I'm a full-time wife. I'm a full-time mom, and then I have to become a homeschool teacher too. I really had to find time and balance, and time management wasn't something that I was necessarily ever good at. I had to quickly learn how to be good at all of it.
Courtesy of Timeless Vodka
How did you decide to take on the wine and spirits industry?
To a degree, my husband is not a big drinker. I like to drink. I'm willing to try different things, but him, not so much. So whenever I'd make something at home, he would drink it. But we would go to a friend's house or a restaurant, he was drinking just to drink. It wasn't something that he enjoyed the taste of. I asked him what it is, and he said, "I just don't really like the way it tastes," or "I feel like it's heavy."
So the vodka line started off as a joke. I was like OK, we'll just create our own. One day, I was at a sales meeting for my company and I started looking at research on how to create your own brand. It's surprising, there's not a lot of information out there at all. It took me about two years, from start to finish to start to find the flavor profile, and create it.
How did you come up with the name Timeless Vodka?
We already decided what type of flavor we were going to have and the last little piece to the puzzle was the name. I traveled and I had a thirteen-week travel leg, I was only really home on the weekends. Bruce gave me a card and it was handwritten on a regular Walmart card. But he had written a piece in it about what you share with the people that you care about most. Once memory fades, you will still be able to have that feeling that you can always remember. Make the moment count. So that's when we decided, let's call it "Timeless". We decided our catchphrase would be, "Moments matter, make them timeless."
Courtesy of Timeless Vodka
In creating your flavor profile, coming up with your logo, the bottling, etc., can you walk us through that process from concept to the finished product?
I definitely wanted it to be black and white. I thought that it was very timeless, classy, and elegant. It was really important for the bottom to be gray and it signifies that black and white can offer gray. The shape of the bottle is something that was important to me. My daughter was born with amniotic down syndrome. When she was little, she had a small limb deficiency with her fingers and toes and she always liked water bottles.
I kind of thought ahead, there are other adults that are just like English out there, so I thought that having a squatty or wider bottle is easier to grip. You wouldn't believe the amount of people who wanted me to change my bottle shape, label, or design. I really [believe in] standing firmly on what you believe in and what you want. There's not a lot of women in this space. Being able to say this is what I want to do, and this is why it was something I had to learn.
"I really [believe in] standing firmly on what you believe in and what you want. There's not a lot of women in this space. Being able to say this is what I want to do, and this is why it was something I had to learn."
What were some of the business challenges that you encountered while you were building your business?
Not knowing what I was doing. I mean I hate to say you don't know what you don't know until you're in that situation where you really don't know what you don't know. That was my biggest thing. Having to quickly learn different liquor laws for the state that you're in has to be the hardest part of the selling. Learning what I needed to do, legally, [I] can't say I've mastered it.
What are some of the tools that you acquired or that you use now that help you navigate the challenges of becoming an entrepreneur?
I'm pretty close to our distributor, it was nice that I was able to come in and be very honest with them. I do not know everything, but I'm willing to learn. I feel like a lot of people, in general, don't want to take the time to sit back and listen and learn.
Courtesy of Timeless Vodka
Did you ever feel like you had imposter syndrome? And what did you do to kind of get over that?
I don't think I have. There are very few women who own vodka or liquor lines in general. I'm not a celebrity, I'm not wealthy. I'm just a regular person who wants to create a great tasting product for my family and friends. Up until recently, I would go in, make calls and people would have no idea that I was the owner of the brand. I'm just now starting to tap out and say, "My name is Amber, and I'm the owner of Timeless Vodka."
What advice would you give women who are looking to go into entrepreneurship?
If anything, keep your ideas close. Don't tell anyone what you are going to do until it is time for you to do it. Sometimes people will put their fears on your success and on you. As far as going into your own liquor business, just have grit.
If you are interested in purchasing, you can find Timeless Vodka in five states, Texas, Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina, and New Hampshire. It is also available online and ships to 44 states.
Featured image courtesy of Timeless Vodka
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
Imma tell y’all what — it seems like not one week goes by when I don’t see some sort of so-called term that has me like, “What in the world?” For instance, when I first stumbled upon “self-partnering,” honestly, I laughed. Then shared it with some other single people as well as married folks I know. And I kid you not, every individual was like, “What the heck does that mean?” When I told them that it was yet, one more way to seemingly define single living, basically everyone’s follow-up was, “Oh, brother.”
Why can’t (more) singles just be single and be okay with that? Good Lord. Why does there need to be some sort of relational play-on-words to make it sound like we’re with someone — even if we’re not?
Now masturdating? Even though it’s not even close to being a “real” word, it’s something that also brought a laugh outta me — although it was then followed by a genuine smile. The laugh because I almost immediately caught the play-on-words. The smile was due to the intention behind it all.
If you’re not familiar with what masturdating is and you’re curious about why you should even care, take a few moments to at least skim through what it’s about and why I think participating, as a single person, is a pretty cool (and effective) concept.
Masturdate: a date w oneself
What’s Masturdating All About?
Masturdating. Okay, so let the word marinate for just a moment. What does it sound like? Yeah…exactly. And since a huge part of masturbation centers around self-pleasure, it’s cool to explore how “self-dating” could produce similar (as far as pleasure is concerned in a broader sense) results. Because masturdating is all about spending quality time with yourself, pampering yourself, treating yourself— and yes, taking yourself out on dates.
Any of you who may think that masturdating is a consolation prize — and a pitiful one at that — for not being able to go out with another human being or get that dream $200 first date that social media was all in a tizzy about last year (bookmark that) — personally, I think that you’re the demographic who needs to try out masturdating first and the most. Why? Off top, I’ll share my three good reasons.
3 Reasons To Strongly Consider Masturdating
1. It’s an intimate way to get to know yourself better. I’ve been working with couples for a pretty long time at this point and if there’s a pattern that I see arise, OFTEN, it’s that two people are oftentimes so busy trying to “find their person” that they didn’t even know who they were. As a direct result, they found themselves in a relationship with someone who only complemented the “kiddie pool version” of who they were.
That’s why it can be so beneficial to spend time getting to know yourself on the “deep end” of things: what makes you tick, what your passions are, what you want most out of life, what are your interests beyond obvious things — and masturdating can help you to discover all of this. Whether it’s traveling alone or taking out a weekend to drink some wine and journal, the more you get to know yourself, the clearer you’ll be about who complements you on a romantic and friendship level.
2. It will definitely help to boost your confidence levels. I guess since I’m an ambivert, I don’t really get why people freak out at the mere thought of going to a restaurant or movie alone. Personally, I think it requires a helluva lot more energy and gumption to wait around and plan stuff with other people (#Elmoshrug). However, whether you’re an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert, there’s no way around the fact that the more comfortable you get with doing things alone, the more your confidence levels will increase — no, soar — because of it.
One article that I read on the topic said that doing things alone can make you more creative, improve your mental health, and help you to be totally okay with being alone (so that you’re not “needy” for other people’s attention). A psychotherapist from a New York Times article on the benefits of spending time alone said, “Getting better at identifying moments when we need solitude to recharge and reflect can help us better handle negative emotions and experiences, like stress and burnout.” And when you’re able to stare negativity in its face without flinching, how could that not make you bolder, more self-secure, and hopeful about your life?
3. It will teach you to value your time more effectively. In every facet of your world, you’re gonna operate from a healthier place if you’re operating from a “full cup” rather than an empty one. When it comes to this topic, think about it — if you’re constantly waiting on someone to call you to go out or wishing for a dream date with some guy, all you’re doing is wasting precious time that you could be spending taking a cooking class or hell, hiring a chef to make you dinner at your own home.
Indeed, waiting has two sides to it: when it’s in the form of patience, it is indeed a virtue, yet when it’s wrapped up in the notion that you’re not really living life unless you have an audience…it is totally working against you. Choose wisely.
10 Solo Date Ideas To Help You To “Master” Masturdating
So, what if you’re someone who has either never considered actually masturdating before or you don’t really know what to do beyond dinner and the movies? Here are a few ideas to consider:
1. Attend a workshop or masterclass that you’re interested in. If there’s something that you’ve always wanted to learn, sign up for a workshop or masterclass. The cool thing about this option is there are probably some in your city, as well as some that you can find online (like here) that are convenient and affordable.
2. Binge-read at a local coffee shop. Aside from their coziness and oftentimes inviting scents, I once read that a lot of us gravitate to coffee shops because we can be around people without having to actually socialize with them. So, if you want to “hang out” while still being able to enjoy a bit of solitude, take a book that you’ve been trying to finish to a local coffee shop, order your favorite latte, and sit in a big-ass comfy chair. Usually, you can sit there for hours, and the staff will be just fine with it (another bonus).
3. Have a spa day in the next town. You can never go wrong with a spa day. And while going with a friend can be fun, sometimes there’s too much talking transpiring to be able to fully chill out and relax. So, go off of the grid, get a change of scenery, and hit up a spa in the next city (or town). There are lots of studies out here supporting that day trips or “daycations” can actually be really good for your long-term health and well-being.
4. See a community play. Some of the best solo dates that I’ve ever been on consisted of taking in some of the local arts in my city. What’s really cool about this particular option is, oftentimes, they are extremely inexpensive, if not totally free of charge (in exchange for making a donation or putting money into a tip jar).
5. Plan a trip. Whenever people say something along the lines of, “If you don’t expect anything, you won’t be disappointed,” I know that they low-key have some (additional) healing to do from past disappointments. There’s simply too much intel out here to support that anticipation (of good stuff) makes us more motivated and optimistic, keeps our dopamine levels up, and makes life more exciting overall.
Since traveling alone is more cost-effective, gives you the freedom to do whatever you want (when you want), and increases the possibility of meeting new people and having new experiences on your journey — why not devote a day this weekend to planning a solo trip? All the way around, it’s good for you.
6. Try your hand at your own “$200 date.” Uh-huh. Roll your eyes if you want to, but it’s real easy to talk left about how a man should be able to just drop $200 like it’s nothing…until you actually try to do it. So yes, while taking yourself out on this type of date could serve as a bit of a reality check, it can also “scratch the itch” of waiting on some dude to do it for you. It’s also way less emotionally draining because, at least when you’re taking your own self out, it’s guaranteed that you’ll enjoy the company…right?
7. DIY some pampering. When you get a chance, check out “5 Reasons You Should Unapologetically Pamper Yourself,” “Want To Love On Yourself? Try These 10 Things At Home.,” “I’ve Got Some Ways For You To Start Pampering Your Soul,” and “When's The Last Time You Actually Pampered Your Vagina?” The bottom line here is pampering is all about, not mere self-maintenance; it’s all about treating yourself to levels of EXTREME SELF-INDULGENCE. So, if nothing else tickles your fancy on this list, at least consider doing that, chile.
8. Feed your creativity. Something that I used to be really good at is art. That said, one of my goddaughters is insanely talented, so she has reminded me to tap back into it. Also, a big part of what got me into the writing world is poetry; I actually used to be a house poet at a local spot. Sometimes, my best quality time moments with myself have been revisiting these creative sides of me — and this is definitely easier to do (and enjoy) alone.
9. Try some stargazing. When’s the last time you took a blanket into your backyard, laid down on it, and just stared at the stars for hours on end? While some say that stargazing can teach you to be mindful, others say that being in that form of nature reduces stress, while others believe that looking up at the universe at night can increase your attention span. All solid reasons to give it a shot, if you ask me.
10. DO. ABSOLUTELY. NOTHING. Let me tell you something that nobody will ever be able to make me feel bad about: doing absolutely nothing. I’ve got data to back me up. Good Housekeeping shares that doing nothing can help you decide how you want to respond or react to certain things. I like howThe Guardian says that taking this approach helps you to regain control of what you give your attention to.
TIME magazine says that it can ultimately make you more productive.BBC offers up that it can help you tap into your ingenuity.Henry Ford Health says that it can make you kinder and a better problem-solver. So, if you want to invest in yourself, do nothing sometimes.
Closing Thoughts from the Lovely Javicia Leslie
While some of y'all may know Javicia Leslie from being the former Batwoman, I discovered her back in the day from the indie series Chef Julian (and yes, "Julian" was right to say that "Mo" looks like Tatyana Ali...the real ones know). Sometimes I'll hop on her IG to see what she's got going on and this story popped up within a few hours of me penning this...so, I took it as hella confirmation.
TREAT YO SELF. WAIT FOR NO ONE.
WAIT FOR NO ONE. TREAT YO SELF.
RINSE AND REPEAT.
Sooo…what kind of masturdating plans do you have for this coming weekend? While going out with others has its perks, hanging out with yourself has a ton of ‘em too. Enjoy!
No…for real. ENJOY!
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Featured image by FOTOGRAFIA, INC./Getty Images