Chilled Continues to Celebrate Influential Women in the Spirits Industry.
We spoke with Nikki Preiss, who’s carving a niche in the world of spirits and empowering women without hype and hashtags. Nikki is third generation importer in the alcohol industry, with each generation starting their own company representing niche brands from around the world.
Nikki grew up surrounded by the industry, with her parent’s company run out of their home in the early years. In 2012, Nikki attended culinary school and formed Preiss Imports with her father, Henry Preiss. Nikki works to continue the legacy that her grandfather and father have built for themselves. As each respective family member carved their niche—Nikki works for the company’s marketing and sales approach to be forward-thinking and innovative.
Who was one of your biggest female influencers?
When I graduated from college, my father introduced me to Christy Taylor. Christy has been CEO of many companies throughout her career, not just in our industry. In practicing interviewing skills, she single-handedly changed my thinking and how I spoke in a matter of six hours. I learned you could say the same thing in two different ways. One will leave a negative impression; one will leave a positive impact. Both sentences mean the same thing, but the perception they evoke can be drastically different.
In looking at industry-specific and current day, I would have to say Emily Josenhans of Domaine Santé Grape Nectar. I’ve had the pleasure of traveling with Emily to cross-promote our products. She is just beautiful inside and out. It’s more complicated than most people grasp to build a brand in an unknown or new category. I genuinely admire her creativity, tenacity, and overall character. I have learned a lot about how she has set up her organization. It takes a special person to do what she is achieving. Through the ups and downs of entrepreneurship, Emily emits such a brightness, which I hope always to convey myself.
How do you think women in this industry treat each other?
As an importer, I sit on a different side of this industry than most females that I interact with, so my perception could be quite different than others. I run about my day honestly, not worrying about gender until I have to. Usually, it’s not due to another female. So, to me, I’m a bit indifferent. I connect with people based on energy I feel rather than the physical attributes of a person. I work with individuals one-on-one. If I don’t connect with someone, I don’t believe it’s because of gender; I feel it’s two people that don’t jive.
What does the empowerment of women mean to you?
This is a big question. Have you googled empowerment lately? “Women’s empowerment is the way or a social action in which women elaborate and recreate what it is to be in a circumstance that they previously were denied,” from our trusted Wikipedia source.
What does this mean? Sure, it can mean awareness is more present, undoubtedly important. But it can also mean some are following it as a fad. After all, SEO and tagging key terms are all based on social pressures. Marketing is purely tapping into what others care about. The best social media marketing is creating an image, which others want to share, and in turn, it boosts your presence. Why do they want to share it? Because it makes them look good to society. We are all guilty of this (it’s perfectly okay as it’s human nature). This is how marketing is successful.
At its core, I feel the empowerment of women goes beyond a lot of what we see today. It runs deep. It means equal opportunity on all levels—getting recognition for excelling at what we do, not because we are female. We are viewed on a level platform, paid fairly, hired accordingly, and when someone looks at us, and our work, it’s not a handout or denied because of our gender. It’s because we have earned respect. Same as any male would expect.
I have been told multiple times that a buyer won’t purchase my product(s) from me for nothing more than my brands are not female distilled, and the buyer is “in support of the movement.” Thoughtlessly following ‘the movement’ is where I feel female empowerment is lost, and it’s unfortunate. Empowering females should not be based solely on what is easily labeled a ‘female product’ on the shelf. It’s a great start. I won’t deny that. Although, I do hope people can understand that buying from a female rep, also improves her life and sense of empowerment; when you buy one of my products, you are bettering my life and the life of my majority-female team processing your order and doing the logistics to get that product here. In turn, it is supporting the daughters of the generational products I represent.
There is a whole chain of females that can be boosted in their career and empowered to achieve their goals in life. This chain is not easily described to the person sitting at the barstool. So, I get it, ‘female distilled’ sums it up clearly and appears to be suitable for the movement, but its just a segment of female involvement in this industry. Please don’t deny those females that are not in such an easily hashtagged position.
If you want to empower women truly, look at a person’s resume, achievements, and potential without looking as to whether they are female or male. Empowerment of women is not discriminating on which woman you support based on what makes you appear best to the popular perspective of today’s society.
Talk to us about your background in the industry?
I think it’s proper to say I was born into this industry. My parents ran their company in the early days out of the house with their secretary working at our dining room table, and I assisted with filing as soon as I knew the alphabet.
I recall being 13 when Franco Luxardo sat at our dining room table to break bread. I tried to be ‘adult’ in pretending my young palate enjoyed alcohol over my ice cream. Of course, now great spirits in my ice cream are a preferred choice; if I ate ice cream still. While this is a significant name in our industry today, at the time, Luxardo was still in its infancy of growth. In the mind of a child, this was just my life: meeting great people from around the world at our dining room table, hanging out with children of brand owners while the parents hold meetings. I always felt my father’s deep connection to his suppliers. They were more than just business. He treated his industry friends and partners like family. That certainly has shaped who I am today in more than words can express.
At 15, I was officially hired to dust all the bottles in my parent’s office. A lot of faith because I’m ridiculously clumsy, and there were some stunning bottles. I worked my way into accounting near the end of high school and for the next few years, focused on A/P during my studies. In 2008 my parents sold their business, and I had the pleasure to work under Crystal Marty, CFO. As she switched our system from cash to accrual accounting, I learned more than I ever could have in school—greatly influencing how I set-up the accounting and controls for my company.
Today I have an incredible team on the backend that allows me to travel and work on further sales. I have a fabulous graphic designer that just completely gets me and my vision. Between working with distributors and in-field work, I’m writing our marketing materials and managing the operational flow of the office to include overseeing accounting. My favorite part is seeing an email of a PO reflecting the passion and time my father and I put into the groundwork to build unknown brands. I get just as excited as I recall my father being in the early 90’s when we heard the fax go off during dinner or family time.
What can I say? This is who I am; this industry runs through my veins.