D.C.’s Chanel Turner talks being the first African-American woman to start her own vodka line, changing D.C. nightlife and having Sean Kingston’s support.
It’s not every day that someone wakes up and says, ‘I want to create my own vodka.’ What made you want to launch this business?
It all started just from me going out a lot with my friends and I noticed that I could never drink vodka straight up. There was not one brand that was smooth enough without something to chase it with. I complained often about this and my friend said to me, why don’t you just start your own? A light bulb went on and I said to myself, ‘Maybe I will.’
What steps did you take to make Fou-dré happen and how much did you have to invest?
I had to research a lot of distilleries to find exactly what I was looking for. Once I found the one that was the perfect fit, I went through about 80 different types of vodka and then tasted Fou-dré which was exactly what I was looking for. Cost wise, you’re looking at $40K just for development, $200K for the bottle and basically about $300K before you even get to marketing and branding.
Speaking of marketing and branding, you could have launched the vodka in any city in the world. Why D.C.?
I launched in D.C. because of the culture, the interesting nightlife — and also because the vodka market calls D.C. its most challenging market.
Why do you think that is?
Because D.C. tends to stick with what’s most popular, sales-wise, and it’s hard to change residents’ minds about their vodka of choice.
There aren’t a lot of women who have leadership positions in the vodka industry. How does it make you feel to be a trailblazer?
It feels good! Actually I did some preliminary research and I believe I’m the first African-American woman — and woman, period — to own a vodka line.
You’ve also had some celebrity support from Sean Kingston.
Yes! Sean is actually my cousin and I didn’t want him to have anything to do with it until he was of age, but now he is, so hopefully we can do something great things together with Fou-dré.
This past Friday you kicked off the Fou-dré Summer Series with fashion and cocktails, hosted by Paul Wharton and Yodit Gebreyes at the Topaz Hotel. What makes your summer series unique to D.C. nightlife?
I think the Fou-dré experience overall makes it unique. The exclusiveness of what you’re drinking and the atmosphere at the events makes it stand out as well.
What’s your ultimate goal for Fou-dré?
I want it to be a vodka that’s different, that’s not looked at as an urban product because it’s not. I want Fou-dré to be in the finest restaurants and the finest hotels. It’s important to me that it is always on the high-end scale because it is a high-end product.