February 19, 2024

Black Woman-Owned Whiskey Brand Uncle Nearest Is On The Verge Of Unicorn Status

Uncle Nearest, the top-selling Black-owned spirits brand globally, is close to reaching unicorn status with a valuation nearing $900 million.

Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey

Black and woman-owned distillery Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey was launched in 2016 by Fawn Weaver and has quickly ascended to global recognition. 

Uncle Nearest’s rise is a tribute to Nearest Green, the first-known African American master distiller, and to the resilience and vision of its founder. 

Fawn Weaver navigated the brand through an industry where only 0.48% of all venture dollars went to Black founders last year. 

Despite the odds, Uncle Nearest has flourished, expanding its presence to over 30,000 stores, bars, hotels, and restaurants across 12 countries.

The business now has a 432-acre distillery in Shelbyville, Tennessee, and a newly acquired 100-acre property in Cognac, France, which testify to the brand’s ambition.

I Plan To Acquire, Not Sell

Weaver’s approach to funding has been crucial to the success of Uncle Nearest.

By avoiding traditional venture capital and private equity routes, she still secured $220 million through a coalition of individual accredited investors. 

Her first investor, the influential political strategist Michael Berman, began a chain of investments from notable figures like Craig Leipold, Steve Mosko, and Jesse Burwell.

Weaver also told Fortune that she has no exit strategy for Uncle Nearest. 

Her aim is to retain ownership and lead the company into future expansions, including ventures into different spirit spaces like tequila. 

This vision aligns with her broader goal of challenging the trend of Black-owned consumer companies sold to white-owned entities. 

“When talking about Black-owned consumer companies, we Black people have never held them in our 400 years in this country. And every time we have sold, we sell to a white-owned company,” Weaver told Fortune.

“[The goal is] to become the acquirer and to make sure that in my lifetime, we continue to exist as the first spirit conglomerate that was not founded or led by a white man.”

Sara Keenan

Tech Reporter at POCIT. Following her master's degree in journalism, Sara cultivated a deep passion for writing and driving positive change for Black and Brown individuals across all areas of life. This passion expanded to include the experiences of Black and Brown people in tech thanks to her internship experience as an editorial assistant at a tech startup.