ONE-ON-ONE WITH THE DUO FROM OWL’S BREW
We got to chat with Jennie Ripps and Maria Littlefield, founders of Owl’s Brew, about entrepreneurship, their biggest challenges and how they support women within their field. Jennie is a certified tea sommelier and CEO of Owl’s Brew. Maria is the COO of Owl’s Brew.
What is the current state of affairs where you work?
We craft refreshing and refreshingly made beverages. When we say that, we’re talking about our product, of course, which is refreshing and delicious. But it tastes great for a whole slew of reasons, and these include who makes it and why. We say “refreshingly made” because our blends are crafted by tea experts with years of on-premise experience. Because of our knowledge of tea and botanicals, we only use whole, real ingredients, such as organic loose-leaf tea and botanicals.
In what way does your company (or do you) champion equal rights and representation for and amplify the voices of women?
As a women-led company, we have the opportunity and privilege to build a team that doesn’t look or think like the traditional beverage team. In our industry, only 4 percent of women are CEOs, brewmasters, or salespeople.
We applaud initiatives around diversity and also believe that in order to have more insight, more impact, and more inclusion, there needs to be more diversified leadership.
At Owl’s Brew, about 70% of our full-time employees are women or people of color and our entire executive team is made up of women.
What unique challenges do women in your field or role face? Have you encountered them? How did you confront/overcome them?
Entrepreneurship allows women to set their own rules, but even that has its own gender-bias problems. For one, women can face barriers to accessing funding. Sure, there’s a lot of support and energy for female founders out there—and many groups are working to diversify the boardroom—but at the same time, women still don’t get funded as often as men, or to the same degree as men. That said, we are regularly interrogating our own practices as well—are we making space for other voices and ideas? We are glad to be a part of the progress, but there’s work that still needs to be done. We both participate in female mentorship programs affiliated with our respective universities/colleges.
What was your biggest fear or personal hurdle before taking the entrepreneurial leap? Was there a moment, a catalyst that gave you the confidence or security to leave and begin the journey to the entrepreneurial unknown?
The biggest fear is always the unknown! There is a level of uncertainty that you just learn to accept as part of the process and embrace. We have an incredible partnership, a lot of trust in one another, and a shared passion. Confidence in the people around you (and in yourself) is a critical part of leaping into the entrepreneurial unknown.
What is your best advice for someone that recognizes their talents, has a passion and is ready to start a new company?
Be resilient & ask questions. Nothing happens overnight, and there are twists and turns in the road. It’s important to realize the road you start on might have just been the beginning, and that it’s okay to pivot along the way, but it’s also so important to know where you are going.
Building a network of mentors and advisors has been invaluable for us and taking time to get above the business and see what’s really working (or not).
It’s very easy to get bogged down in the day to day, but you ultimately know your business best, so take the time to guide it to success. And when you don’t understand something, ask!
Who is a woman or nonbinary individual in your industry or organization that you think has been doing something positive, helpful, crucial, or impactful? What have they contributed?
Christine Perich is an advisor, member of our Board of Directors, and mentor. She’s a trailblazer in our industry and is the absolute best.
Have questions for Jennie & Maria? Reach out to the Owl’s Brew team at firstname.lastname@example.org and include in the subject line “Back Bar inquiry for Jennie & Maria”.