I was thrilled to have the opportunity to interview Linda Losey, Founder and COO of Bloomery Plantation Distillery. Not only is Linda a brilliant business woman with creativity and foresight, but she has overcome personal challenges and devastating professional setbacks to find that success. We can learn a lot from her positive attitude and ability to perservere in the face of seeming impossibility. Plus, her business model is savvy and interesting.
Exclusive Interview with Linda Losey
RRM: You’ve suffered unthinkable tragedy in your life, yet you’re still known as one of the most unbreakable executives in the country. How can our readers start to put their lives back together when life just seems insurmountable?
Linda Losey (LL): One step at a time. That’s how you move through it. You don’t have control over what’s been, nor do you have control over what will be. You only have control over the now, and it starts with that first shaky, unsteady step in moving toward something, something that will be different and brighter than where you are now. But it has to start with that initial step, that movement to get the momentum going in moving through the present tragedy.
RRM: Tell us a little about your philosophy of the three Cs…
LL: The three C’s helped me to gain perspective on moving through my grief and unspeakable pain. Compassion, Commitment and Courage—all three need your focus if you’re to move forward in learning to live again after facing great adversity or tragedy.
Compassion: In an effort to heal, don’t close yourself off from others. Instead, get your head out of your sorrow and reach out and help someone else in need.
Commitment: Grief can last months, years, even decades. The variable in how long your grief might last is often in how committed you are to your own recovery. It’s not easy. Stay the course. And be prepared for it to well up again and again, but know you can make it through to the other side.
Courage: This isn’t for the faint of heart. Whatever your courage looks like, climbing mountains or simply getting out of bed in the morning, embrace it and build upon it until you can look your grief in the eye and shout it down.
The 3 C’s ensure that you have the tools you need to overcome your grief on your own personal timeline, and according to your own unique personality. There is no one size fits all. Do it on your own terms, but just do it. Do something that fulfills at least one of the three C’s every day.
RRM: Sometimes when people try to start a business and fail or their businesses are struggling, fear can almost be paralyzing. How can people overcome that fear of failure and move forward?
LL: Failure is a given. It’s going to happen again and again, but you can’t let it have all the power. You need to face your fear and take your power back. What’s the worst that can happen? I try and always visualize what will happen if I lose it all? And I have more than once. And it sucks. There is no other word for the unspeakable pain when you lose it all. My worst fear was losing a child. I lost two precious souls. But I faced that fear. In losing my children I gained wisdom, compassion and hopefully grace. I look at life differently now. Through different eyes, and it only happened because I faced my fear. I do that on a daily basis now. The difference is, I don’t let it cripple me. After assessing the risk, and what is the worst that can happen, I make my decisions prepared for that, prepared for the worse but expecting the best. Risk is about moving forward and stepping back, and moving forward again. But so is living.
RRM: What is the one thing you’ve clung to when things have seemed hopeless that might help our readers?
LL: I cling to hope. You have to find a sliver of hope. Somewhere, somehow and cling to it fiercely. If you don’t have hope, there’s no way to make it through. It’s the one thing that you can move toward, otherwise what’s the point? Find that sliver of hope and hang on to it with all your might, no matter how much life tries to shake you away from it.
RRM: Would you be willing to share a little about your decision to ride a horse across the country to honor the memory of your son?
LL: My youngest son Sammy, who was 10 years old at the time, had a dream. Then he died. How many of you know what your children were wearing when you said goodbye this morning? I didn’t. I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye that morning. But I did make a promise to him. I promised him that someday we would ride across the country on our horses.
He so very much wanted to do it. He planned for it. Before he died, Sam plotted the route from Maryland, West Virginia and into Ohio.
After he died, sometime during my crawling stage of grief, I received a phone call. I don’t remember much then. I was in a fog. I wasn’t being patient. I had no perspective. I wasn’t taking the time to let the healing process work. I hurt. I just wanted the pain to stop. I wanted it go away.
Unbeknownst to me Sam did more than just plot his route. He had reached out to a feed sponsor for his horses through a letter he had written. So following his death when I received a phone call from McCauley Brother’s feed company to sponsor the horses feed on Sam’s journey…I thought why not? What do I have to lose? What more could happen to me? I felt invincible. I had no fear. Surely God wouldn’t let anything more happen. Which of course wasn’t the case. Was I fearful, riding a horse across America as a lone woman? You bet, as I should have been. But I faced that fear and emerged a better woman, a more compassionate, softer woman who learned how to cope with the unimaginable loss of a little boy, my precious Sam.
RRM: Your company was born out of your search for meaning and today you make artisan liqueurs. Can you tell us a little about the initial idea for your company and how the product has grown to what you offer today?
LL: My husband Tom has dual citizenship, US and Australia. In October, 2010, we received an invitation to attend his Great, Great Aunt Mary MacKillop’s canonization as Australia’s first Saint— Saint Mary of the Cross. A trip to Italy for the canonization of a great, great aunt, started the vision of becoming an American made entrepreneur. We tasted hand-zested, homemade limoncello and fell in love with the flavor profile. Unable to find that same flavor on the shelves in America, we began the quest of creating our own.
Why not envision a dilapidated, run down log cabin in the woods on 12 acres where the Blue Ridge Mountains meet the Shenandoah River in Wild, Wonderful West Virginia as a mini-distillery? We turned our Craigslist find into an all-natural, sustainable farm, where we grow lemons, raspberries, Hawaiian ginger, pumpkins, cranberries and black walnuts, while sourcing from other small American farms. We turn those farm fresh fruits, roots and nuts into award-winning liqueurs. With 25 international awards in 4 years, including the 2015 Double Gold for best nut liqueur at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition we are living the American dream with team, our “family” of 17.
RRM: A lot of people are looking for more natural, organic products these days. How do your liqueurs fit into that marketing demographic? Any advice for others looking to start artisan type businesses?
LL: On our farm distillery, we naturally grow a little bit of everything that goes into our bottles. We utilize four main ingredients in our SweetShine® products: neutral grain spirits, water, sugar and a farm-fresh ingredient. Whatever goes inside our bottle was responsibly produced by those working on the outside. We forge relationships with our farmers and seek out companies who source responsibly. Why do we do this? Flavor. And it shows. We were chosen as a 2015 Good Food Award Winner for our Pumpkin Spice. We want to feel good about our food choices, and we know our customers do too. While feeling good about what we do, and taking pride in our hand-crafted hooch, it’s not easy. For those who are looking to start an artisanal business, it’s an awesome, fulfilling mission, albeit time consuming and expensive, but well worth the reward. Be patient, stand behind what you produce and you will persevere.
RRM: You’ve received a large number of awards from package design to best nut liqueur and so many more. Which award are you most proud of and why?
LL: For three years I feared the San Francisco World Spirit Competition. It was the mother of all competitions in the spirit industry. What if we entered and didn’t win? In my own eyes, could I face that disgrace of not meeting up to my own expectations of producing an awesome product? So I just didn’t enter. I watched from the sidelines. Finally, after three years, I looked at it as what would be the worst that could happen if we didn’t win? Would our business fall apart? Would we stop producing? Would we be declared a failure? No. Those were my fears and I faced them. I submitted our Black Walnut. And wished it well on its journey. I frankly forgot about it months later when we received an email, stating we had won. Double Gold. Best Nut Liqueur in the world from our tiny little log cabin in the woods in WV. Face your fear. What do you have to lose?
RRM: I have family near Beckley, WV, which is farther inland than you are. I’m assuming the weather is somewhat similar, though. How do you work around the cold weather, growing season and still keeping everyone supplied with your wonderful product?
LL: That is quite the challenge. We have a large greenhouse that houses our lemon trees and ginger, during the cold winter months. Mother nature has not been kind to us through the years, ripping apart our greenhouse and exposing our babies inside numerous times. But they are hardy and healthy, and keep on giving year after year. Thankfully we forge relationships with other farmers in the state and throughout an expanding circle from our farm. We knew nothing about farming prior to this endeavor and I have great admiration for farmers all across America. They truly are amazing and are at the heart of American made. I love and respect that.
RRM: Anything you’d like to add?
LL: Create a vision and live and breathe that vision. I stand before you today as living proof that through patience, perspective and just allowing the process to unfold you can get through anything. Anything. If you persevere, you can break through your challenges and embrace your dreams.
RRM: Thank you for taking the time to chat about your experiences and offer feedback to our readers.
LL: Thank you so much for this opportunity. Cheers 🙂
I’d like to thank Linda Losey for taking the time to share her amazingly resilient spirit and the key to her success. I know you’ve probably found her as inspiring as I did. You can visit her website at http://bloomerysweetshine.com to learn more about her and her products.