Up Close And Personal With The Founder Of Tina’s Vodka

We recently sat down with the founder of Tina’s Vodka to discuss the brand, its origins and the future.

Tina Karras is a force to be reckoned with. From a singer-songwriter to a successful entrepreneur, her journey has been nothing short of remarkable. Her background in the food and beverage industry, particularly in bars and music venues, has played a significant role in shaping her understanding of the industry and contributed to the creation of Tina’s Vodka, a product that has been making waves in the market.

Tina’s Vodka is more than just a brand; it’s a commitment to the planet. Tina’s commitment to organic, non-GMO corn and regenerative agriculture farmers that focus on soil health has set her vodka apart from other brands in the market.

It’s not only about the taste but also the impact that the product has on the environment. Tina’s Vodka has been a hit among customers, and the key factor in its success is the superior quality of the product.

Launching a business during a pandemic is no easy task, and Tina faced several challenges in the early stages of Tina’s Vodka. However, with her determination and resilience, she managed to overcome them and prevail in a David vs Goliath legal battle against a billion-dollar corporation regarding her trademark.

As a female entrepreneur in a male-dominated industry, Tina has invaluable advice for other women looking to break into the world of spirits and entrepreneurship. She emphasizes the importance of trusting one’s instincts and building a network of like-minded colleagues.

Looking ahead, Tina has exciting plans for the future of Tina’s Vodka, including expansion to other states and countries, introducing new bottle sizes and variations, and continuing to make a positive impact on the environment through regenerative agriculture.

Tina’s commitment to organic and non-GMO spirits is part of a growing trend, and she envisions a future where more people will demand cleaner and healthier options in their food and beverages.

We recently sat down with the founder of Tina’s Vodka to discuss the brand, its origins and the future.

Tina, can you tell us the story behind your transition from a singer-songwriter to a successful entrepreneur, and how your background in the food and beverage industry influenced this journey?  

I moved to LA with 2 suitcases and a guitar in the late 90s. After working in a few record labels and music publishing, I went back to working in restaurants and bartending to have more time to write and to make more money in less time. 

After a performance at The Roxy Theatre and a fluke meeting, I got a part-time job in the booking office there.  That job evolved over time to become the liquor buyer and food & beverage director.  I was still performing and writing music in my free time and finally found the right producer and finished my record right as I started Tina’s Vodka– and then the pandemic hit. 

My vodka has also inspired me to be entrepreneurial with my music and launch it myself along with my vodka.

What inspired you to create Tina’s Vodka, and how did you come up with the idea of blending organic, non-GMO, and affordability into one product?

Being a buyer at a high-profile venue, I was constantly pitched new brands of spirits, wine, and beer.  I realized that there was a void – there wasn’t a great-tasting vodka that was also organic, non-GMO, and American Made. 

I tried many organic vodkas that tasted terrible and were too expensive and so I decided to fill that void by creating Tina’s Vodka – we went even further with my vodka by adding the proprietary filtration system that really sets my vodka apart from all other vodkas with its different mouth feel and its incredibly clean, and smooth finish.  Even whiskey and scotch drinkers hate vodkas like my vodka.

Launching a business during a pandemic is no easy task. Can you share with us the challenges you faced during the early stages of Tina’s Vodka and how you overcame them?

Yes!  It was not easy!  I was immediately furloughed since I still work in the hospitality industry with music venues and festivals in California so my finances were suddenly in shambles.  I didn’t qualify for any SBA loans so I took out lines of credit through my credit cards. 

Then it was delayed after a delay with getting the government approvals and the artwork and the glass bottles – we were originally going to launch during the 2020 festival season (ha!) but didn’t actually make it to the market until June 2021.

How did your experience working in various roles at your family’s restaurant and later in Los Angeles shape your understanding of the industry and contribute to the creation of Tina’s Vodka?

It was such a great education!  I realized my whole life was a wax on- wax off session as I picked up knowledge and created relationships during those jobs that were vital to my vodka now. 

I understand what it is to be a buyer and run a bar – you’re dealing with so many things all at once like the health department, the ABC, staffing, staff not showing up, plumbing issues, fire marshals, invoices, beer lines not working, payroll, the list goes on and on. 

So I understand what a bar manager/buyer is looking for and how to talk to them about what works and what doesn’t and how my vodka can be an asset to their lineup and can make them more money and give back to the planet with my charity partner, Kiss the Ground. 

Customers are more cognizant of how they use their money and want to purchase higher quality, cleaner, and that is sourced with better practices. 

What sets Tina’s Vodka apart from other brands in the market, and what do you think has been the key factor in its success?

My vodka is the best vodka on the market.  Without a doubt.  The taste, the smell, the way my vodka mixes in cocktails.  I’ve heard from countless people now that they can tell a difference the next day when they drink my vodka vs other brands. 

I’ve heard from many now that they ran 5 miles the next day and they were in too much pain with a hangover from other brands to do that.  Also, my commitment to the planet, hence the full name, Tina’s Planet Vodka, because I use organic, non-GMO corn grown from Planet Earth not from a GMO seed and I give back to regenerative farmers that do not use toxic pesticides but instead focus on soil health that sends the nutrients into the plants where they belong.

Can you talk about the legal battle you faced against a billion-dollar corporation regarding your trademark, and how did you manage to prevail in this David vs. Goliath situation?

Yes!  That’s exactly how it felt.  Right before the Christmas holiday of 2021, I received cease and desist letters trying to bully me out of my approved trademark from the USPTO. 

It was awful – so I’m alone in CA during the holidays during the pandemic lockdowns and I get these really terrible letters from a huge company with very expensive attorneys that could bankrupt me because of their size and money. 

After my initial reaction of anger and fear, I decided to move forward anyway and began production on our first pallet – we finally got the glass bottles as they were very difficult to source because of the lockdown supply chain problems – and I was ready to fight and go full steam ahead.  My whole life prepared me for this and I wasn’t going to be bullied out of my company, my name, and my future.  It was still very stressful and for months I wasn’t sure how it would unfold. 

Thankfully, a colleague referred me to a fantastic litigator that got them to drop it but it was another big invoice that was not in the budget but I had to find the funds anyway.  Another example of how my career path prepared me for this with having so many colleagues in the industry I could ask for advice and referrals. 

How do you maintain a balance between your music career and your role as the founder of Tina’s Vodka? Do you find any parallels between the two?

I’m still working full-time, too!  Every day is a new challenge and a new set of experiences and setting time aside to pick up my guitar and sit at the piano if even for a few minutes makes a huge difference in my day. 

I’m working on new songs now and will begin to perform my new record live soon.  I do find parallels as you must surrender to the creative energy and go into the unknown and figure it out as you go.

As a female entrepreneur in a male-dominated industry, what advice would you give to other women looking to break into the world of spirits and entrepreneurship?

My advice would be to trust your instincts and build a network of colleagues that are like-minded.  I’ve encountered many people that talk to me like I’m a person and then others that talk to me like I’m a girl.  I just avoid the latter.  Thank you, next. 

I don’t have the luxury of time or money to allow that type of attitude to infiltrate anything I’m doing.  While I of course support women, I focus on the unique individual and focus on our alignment with our visions and goals.  I’m very blessed to have had the career path I’ve had, I say that in hindsight though!  There were many times that I was frustrated and felt lost about what I was doing – I’m a musician, why am I changing beer kegs?!  But looking back, all of those moments lead to my vodka. 

So my advice is to realize that you’re picking up skills and knowledge for your future and embrace them all and educate yourself as much as possible as some of those terrible moments and people are your best teachers.

What does the future hold for Tina’s Vodka? Are there any plans for expansion or the introduction of new products in the near future?

I’m launching in my home state of North Carolina now.  I’m very excited that ABC here approved my brand to be sold in its ABC stores.  I’d like to create different sizes of my bottles and I’d like to create a few variations of my vodka. Eventually, we will take Tina’s Vodka to Greece, my ancestral home.

Lastly, how do you envision the growth of the organic and non-GMO spirit market in the coming years, and what role do you see Tina’s Vodka playing in this evolution?

The impact of pesticides on our health and planet is undeniable!  Before big Agriculture separated livestock from the crops, and pre-seed oils, GMOs, and additives, our population was so much healthier.  Everyone wants clean food, clean, water, and clean air. 

More people are asking for non-GMOs – no one wants those pesticide-laden crops in any part of their food chain including their vodka and other beverages.  I tell every buyer I meet about the impact of GMOs on our food chain with the pesticides and remind them that when they buy brands that use these crops, they’re perpetuating GMOs but when you buy Tina’s, you’re supporting organic, non-GMO, and regenerative agriculture farmers that are so much better for us and the planet. 

I also play them the Kiss the Ground trailer and that leaves everyone in an optimistic place about our planet.  The solutions are here, we just have to utilize them and cooperate with the knowledge and wisdom of this planet instead of destroying it because it’s cheaper for a corporation but more expensive to everyone else in the long run. 

The owl sitting on the tree/Earth on my label has Greek Goddess Athena’s Owl to represent the wisdom that our planet and nature has and work with it to create better for everyone.

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