Today we’d like to introduce you to Allison Lange and Julia Pennington.
Allison and Julia, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Julia and I have been running A Dog’s Life Rescue in Los Angeles for 13+ years and involved in animal rescue for over 18 years. We both grew up with a love of animals and as adults wanted to do what we could to make a difference by helping animals in need. After years in the trenches of animal rescue we realized that while we were making a difference in the lives of the animals we were able to take into our rescue, there were always millions more who need help. The core of the issue with our companion animals is that there is a very serious over-population problem. Spay/neuter services are expensive and not readily available as needed. In addition to that, many pet guardians can’t afford veterinary care when an emergency arises and often feel forced to give up their pets or put them down.
To address these issues and make more of an impact, Julia and I started focusing on our free spay/neuter and medical care assistance programs because we know this will make the biggest impact. To do this, and do it well, we became determined to create a more sustainable funding resource for these programs, a way to not only help our programs but those programs of other animal rescue organizations.
That this resource became a vodka was not completely random. Julia’s family has a well-respected distillery in Nashville called Pennington Distilling Co. and when Julia was speaking with her brother two 1/2 years ago about what we were working towards, the idea to start a Distilled Spirits company that will benefit animals was born.
Animal Spirits is our company, and it is a benefit corporation, so our mission stays at the forefront of our company. Our goal is 50% of our profits will go to help animals, so we work as if the animals are our partners in the company. Our first product is “Hera The Dog Vodka,” and we could not be prouder of its quality.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It has definitely not been a smooth road. We are on a very tight budget, so we’ve had to work hard to get high-quality products and services for Hera at the best deals. This took the time that we didn’t always feel we had, but we needed. Since Julia and I came from running a non-profit where every dollar counts, we know how to work on a budget without cutting corners, but it’s not easy.
Julia and I didn’t know the first thing about the liquor industry when we started this venture so we had a lot to learn. Julia’s family and everybody at Pennington Distilling Co. has been a huge help not only through the actual distilling process of Hera but in our everyday questions we have had from the beginning.
I’m not sure if starting any type of business is ever smooth, but for us, every delay or bump has had a benefit or lesson in the long run. So as stressful as finding out the bottle we were going to use is no longer available just before production, filing delays and struggling to find the right artist for our Hera can be, it all became worth it in the end.
I think this is a good place to give a HUGE shoutout to our very talented and patient graphic designer, Jeffrey Blyseth and Axis Studios. Jeffrey has been indispensable to our company and the Hera The Dog Vodka label, along with our website and any other design concept, is all him. He’s also Julia’s husband, so he’s also put up with years of foster animals in and out of his home.
Julia and I have come a long way and are proud of how our company is growing, but there are still obstacles every day. We just have to address each as they come. We still ask a lot of questions and take in any advice somebody offers.
We’d love to hear more about your business.
We have chosen to specialize in a new way to drink responsibly… a way that can provide customers with a chance to help others when they enjoy an alcoholic beverage. This is not just a business for us. It is important to us to run a business that has a mission to help others at its core.
We are new so I don’t think we are known for anything yet, but we hope to be known for running a business that makes a difference in the communities and does good, while at the same time delivering the highest quality spirits.
Such an important cause as saving animals can only be represented by the highest quality spirits, and Hera is that. Hera The Dog Vodka is organic wheat based, distilled seven times and then slow drip filtered, using gravity, through walnut husk carbon. We have been overwhelmed by the positive reactions from everyone who has tried it thus far.
Animal Spirits was founded for the purpose of raising funds to help animals. I think marrying the animal rescue world and alcohol sets us apart. This is a scary venture. Many people told us we were crazy to enter into this industry, but we have only been greeted with open arms and support.
What were you like growing up?
Allison: Growing up I was pretty shy with people I didn’t know and in bigger crowds, so I was probably the girl sitting in the corner petting the dog at the party. I was an active kid and preferred to be outside when the weather allowed it (I grew up in northwest IN). My grandfather had a farm where we would go on the weekends and ride horses, four wheelers, minibikes, and go sledding when it snowed.
My parents took my sister and me camping in Canada every summer, and those trips are some of my favorite childhood memories and a big influence on my love of wildlife and being in nature. My dad had an adventurous spirit which my sister and I inherited, so we loved to go off and explore new trails and hills.
Julia: I think it is hard to describe myself as a child, but I can tell you that there were several animals in our home and our neighborhood with whom I felt as close to as I did my two best, childhood human friends. From since I can remember, I was intensely aware of the injustice in how animals are treated. Perhaps that awareness came from being raised by two parents who dedicated their lives to charitable causes to help underserved people and who always supported my activism for the animals as well. By the time I was 13, at my request, my mother starting driving me to volunteer once a week at our local high kill animal control facility. I did that for years, and by the time I received my driver’s license, I began adopting some of the animals slated to be killed and then fostering them while I searched for better situations for them. I have not changed that much I guess, but now am focused on making a bigger impact.
- Around $26 a bottle
- Website: www.HeraTheDogVodka.com
- Email: allison@HeraTheDogVodka.com
- Instagram: @HeraTheDogVodka
- Facebook: @HeraTheDogVodka
- Twitter: @HeraTheDogVodka
Michael Gomez from Westlight Studios, Lew Robertson from 2010 Studios