When multinational spirits company Diageo announced a partnership with Pronghorn founders Dia Simms and Erin Harris more than a year ago, the intention was clear. Together the alcohol company and these powerhouse execs would cultivate the next generation of diverse founders, executive leaders and entrepreneurs in the alcoholic beverage space. The mission: to further diversity, equity and inclusion and drive meaningful change. The motivation: a critical need for ownership and participation at every level of the spirits category.
“Diversifying the industry accelerates innovation and competitiveness, and our strategic approach to recruit, retain and advance the Black community and communities of color within the industry alongside Diageo North America couldn’t be more necessary and timely,” Harris stated at the time. This week the recruitment piece of this partnership took a large step forward with the unveiling of Pronghorn’s newest investment round—three Black-owned spirits companies.
Pronghorn was conceived in 2020 and launched in 2022 by co-founders Harris and Simms along with Dan Sanborn. Acting as an incubator and accelerator program, Pronghorn works to scale the businesses it works with and set these companies up for long-term success. Den of Thieves, Texas’ first Black woman-owned tequila, Ego Tequila, and Tequila with Friends will now be among the first to benefit from the initiative. The capital investment will be supplemented with access to Pronghorn’s supercharging program, which includes consulting services from Pronghorn’s team of industry experts, to accelerate the brands’ growth.
"We couldn't be more thrilled to add these leaders and their brands to the Pronghorn family," says Connor McKenna, Pronghorn Portfolio Director. "They are exactly the kind of visionary entrepreneurs we look for, individuals who will lead the way as together we build a more diverse and equitable spirits industry."
Tequila with Friends (TWF) started in 2018 with entrepreneurs, Brandon Scott, Curnelius Arnick, Roddrick West, and Devin Woodson. The partners took their love for tequila from a blog to an award-winning brand at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was around this same time that Jason Armstrong founded Den of Thieves to honor the spirit of old prohibition moonshiners' ingenuity and camaraderie. Den of Thieves has four core products—straight bourbon, an 8-year barrel select bourbon, a ginger vanilla flavored bourbon, and chocolate flavored bourbon—now available in six markets across the U.S and online at Reservebar.com.
Ego Tequila’s story started in 2019 but took off in 2021 with the launch of the brand’s Blanco and Reposado offerings. The brainchild of Rikki Kelly, Ego Tequila is the first Black woman-owned tequila in the state of Texas, and only the third in the country. It’s distributed in Texas and on Reservebar.com.
With Pronghorn’s presence in the industry, the hope is that Black Americans will be better represented in a market that is expected to reach $278.5 billion by the year 2028, according to Grandview Research. Pronghorn's own research shows that while Black Americans represent 12 percent of alcohol consumers across categories, they make up just 7.8 percent of the sector's labor force and a mere 2 percent of executives in the industry. What’s more, there have been zero acquisitions of Black-owned spirits brands.
Pronghorn has a goal of filling nearly 2,000 roles within the industry. And over the next decade, they plan to invest in 57 Black-owned brands to potentially generate $2.4 billion in economic value for the Black community by 2032. The company hopes that its own goals will inspire others to make diversity and equity goals actionable.