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Friday, Jun 9, 2023

Father, Daughter Prove Right Mixture at Vodka Firm

Father, Daughter Prove Right Mixture at Vodka Firm By JEFF WEISS Contributing Reporter Admit it. When you think of the vodka industry you don’t think of loving father-daughter relationships. Typically, vodka brings images of men named Boris who take slugs out of flasks while slurping up bowls of borscht, or even your cousin Ricky who likes to wear lampshades on his head after seven shots of Smirnoff. However, Woodland Hills-based Stockholm Kristall Vodka’s, Chester (Chet) A. Swenson and his daughter Erica Swenson, maintain a harmonious working and personal relationship based on mutual respect, admiration, and cooperation. With nary a hint of tension, the two often complete each other’s thoughts, while discussing the state of the rapidly expanding business from Stockholm’s 14th floor office that overlooks much of the Valley. Stockholm’s genesis dates to the Swensons’ efforts to raise their children as global citizens. With the goal of rekindling their Swedish heritage, the Swenson family began visiting their ancestral country about 25 years ago. “With formal ties, we started having young Swedish people live with us. One of them went to USC and ended up going back to Sweden and got a job with Absolut Vodka, becoming one of their top marketing guys,” Stockholm Chairman Chet Swenson said. “We went there on a trip about six or seven years ago and he told me that Absolut Vodka was owned by the Swedish government which had had a virtual monopoly since 1910. This meant that there had been no competition or manufacturing in the country other than Absolut. Because of the EU they were allowing for new production and he felt that because of the relaxation of the rules, there was a new opportunity for another vodka to be produced.” Having been in the marketing and branding business for 30 years, Swenson was eager to capitalize on this recent development. Formulating a business plan and strategy, he decided to target California for his initial foray into the vodka business. Drawing upon his numerous friends and associates in both Sweden and in the United States, he brought in partners and formed Stockholm Imports Ltd., Inc., the parent company of Stockholm Kristall, in 2000. “We resurrected an old Swedish vodka recipe from the 1890s. We wanted the product to scream Sweden for lack of a better term and we ended up winning an award for our design in Sweden,” Swenson said. “We did a lot of taste testings in competition with all the different vodkas and we found we were often winning these tests. ” Daughter’s contributions Erica Swenson, Stockholm’s director of sales and marketing has been with the company since its inception and has proved instrumental in the promotion and development of the product and its image. “I’ve focused on the fashion, art, film worlds, as well charity events, and entertainment events. We’re based in Los Angeles and we’re naturally focused on the entertainment industry because we’re so accessible to it,” Erica Swenson said. “We do fundraisers for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and in one of these events the members of “That 70s Show” came on board and showed the centerpieces to the media. We also get very creative with recipes. We did the “West Wing” cast party and made red, white, and blue martinis.” The Swensons believe that the mixture of Chet’s expertise has blended seamlessly with his daughter’s energy and passion for promotion and marketing. “I really feel that I’m the eyes and the ears, and more so on the street than my father. I see the consumer, get them involved, seeing what works and what doesn’t work. With my father’s expertise and my bringing all these programs together, I think the team we have is really working,” Erica Swenson said. The company has begun to expand beyond California, taking the product into Nevada, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, and Hawaii. At Vons, Stockholm has become the fastest growing import vodka in the 750 ml category. “Having the new school versus that older school mentality seems to work. We have that combination and that synergy. I think the point is that family provides that unique point of differentiation. The father daughter team is pretty unique for the spirits industry and to be taken seriously in a position like this is a challenge but very much rewarding,” Erica Swenson said. Better combination Family business consultant Dennis Jaffe claims that father-daughter relationships are often less fractious than father-son combos. “Father-daughter relationships tend to be much calmer because there is less of a sense of direct competition. It isn’t like they are butting heads and competing everywhere. The daughters tend to be respectful and when there is a difference of opinion, they are often able to be tactful,” Jaffe said. Both Swensons acknowledge that the family relationship has helped the business.. “I’m into having meaningful discourse. We try to come up with the best possible solution and not personalize it. Sometimes you have to back away and realize it’s family,” Chet Swenson said.

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