Entrepreneurial spirit runs in Chaunci King’s blood. After years of working as a bartender and running a now-defunct clothing boutique in Northeast Portland, King became the first Black woman to operate a vodka company on the West Coast when she started Royalty Spirits in 2014. The Portland native launched her line of spirits with Miru—a crisp, incredibly smooth pear-flavored vodka she calls “the sipper.” King says the vodka is a response to the viable market she saw for flavored vodkas that weren’t overly sugary, in spite of the way the industry seems to expect women to consume alcohol.
“I was always the one bartending at the house parties or family functions. And I would hear people talk about creating a product—or wanting a product—that wasn’t sweet,” King says. “I would hear that throughout the years and I started playing with it. [I thought] it’d be nice to have my own line of spirits—something that’s for women, by women.” The importance of building networks of support for women is a prominent theme for her. It’s a mindset that King says comes inherently with being raised in an environment full of independent women like her single mother and realtor aunt. It’s an outlook that’s also already extended to her six-year-old daughter who makes and sells her own lip glosses.
Since winning Prosper Portland’s 2015 Startup PDX competition, King has been busy promoting her two newest additions to Royalty Spirits—a plain vodka and a rye whiskey called Rex. She hopes to open her own distillery by 2019. And if that’s not enough, King is also dedicated to mentoring young women entrepreneurs. “I can talk to them,” she assures. “I can say, ‘I’m just a little Black girl from Portland. I grew up in The Villa... if I can do it, you can do it too.”
Written by: Jenni Moore & Emilly Prado
Photos by: Joshua James Huff
Published: November 2017