20 Under 40: Jenna Young carves new trails at Fraser Valley Distilling
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the sudden rush to purchase products like hand sanitizer left many people staring at empty store shelves. But in the midst of a looming crisis, people like Jenna Young have stepped up to make a difference.
Young, who holds a PhD in microbiology, is the general manager of Fraser Valley Distilling. As local families scrambled to find hand sanitizer, Young threw the weight of her family owned distillery behind production of the virus killing substance. Since that time Young has been spearheading Fraser Valley Distilling’s hand sanitizer production efforts, while also managing regular business operations.
What made you choose to live and work in Grand County?
When our family decided to build this business together. My parents, who had retired here in 2011, convinced us that it was the perfect place to do it. It was not a hard sell for us (my brother, sister, and brother-in-law) as we had been vacationing here since we were kids, as well as visiting our parents regularly.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
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I plan to be right here running this business alongside my siblings. I have really enjoyed the beginning stages of building our business and bar program and creating new spirits. It took us 3.5 years from the start of the idea to actually getting to open the distillery. When we opened we had 3.5 years worth of ideas to try to implement, and we have been slowly adding things as we have been able to accomplish them. I love the creative side of our production process, and I can’t wait to see what we are making 10 years from now.
What kind of future do you see for your industry in the high country?
As a distillery, I have enjoyed seeing how many other craft beverage businesses are popping up in the valley. We have been in talks for a craft beverage trail for the county to help create incentives for people to come through on 40 and have lots of great places to stop. Grand County already has a great tourism reputation, but it would be really cool for people to think of our area for its craft beverages as well.
How has COVID-19 change the way your industry does business?
It has been a really hard adjustment to find ways to continue doing business with the town and state mostly shut down. We decided to switch over to take-out food and drinks, and we are lucky enough to be able to sell bottles of our spirits as well.
Restaurants and bars across the country and the people who work at them have been hit hard by this. It is hard enough to operate at the margins of regular business let alone when your business is suddenly cut by 50% or more.
The biggest day to day change has been manufacturing hand sanitizer. The TTB relaxed the laws to allow distilleries to start producing hand sanitizer, and we have been doing our best to keep up production with the demand. I am amazed at the number of calls and emails that I get each week with people unable to find it anywhere else. The community here has been so supportive with the EOC helping to source the harder to find materials/ingredients, and we have even been able to source hydrogen peroxide and small bottles from local businesses, as well as customers.
Who is your hero and why?
I am blown away on a regular basis by my parents’ work ethic and generosity. They came out of retirement to build this business as a family and put their blood, sweat, and tears into making it work. They have set such a good example for how to work hard and be a part of the community.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Spare time? What’s that? In all seriousness, one of the selling points on living here is how easy it is to get out and do stuff. I enjoy snow-shoeing and cross-country skiing in the winter and hiking in the summer with my dog. I am also a real sucker for a good book.
What advice or encouragement would you offer a young professional trying to make it in the county?
If you can find something you love doing and put your heart and soul into it, this county will show up and support you. Our locals and regulars make my job so much better and more fulfilling.
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