If you think being a woman in the craft distilling industry is bad ass, well then, you’d be right. Meet Monica Pearce, Founder and Boss Lady of Tenth Ward Distilling in downtown Frederick. I had the opportunity to talk to her about what the past three years have been like since opening her business in the height of the craft beverage boom in our local area.
1. What is Tenth Ward Distilling and what does it offer to the local community?
Tenth Ward Distilling is a women-owned craft distillery specializing in whiskey, brandy, seasonal liqueurs and absinthe – all influenced by sustainably sourced local materials.
We have been in business three years now and were one of the early pioneers on the craft beverage scene in Frederick, Maryland. It’s been exciting to be a part of such a supportive community when it comes to the distilling industry. The culture between all of the different departments including Tourism, the City, the County and other economic development partners is unlike any other. Our team works really hard to be very involved especially when it comes to local legislation and economic opportunities in our region.
This year, we moved to a new location in downtown Frederick on East Patrick Street, so that we could expand, develop our new Cocktail Lab, and open a venue for weddings and private events.
Just recently, Maryland passed a law that now allows us to serve cocktails and mixed drinks, which is huge for us! It’s going to be a great opportunity to showcase all of our historical spirits, while also incorporating our own unique twist.
2. What inspired you to open the business?
I have always been a whisky drinker, and as a Frederick native, I decided to take the plunge into the business just as the craft distilling boom took off in our area.
I also have a background in sustainable resource management and wanted our business to really be among the first to set a great example for others getting into the industry. It’s really important to keep our footprint minimal and source everything as local as possible, so that we can continue to support the amazing community that we’ve grown up in.
3. What is your one piece of advice for women entrepreneurs living in the Frederick area?
I always hear people say, “just take the leap!” But honestly, being an entrepreneur is not as easy as it looks – you will be working 7 days a week and sometimes 12 to 14-hour days all while not paying yourself a dime.
Don’t get me wrong, Entrepreneurship is incredibly self-gratifying and rewarding, but your life is never going to be the same. Take your time and do your research. The very best advice I can give is talk to as many people as you can including people in your field as well as smart experts you can trust. Soak in the lessons learned from them first, so you don’t have to find them out the hard way. I spent a lot of time buying people drinks for free advice.
4. The industry you're in seems very male dominated, how did you overcome any obstacles?
Honestly, I never had any specific challenges to overcome being a woman in the industry, since the distilling industry is very welcoming and progressive. There are so many really bad ass woman distillery owners that are doing a lot of really cool, innovative things.
The challenges come from the other side – in the form of business relationships. There are many male dominated industries that we work with that are not familiar with women in power and it can be pretty obvious to spot them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had potential partners and even customers ask, "so does your dad own the business?"
I think it’s funny – and I love to dispel their assumptions. I couldn't imagine being in any other type of industry.
5. What is one place you would recommend to a new visitor of Frederick?
I absolutely love walking around downtown Frederick, there is so much history to take in.
Our name “Tenth Ward” is actually a reference to the way Frederick City was divided during the late 19th century. Our distillery is located in what used to be considered the boundaries of the Tenth Ward, which we learned through the Frederick Historic Society.
I would have to recommend that new visitors check out Visit Frederick’s craft beverage trail, which is a map of all the distilleries, breweries, wineries within Frederick County. Come see us and all the other amazing businesses!
6. What's next for you and Tenth Ward?
Well, first I am going to take a much-needed vacation!
In terms of the business, our Cocktail Lab is officially opening in July 2019, which is very exciting.
Our next two goals for Tenth Ward include having a wider distribution range. At the moment, we can mostly be found in Frederick, Montgomery County and Baltimore, but we are also working on expanding into Washington D.C. And our other goal is to launch more educational opportunities and in-depth workshops, which will be a whole other arm of our business. We want to mentor and teach in an affordable and supportive environment.
Another project that we are involved in and are very passionate about is the Maryland Distillers Guild, a member-based community of craft producers. We are currently working to develop our own version of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail throughout the state that will be a significant initiative to support the industry and create a really unique, exciting program for craft lovers and makers.