There’s nothing typical about Square One, the organic spirits company Allison Evanow founded in 2006. Although there were other companies with organic vodkas, Square One was the first entirely organic brand of certified organic spirits. Second, Evanow was one of not even a handful of women heading a spirits company that they also founded. Third, the company was funded by family, “savings and mortgages,” not outside investors. And, finally, Evanow started the company just six months after giving birth to twin boys at age 39.
Since then Evanow, who worked for many years with José Cuervo International and Domaine Chandon, has doubled the company’s sales and added new products, such as flavored vodkas — all while working out of a cottage on her property so she can be close to her children.
Evanow, her husband, Bill, vice president of sales for salesforce.com, and their two sons live in Marin County, just north of San Francisco.
You started Square One when your twins were babies. Not many people would or could do that. Why did you?
I left my previous full-time position when I was pregnant and was consulting while I was pregnant, and so I knew at some point I would go back to work full time. So we had live-in au pairs from the get-go, which provided me with an easy platform. I was literally just at the moment of deciding, "well, am I going back to work and start applying for jobs?" and "what am I going to do?" when the idea hit me for this company and I said, "well, if I don’t do it, someone’s going to do it." So, rather than go work for someone else and fit my family into my schedule, I asked myself if I could balance it by being my own boss and having the flexibility to take care of my own kids when I need to.
What were the challenges of starting a business while being a new mom?
In the early stages it wasn’t really very difficult because I had to be the one driving everything forward. There was no one counting on me. I had to work on the business plan, I had to figure out how to finance it, and I had to talk with the distillery, so my hours the first year and a half were very flexible. It was when we launched I had to actually sell it and travel, so things did get complicated. It’s taken a lot of juggling.