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Business news: Low-wage jobs and Starting your own bourbon label

For years, an entry-level job (complete with entry-level wages) was the average American's launch into the job market and starting a career. You would learn and gain skills, then leave for something better-paying.

Bourbon whiskey and a shot glass, seen through frosted glass
Bourbon whiskey and a shot glass, seen through frosted glass
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Not only was it the classic American way, it was a win-win situation for the workers and low-wage employers; as a worker left for better pay, they could then spend more at the employers' stores, thus also benefiting the U.S. economy.

But since the Great Recession of 2007, many of the next-level jobs no longer exist, which means more low-wage workers (and ironically, many are older and better-educated, not always teens and young adults) are “stuck”.
Some people took those jobs (the low-wage ones) because they were the only ones available and haven't been able to figure out how to move out of that”, said Bill Simon, CEO of Wal-Mart U.S.
If Wal-Mart employees can go to another company and another job and make more money and develop, they'll be better”, Simon further explained. “It'll be better for the economy. It'll be better for us as a business, to be quite honest, because they'll continue to advance in their economic life.”

As a result of this shift, many of the older and better-educated low-wage workers (particularly in the retail and fast-food areas) have become more vocal in pressing for raises (like the fast-food protest of 2013).

Last year, 17.4 million Americans between ages 25 and 64 earned less than $10.10 an hour (the minimum wage proposed by President Obama-the current minimum is $7.25), which is equal to an income of nearly $19,000 for a full-time employee-less than half the median pay of a U.S. worker.

Did You Know That.....

Nearly a third of low-wage employees last year had some college education.

An additional 10 percent were college graduates.

Starting Your Own Bourbon Label

There's two ways to go about it: A contract craft bottler (like Strong Spirits, which bottles High Rye Bourbon, among many others) can help you “source” bourbon by designing a label for you and walking it through the regulatory process. For $25,000, you could probably get close to 100 cases to market.
When the company Strong Spirits opened just three years ago, it bottled a few hundred cases a month. But business lately has “grown like crazy,” according to manager Jeff Tatman. In 2013, the company averaged more than 10,000 cases a month (!).

Or would you rather make and sell your own bourbon?
For example, the Distilled Spirits Epicenter in Louisville, Kentucky, offers a five-day Moonshine University course for $5,500. You could then build a distillery for about $1 million. Wait the better part of a year to get your still from Vendome Copper and Brass Works in Louisville, then start cooking mash and barreling “juice.” In three or four years, you may have something to sell.

Actually, many craft or startup brands do a little of both.
This is a well-known secret within the bourbon world: Companies often buy their bourbon until they have something to sell. Or maybe they aren't interested in making it at all.

According to whiskey expert Chuck Cowdery, bourbon is more of a commodity than many people realize; the 13 major distillers (including an Indiana one) are constantly rebalancing their inventories with expected needs, thus giving rise to a subterranean river of bourbon flowing through Kentucky (and surfacing in some surprising places).
These distillers sometimes contract to make whiskey for someone else; occasionally they also sell excess bourbon in bulk to control inventory.
But it's not something they want to talk about.

Sources: “Low-wage jobs are an unexpected way of life for many”-Associated Press-The (Sunday) Vindicator, March 16, 2014 and “Getting into the spirit of making, selling bourbon”-Lexington Herald-Leader-The (Sunday) Vindicator, Dec. 22nd, 2013