Brittany Merrill Yeng: Co-Founder & Senior Managing Member, Skrewball Spirits

Screenshot 2019-08-29 at 9.59.07 AM.png

My Native Admission Statement: I am a living contradiction. I am a work obsessed, dedicated mother (with another one the way!). I am a health-conscious junk food addict. I am a creative spirit who loves logic and planning. A former scientist and lawyer turned whiskey brand owner. I truly love learning and fully dedicating myself to whatever challenge is in front of me, which probably explains my somewhat odd career path to becoming the Co-Founder and Senior Managing Member of Skrewball Spirits, owner of Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey.

How did you get into the industry?

I jumped right in! I began my career as a pharmaceutical patient litigator at a major global law firm. I have a master’s in Chemistry from UCSD and a Juris Doctor from the University of Chicago. My husband had high volume restaurants that I had helped him develop in the beginning, but my career had taken me away from that. With both of our backgrounds, I saw an opportunity for us to join forces and create something new and exciting for the spirits industry.

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?

Literally, the inspiration was a cocktail my husband had created at one of his restaurants, but the reality is so much deeper. My husband and I have been together since I was fourteen. We’re extremely different people with completely different skill sets, but I think that’s why we work so well together. I always say, I’d never marry someone that I wouldn’t go into business with—and that is always what I figured we’d do at some point. Our relationship was the best when we were working together to build something. However, my school and career brought me down a different path and we were not able to work together like we had before. Still, I was constantly coming up with ideas for us to go it alone and each time he was hesitant to take the leap. When I was pregnant with our first daughter, I think it became real to both of us that it was now or never. We took the dive in and have never looked back. My husband likes to say that peanut butter is the glue that brought us back together.

What's next for the Business in the near future?

We started with Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey being available in just part of one city roughly a year ago. In the last few months, we have expanded to over thirty states. By the end of fall, Skrewball should be available nationwide. With all the regulations and red tape in the alcohol industry, it is unheard of for a mom and pop business to be able to expand this quickly. We are continuing this rapid roll out to make Skrewball available to as many people as possible. We started this because we saw that it was a drink that doesn’t discriminate or favor one crowd; it brings people together. So, despite the risks, all the well-meaning advice to slow down and the difficulty, we are moving forward on our mission.

Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)

When you start in a new industry, you don’t necessarily trust your own judgement because you do not have all the industry experience. At the same time, everyone is offering advice. Some of it is well-intentioned bad advice, some of it is generally good industry advice but it does not fit your plan, some of it is just plain bad advice, some of it is helpful, but you’re not really at a place to implement it correctly and the list goes on. It is very hard to know who to trust or what to do.

With the attention we had created for Skrewball so early on, I knew that I had to make big decisions fast, while I was still getting my feet wet in the industry. This felt paralyzing. In that moment, I had a sort of heart-to-heart with myself. I had been here before. I moved from Chemistry and a world of scientists to law. It was supposed to be completely different and everyone was telling me that none of my past experience was relevant. However, they were wrong, and I was wrong to doubt that I had relevant experience to pull me through. The same is true here. Yes, I have made mistakes along the way. I will continue to make mistakes. I would love to have more perspective and hindsight for all the decisions I make, but life does not work that way. I just listened to as much advice as I could get, analyzing each piece and found trust in myself to work through it.

I think Vern Underwood, a legend in the industry, summarized it best. When we first met, he explained he’s been in the industry for 60 years. In that time, he said that he’s made a lot of big decisions for his companies and “to this day, I cannot tell you whether those were the right decisions or the wrong decisions. A decision had to be made and I did what I thought needed to be done, and here we are today.”

Career advice to those in your industry?

Don’t be afraid to break the mold. There are so many formulas, conventional wisdom and set ways of doing things. There is wisdom in that, but it’s not always the most rewarding. Someone has to be the first to set a new standard; let it be you.

Screenshot 2019-08-29 at 10.06.54 AM.png

What do I do best?

I listen. Like, truly listen. A lot of people hear people talking, but they do not analyze what they are saying and process the depth of what people are telling them. I have found that if you take the time to really evaluate what people are saying and connect the dots, you’ll realize that they are giving you so much more valuable information than it would appear on the surface.

What makes me the best version of myself?

My daughter. I see all of this confidence packaged in this tiny two-year-old body. She looks at me and trusts me to do what is right. I know that no matter how tired I am, no matter how much I doubt my own abilities, and no matter what else I am going through, I need to be the best version of myself. I want her to look back and be proud of everything that I have done for her and our family.

What are my aspirations?

To do something that will inspire others. Most of what we’re working on with Skrewball has not been done before—especially by people like us. I don’t think many people would expect a pregnant woman to be behind this whiskey brand. So many others have paved the way for us, and we’d like to pay it forward. Whether we succeed or fail, we hope to open some doors for the next person.

My Biggest Success?

I’d like to take credit for creating the most incredible human being, my daughter, but I think it’s 99% her. I will take credit, however, for creating a home that allows my daughter to feel safe and comfortable, to explore and be herself. Nothing else can compare to that, and I am looking forward to welcoming another little girl into our home.

My Most Challenging Moment?

To stay at home for college. I had worked really hard to be at the top of my class in high school and was looking forward to stepping out on my own. Knowing our financial situation, I made the responsible decision to stay around home, which enabled me to work and pay off college before I graduated. At the time, I was really disappointed and felt like I was missing out on the whole experience. Now, I know that was the best decision I could have made. It may seem like a trivial decision, but who knows if I would have married the same man, made the same career choices and had the financial stability to start our own business if I had chosen differently.

My Motto?

The only failure is giving up and not learning something from what you’ve done.

My Favorite People/Role Models?

I am so fortunate to have so many strong people in my life that are so grounded in their values. I have always looked to my grandmother for strength and independence. As the middle of eleven kids, she lost her parents at sixteen and she fought to keep the family together. My parents have also been incredible examples of patience, support and allowing me to develop into my own person.

My Favorite Places/Destinations?

Traveling is something that my husband and I have chosen to prioritize in our family. It’s a way for us to step outside of ourselves and our daily lives. My favorite places are completely off the grid, meaning no cell service and no WiFi, just you and your travel companions exploring a new part of the world. These places exist- trust me. Recently, I found some amazing places deep in the rain forest, on a small island or in the Blue Mountains as we explored Australia. It was such an incredible way to see the country.

My Favorite Products/Objects?

I love my air pods because they really enable me to get out of the house with my phone.

My Current Passions?

My family is the most important thing to me. With one little one and another on the way, I try to embrace as many of those goofy, precious moments as I can.

My Daily Thoughts:

Goal of the Day: Check more off the to do list than I add (although it seems I rarely achieve this).

Thought of the Day: Just keep moving forward.

Action of the Day: Do at least one thing I don’t want to do.

Deed of the Day: Do something small to make someone else’s life a little easier.

Tip of the Day: Believe in yourself. You’re capable of more than you think.

A Day in My Life:

What do you love most about Your City?

Mostly nice weather and nice people.

Favorite breakfast meal & restaurant?

I love smoothies from Beeming.

What are you doing at:

6:00 AM – Morning routine with my daughter.

10:00 AM – Working. On calls, answering emails, going to meetings.

12:00 PM - Favorite Lunch spot/meal? A salad from somewhere fresh like Tender Greens.

7:00 PM - Winding down with my daughter.

11:00 PM – If I’m lucky, sleeping. I’m an early riser.

What drink do you need to get through the day and at the end (and how many)?

Being pregnant means no fun drinks. Instead, I get some green juices, young barley grass, and other natural energy drinks to keep me going.

Most used App/Favorite Instagram Account?

With all the travel we’ve been doing for work, I love my Audible app.

What should everyone try at least once?

To really indulge. Whatever it is that is important to you, whether it’s food, an outfit (or shoes), an adventure or anything else. It is the moments of harmless recklessness or irresponsibility that allow us to feel human in the midst of everything and hopefully, you get the chance to do it more than once.

Where do you enjoy getting lost?

In new cities. When we travel, we like to schedule a day to explore the markets and local restaurants.

My Pic of the Day: A typical day of me with my daughter

Screenshot 2019-08-29 at 10.01.15 AM.png