Andie Ferman on Being an Ambassador to a Brand You Love
It's the stuff of dreams for many of us — a job that makes you excited to get out of bed in the morning. Considering the demands of life as a brand ambassador, that kind of genuine enthusiasm and #JobLove is nothing short of necessary. St. George brand ambassador Andie Ferman oozes zeal for her job and the brand she represents. And her authenticity, passion and commitment mirror what makes St. George spirits so special. We sat down with Ferman to find out how she found herself such a natural fit.
How did your career in the hospitality world begin?
It started at like a pizza joint when I was like 15 and I had my workers permit. And then I started working at the Olive Garden, so my track record was a lot of corporate, large-scale family restaurants, and then I started working more in fine dining and then working in bars.
And how did you discover St. George?
I heard there was a distillery in Alameda, California, and that was kind of unheard of at the time — that you could actually go to a distillery and do a tour and be able to taste there was pretty incredible. So I went there. I was still managing a restaurant and a bar in Hayward, California, which is about 15 to 20 minutes south of Alameda, so I was still East Bay, still very much the heart of the bay, but ultimately I went in and I was like, 'oh yes, I'm going to work here.'
What charmed you about St. George so quickly?
What I loved about St. George is that immediately it was like, “What questions do you have? What are you excited about?” And as a spirit guide, the people who work at St. George, there's no stupid questions, there's only stupid answers. And ultimately it was very welcoming, so that's what really drew me to it. That's what got me to St. George, working in restaurants and bars and then being so excited at a place that creates spirits, and that we establish an environment where people are encouraged to taste and get excited.
How did you get involved initially at St. George?
My first role was the tasting room manager. And then from there, I have a pretty small crew. Like when I first started, I was the sixth full-time employee, now we've got 15 full time employees. So we've grown pretty steadily, but my job really has remained consistent in the sphere of education and hospitality — that's my gift. I can clean things really well too, though.
Why was it such a natural fit?
We talk about being creative, transparent and coming from a place where literally the inspiration for all of our spirits is love and excitement. So I think that that is pervasive throughout. It's systemic — the idea that we create spirits not to replicate somebody else's or to find some kind of niche in the market but to really express ourselves. And so if you come, we're kind of a motley crew of individuals, but each one of us is perhaps artistic in many ways and that is really romantic. So i think that my personality is such to where I want to welcome everyone with open arms, and I want to invite them into the excitement of St. George. It's just like our bottles are that way too, invitational.
What do you think you’ve contributed to the brand’s identity?
It's like you're intrigued, you're excited, you want to get in there. The invitation to the party is, I think, successfully executed. I think that's pretty much it. I feel fine, I feel at home there and I've been able to really kind of create a big part of that, as far as the hospitality sphere is concerned
I think that my background and my education, getting my degree in history — I love the history of spirits and cocktails and just culture and community, so I feel like I definitely come from that background where it's a lot of rich information and knowledge to share. Plus, the willingness to be open and not guarded or caged when it comes to that information. It's all about what you want to know? Well, I would love to share with you. And I want to learn from you, too. It's like, I love it when people ask me questions I don't know the answer to. Which is great because it's never-ending. The only time when you're done in this life is when you're dead. And then, of course, you stop learning. So I think personality-wise it's that I love the background, the history, the reasons why and what it does — and then of course being really focused on hospitality.
How do you find a brand that’s such a great fit?
Do they have a love for the product in particular, the juice? Is it a spirit that they can get behind? Because there's nothing more maybe soul sucking or devastating than to have a brand, let's say, that there's no real connection to and that perhaps even on the sly they may be like, 'I actually don't really like it' — it's like oh, that right there, I think is a good indicator. You should really like the brand and seek everything out about that brand — the information, the story, is it true? Is there integrity there? Is there transparency? So I think it's just knowing yourself and whether or not you can be passionate and get behind it, because so much about being a brand ambassador is being a cheerleader — you're on the frontlines, you're a soldier fighting in that army, and if you do not believe in the message, and you don’t believe in the product, people can smell that and they can smell it from a mile away. And do you know your shit?
So, are you dedicated, are you willing to be educated, and then once you educate yourself and find out everything you need to know about the product and the process, do you love it? I think it's a personal journey for every brand and every person.
How has your experience as a bartender impacted your work as a brand ambassador?
I think working in bars teaches you a lot — how to deal with many different kinds of people, what are their needs, how to create an environment where your guest can trust you and then come back to you because they like what you've provided. We're not vending machines; that's almost a guarantee. But it’s got to be an exchange. I think the bigger question for most people is, are they in it to win it? Do they want to work from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m.?
What kind of person makes a great brand ambassador?
For most of my experience with other folks in this business who do act as brand ambassadors and have that role, most of them are extremely outgoing, passionate individuals who are really well-suited. I think that we're all extroverts in this business to a certain extent. If we didn’t want to talk to people or exchange, we probably would be at the DMV, where we'd be getting paid to be angry about people.
Where are your favorite places that your work has taken you?
Would it be cheesy to say New Orleans? Okay, I’ll give you my top three. I do think New Orleans is fantastic... New York, New York is fantastic, and I feel like being able to go there and have people I would consider extended family, makes that city and that experience even more enriching. After that, it's really a tie between Chicago and Portland, Oregon — very different. Chicago's a big city but doesn't feel like a big city, the architecture's amazing, it's very rich, lots of art. But Portland's kind of doable.
What’s your advice to bartenders who are aspiring brand ambassadors?
I guess maybe first step is, find a brand that you do love. I have two friends who were always about Fernet, loved Fernet, Fernet Branca in particular ... and literally both of them loved that brand, were absolutely spokespeople and sought it out and got those jobs. And I think there's something really special about that as well, not just swiping right on Tinder, because they happen to be in the area, you know what I mean? But literally, seeking it out.
That's the ideal situation, but you also might find that something, maybe somebody sees something in you and they're like, “Wow, you're amazing you would do great if you consider this other sphere or facet of this business.” Because being a bartender — cash in hand and having a home where you're constantly at your bar and it's your domain, that's very wonderful too. People really like that. But then it's like, maybe you should consider that. That may also be a magical scenario. To find one that's right for you, I think it's more that you love the brand and you know you can get behind it and be a part of something and literally create the momentum to push that brand forward. There are so many different aspects to consider.
But then again, it was almost luck that I got this position, because it was right on that wave of people starting to give a shit about cocktails. I am lucky.