*This article was originally published in ColoradoBiz Magazine. You can read the original feature: here.
In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Montanya Distillers, a craft distillery in Crested Butte, saw the need for sanitizer in their community and shifted their production to donate surface sanitizer to front-line workers.
This commitment to ensuring their community thrives is why they are recognized as a 2020 Best for Colorado Commit to Action Award Honoree.
Montanya Distillers also demonstrates leadership in numerous other ways. Whether it’s their innovative environmental practices, zero-waste mentality, or its employee benefits, the company strives to continuously raise the bar for what it means to be a responsible and successful business.
This annual award honors inspirational Best for Colorado companies that are driving transformational change in regards to the wellbeing and resilience of our communities, environment and society.
We spoke with Karen Hoskin, founder/owner of Montanya Distillers, to learn about what makes Montanya Distillers Best for Colorado.
BFCO: Can you tell us a little bit about your decision to start producing surface sanitizer?
Karen Hoskin: Producing sanitizer was a relatively simple pivot within our business. We were lucky to be allowed to continue production during lockdown because we were able to meet strict health and safety requirements.
We added extra bottling shifts to the schedule using our existing rum bottles and designed a new label so there could be no mistaking what was inside. We created recommendations and guidelines for the use in cooperation with federal compliance entities.
We did not have to make any adjustments to our point of sale or distribution processes as we provided the sanitizer as a donation, working directly with the county’s Incident Command Team to identify the groups most in need: the local hospital, senior care center, doctors’ offices, emergency medical service providers, testing sites, law enforcement and other groups helping to respond.
The project boosted morale by offering staff a way to help the community, and it was amazing how quickly word spread and groups surfaced that could make use of the product.
BFCO: How has this initiative been perceived in your local community?
KH: We should never underestimate the power of doing your part. We initially felt that our decision to make sanitizer was a small act (and still feel that way, particularly considering the true heroes: healthcare workers, first responders, and other essential workers who kept grocery stores and other essential businesses up and running safely).
We didn’t even think it was that unique: distilleries across the country also shifted their operations to help with the demand for sanitizers. The speed at which the word spread was amazing. People were looking for positive and uplifting stories during this challenging time, and the feedback from our community was tremendous.
BFCO: What can others in the business community learn from your example?
KH: We were reminded of the value of listening to your community and responding to the actual need. Initially, we didn’t anticipate producing sanitizer of any kind. Our distillation process simply does not produce a high enough alcohol content to follow WHO recipes for hand sanitizer. When our community spoke up, however, we heard of a need for surface sanitizer. We could easily produce that, and taking the time to listen and assess the need allowed us to offer a solution.
Also, as a company working very hard to be zero-waste, we value using every drop of the alcohol we make. We will likely continue creating surface sanitizer moving forward.
BFCO: What are your hopes for the future and for your sustainability goals?
KH: There is always more we can do, and we’ve had some hurdles to clear this year. We had set a goal to become zero waste in 2020, and we’re not going to make it. Every time we get one aspect of our business waste wrangled, another one becomes problematic. We would never say “zero” unless we meant it. We have made major strides in this area, but the pandemic set us back on to-go containers and local infrastructure set us back on commercial composting. We are working on a biodigester and finding innovative ways to eliminate to-go packaging even in a pandemic.
BFCO: What lessons has your company learned from 2020 so far?
KH: This year we’ve been reminded that things don’t always go according to plan, but that’s where creativity can shine. We’ve innovated and created new business models during these times, and it’s been inspiring to see. It’s been a good reminder that working hard doesn’t always remedy the situation, but being courageous will. You have to be brave enough to take risks, speak your truth, accept new challenges, step outside your comfort zone and believe that success will come.