Chamber Insider Blog

Behind the Business: Scott Harris, Catoctin Creek Distillery

Thank you to Scott Harris, of Catoctin Creek Distillery, for letting us know a little more about your story!

This year, Scott is the honorary co-chair of our Small Business Awards! We’re so glad to have him on the team, and are looking forward to seeing who wins these prestigious awards in November! Be sure to nominate a local business (it takes 1 minute!), and register for the gala here.

  1. Tell us about your business and how you got started in this industry?  Becky and I started the company back in 2009, when we were both still engineers.  Becky was a chemical engineer who had worked for large companies like Ciba Vision–making contact lenses–and I was a government contractor.  I like to joke that 20 years of government contracting taught me a great love of drinking!  Both of us were looking for a career change, and making whiskey seemed like something new and worthwhile.
  2. What is your favorite part of your job?  I love going out and seeing my products on the bar.  Whether it is locally at Magnolia’s, Tuskies, or Market Table Bistro, or in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Savannah, or even at the Four Seasons in Singapore– I always get such a thrill when we see one of our bottles on the bar at a restaurant!
  3. What is the hardest part of your job?  The regulations in our industry are fierce.  55% of my gross margins go to the Virginia ABC as taxes.  That means, if I earn two million dollars in gross revenue, Virginia will take over 1 million of it.  That’s tough.  We are required to file twice a month reporting to the state and federal governments, and we are audited by five separate agencies (TTB, VABC, FDA, VDACS, and USDA).  It is not a business for those who hate paperwork.
  4. What is your biggest accomplishment in your career to date?  Apart from winning Small Business of the year in 2012 with the Chamber, we are VERY proud of being named in Southern Living as one of the top 50 changing the South in 2015.  That’s huge recognition for us.  And recently, we won the 2015 RAMMY for best beverage producer in the Washington Metropolitan Area.  That means a lot because it is an award from our peers in the DC area.
  5. What is one piece of advice you can give to someone thinking about starting or running a small business?  You will have to WORK HARD for your dream.  Anything ispossible with adequate resources and effort, but the one thing you must do is work.  Life is sweat and tears and there are no easy short-cuts.  Anybody who tells you otherwise is selling you something fishy.
  6. What would you say to someone looking to make the leap into a new industry?   Research. And marshall your resources. The successful entrepreneur is the one who objectively evaluates his/her risks, and then works hard to mitigate those risks.  If you get blocked going down one avenue, be willing to adjust, change your game plan, and keep going.  Always keep going! 
  7. What is your favorite app?   Ha!  Honestly, my favorite app is probably Instagram.  I’m addicted.
  8. What is your favorite thing to do in Loudoun on the weekends?   I love our restaurants.  Patowmack, Market Table Bistro, Los Tios, Tuskies, Magnolias, Coach’s Corner, Wine Kitchen, I could go on.. and on.. and on… we have some amazing food options in Loudoun County.  And I love to eat!  
Thanks Scott, again for answering a few questions with us!
Be sure to visit Scott & Becky over at Catoctin Creek Distillery in Purcellville, and mention that we sent you!

Photo Credit: (photo 1 & 3, Firefly Imageworks; photo 2, Dave Galen Photography)