When it comes to taking chances and not holding back, Joanne Canady-Brown and Ann Marshall can fill you in. They grew their culinary business from scratch as entrepreneurs and both joined the Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership (WEL) class in 2018. WEL, in part of the Women’s Leadership Program (WLP) presented by Audi, was created by the James Beard Foundation to provide women with the tools and training they need to get to the next level of the business. The program seeks to strengthen these women’s brands and help them expand their business by learning skills such as forecasting, finance, and brand positioning.
While the two come from different backgrounds and areas of expertise, as WEL fellows they came together with a common goal – be the best culinary entrepreneurs they can be.
Joanne Canady-Brown is a pastry chef and after teaching herself the art of baking, she went on to open a bakery called The Gingered Peach in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. Ann Marshall is a distillery expert and masters the art of spirit-making as the co-owner of High Wire Distilling Co. in Charleston, South Carolina.
As an inaugural part of the Audi Q3 launch in Nashville, Joanne and Ann joined the PROOF dinner, a pop-up dining experience created in conjunction with the Q3 launch in Nashville and in collaboration with OpenTable, which featured 2019 James Beard Foundation Outstanding Chef winner, Ashley Christensen as the head chef.
In each city, PROOF, the Audi Culinary Dinner series, operated one seating per night, for four nights, beginning in Nashville, Tennessee. Each city featured female award-winning chefs and restaurant owners, including graduates of the WEL program. The remaining cities included Pittsburgh with Chef Angie Mar supported by WEL Fellows Sandra Cordero and Ping Ho; Minneapolis with Chef Nina Compton supported by WEL Fellows Caitlin Corcoran and Katy Gerdes, and Seattle with Chef Daniela Soto-Innes supported by WEL Fellows Kelly Fields and Daniella Senior.
One of the reasons Joanne and Ann were selected to be part of the first PROOF location is that they share the same resilience and theme of the Audi Q3 – they hold nothing back. The Audi Q3 proves the no-holding-back mindset with its premium offerings in design and technology, and the WEL fellows replicate that with their tenacious ability to offer inspiration to those striving to reach the same goals. The James Beard Foundation and Audi work together to shed light on the conversation around opportunities for women in the culinary space by providing a platform for the chefs to showcase their artistry. And the PROOF event served as the platform for the launch in Nashville.
“What I really love about Audi is that when they talk about #DriveProgress, they are looking at the entire ecosystem of the car to the factories, and the environment,” Joanne said. “At Gingered Peach we consider how we are connecting to the community as well – like how are we are working collectively with farms to create a more sustainable environment.”
Ann, described the way her company, High-Wire Distilling, shares that sense of community by using the “voice that grows” as her business grows sustainably for the common good, she compares it to how Audi uses the same approach as a brand to spread the message of community. “On a micro-level we recognize people are watching us and are influenced by us,” Ann said. “So we need to be responsible with that voice and just be good citizens of the world.”
Both Ann and Joanne had the James Beard Foundation and becoming a WEL Fellow on their radar. At the time, the idea of becoming WEL Fellows felt far-fetched, until of course, it became a reality.
“I had hit a cap in terms of my ability to take my business to the next level. I had taken us as far as I could and I started searching for answers,” Joanne said. “When I saw the description of the program I thought maybe this is where my answers are.”
“The focus of the program was critical to realizing our individual voices," Ann added. “I think we all left feeling empowered to be better leaders and be cognizant of the fact that people are watching us.” Ann works with local farms to grow heirloom grains integral to the unique flavor of her spirits. With Ann’s business linked to sustainable resources, it is imperative to be mindful of the ingredients being shared. In that sense, a business model becomes grounds for multitasking. “It’s easy to get in the weeds and being so busy executing that you aren’t focused on leading and setting a pace for innovation, not just in the specific trade you are in but how we are focused on making the culinary and beverage world better places to work and better experiences in general.”
“The journey was crazy for me,” Joanne said. “The odds for me to be sitting here right now is ridiculously slim but it’s one of those things where you keep pushing.” Joanne believes that overcoming her own self-doubt and identifying what she wanted to represent as a business is what helped her pull through during the challenging parts of her journey.
For Ann, it was constantly building a brand in the midst of a storm. Her advice is simple, do not take no for an answer. “Keep pushing always, be prepared to be wrong a million times and be prepared to be surprised by yourself and your ability to keep going even when you don’t want to get out of bed anymore,” she said. “There’s something really special about the entrepreneurial spirit and how this hidden force drives you further and further than you think you can go.”
“There’s nothing like it," Joanne added. “It’s really something that when it happens, it’s this giant exhale but also makes every single step after that easier - because after that you are like okay, I did that, now for the next thing – let’s make that happen.”
Bravo and congratulations to Ann and Joanne for not only being the ambitious WEL fellows and entrepreneurs that they are, but for also being the voice that encourages aspiring women out there in pursuit of their culinary dreams to hold nothing back.