JoAnn Elardo, founder of Wicked Dolphin Distillery, which was recently named one of GrowFL's Companies To Watch for 2016, is a serial entrepreneur of broad and varied scope. Having worked in the film, video and finance space, Elardo owned and operated a large shoe distribution company in Europe until she sold the company and moved to Florida in 2008.
"I moved to Florida because I needed a break from the cold Eastern Europe winters," Elardo said. "At the time, I had some investments in commodities and in particular sugar. One evening I was analyzing my sugar commodities while drinking a cocktail made from a lousy rum. I asked myself why isn't someone making a good Florida rum and that is when I decided to start Wicked Dolphin."
Elardo approaches rum making in the craft distilling tradition, using premium ingredients to make a superior product. "With Wicked Dolphin, we really wanted to celebrate Florida," she said. "Most of our ingredients are from Florida. We have very fertile soil and grow phenomenal fruit down here and we want to tap into local ingredients and work with local farmers. Our spice is not a canned spice like large rum makers. You'll get real spice that we handpick with added local honey."
That approach is working as evidenced by the many awards Wicked Dolphin has won, including awards from the prestigious American Distillers Institute, Miami Rum Renaissance and The Madrid Rum Conference. "The method in which our craft rum is made takes time and patience and wouldn’t be feasible for larger mass produced brands to replicate," Elardo said. "We only use the heart of the spirit."
Elardo's advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is to work hard because if it were easy, everyone would be doing it. "Never take no for an answer," she said. "Once you take no you are defeated so we never take no for an answer. Also, think of your idea not only from the perspective of someone selling it, but also from the perspective of the consumer before you create your product or service."