Published on
March 31, 2023

Business Insider Article Inner Circle Vodka Bar Raised Funding Made Millions

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For Jacob Harper and Andy Cagle, the idea for a bar dedicated to vodka drinks was as clear and crisp as the spirit itself.

When they came up with it eight years ago, vodka was a fixture in all their visits to bars around the country. People drank vodka neat, on ice, in cocktails, or as shots.

Industry statistics conrm vodka's status as a longstanding top-selling liquor, according to 2018 data from global strategy firm LEK Consulting. The "backbone of the spirits industry," as the Distilled Spirits Council trade group calls it, accounted for 32% of all volumes sold in the US in 2018. It reaped $6.4 billion for US distillers, up from$5.5 billion in 2012.

Back then, Cagle recalled, he saw vodka distilleries opening around him. As he and Harper studied trends and visited bars far and wide,they also noticed more people enjoying flavored vodka or infused cocktails.

"We thought, 'Man, for being the No. 1 seller, no one is really treating it well,'" Cagle said. "It's like the red-headed stepchild of the industry."

So, they thought, why not have a bar that specializes in infused vodka drinks? They could call it Inner Circle Vodka Bar, named for the friend group the pair had in college at Oklahoma State University. Harper could lead all operations. Cagle could head finance, marketing, and events. If the concept worked, they could build a regional chain.

"Opening a bar or doing business together was something we talked about off and on," Harper said. "It started out as us kind of joking about it and talking about our strengths."

The talk began in college and continued after graduation. Meanwhile,Harper worked his way up into a manager position at a busy bar in Stillwater, Oklahoma, but found few opportunities to advance further. Cagle earned a law degree and practiced as an attorney in Texas — but over time, he became more drawn to organizing parties, crawls, and other fun events.

In 2012, the chatter turned serious when both experienced personal breakthroughs. Harper decided to do more with an inheritance from his father, andCagle realized his passion was in entertaining and organizing experiences that made people happy.

"Finally, we said let's just do this," Cagle said. "It was tougher than we thought it'd be."

It paid o: In ve years, the Inner Circle Vodka Bar has brought in more than $4.2 million in all, earning between $561,000 and $1.2million each year.

To find out how they did it