Lawyer turned Moonshiner: Jessi Baker

“Hard work, work ethic, employing people and really giving back to people in that sense is one of the highest callings you can have. We are really honored to be in that position and take it very seriously and every decision we make in our business is intentional.”

-Jessi Baker

Her Story of Success…

When Jessi Baker opened a moonshine business with her husband Joe and two of their friends, she never expected it to grow into a nationwide phenomenon. But almost 10 years later, Ole Smoky is the most visited distillery in the world, and its moonshine is sold in all 50 states and 53 countries. After leaving her career as an attorney, Jessi has found her passion in developing Ole Smoky food products, and she recently released a cookbook called Shining: Ole Smoky Moonshine Family Cookbook, which features delicious cocktails and family recipes for true Southern food. 

Jessi and her family didn’t stop with Ole Smoky, going on to open businesses like Bootleggers Homemade Wine and Yee Haw Brewing. Most recently, Ole Smoky opened its fourth distillery in Nashville, which features tastings, food and live entertainment. Though growth has not always been easy, Jessi has seen the rewards for her family and community, and she loves getting to carry on her family’s legacy of entrepreneurship and tourism. 

In this episode…

Jessi explains how Ole Smoky grew from a side hustle rooted in her in-laws’ tradition of making moonshine into a successful company with over 500 employees (7:06). She describes growing up surrounded by tourism and learning entrepreneurship from her grandmother, who ran Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen (16:12). As a mother and an entrepreneur, Jessi knows how difficult it can be to design a life that brings those two worlds together, and she opens up about what it’s like to be in business with her husband and show her kids the value of hard work (21:47). Jessi also bravely shares the story of how her grieving process after a miscarriage led her to create the Ole Smoky cookbook, and she offers advice for learning to feel strong again after a difficult loss (22:57). 

Though she knows some people think Ole Smoky’s success came easily, Jessi gets real about the struggle that goes into expanding a business, and she offers advice for how to know when it’s the right time to grow (33:35). She explains how the rewards of bringing growth and joy to her community and family have made it all worth it, and describes how those things have become the markers by which she now views success (39:20).