Sumit Vohra, founder, CEO and chief drinking officer of Raleigh’s Lonerider Brewing, opened the company in January 2009 with a beer and a dream. Today, Lonerider is one of North Carolina’s biggest-volume breweries, annually producing more than 20,000 barrels, with distribution in nine states and in Europe. Lonerider brews have won medals at the Great American Beer Festival.
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After getting the brewery moving, Sumit entered the craft spirits market, given his love of whiskey. After three years of planning, Lonerider Spirits launched in May with the first distilled spirits to be released this fall. Sumit is chairman of Lonerider Spirits
Sumit frequently speaks to students at the UNC Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler Business School and North Carolina State University’s entrepreneurship program. He has a passion for mentoring budding entrepreneurs. He also serves on the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce board, the small business advisory committee for Wake Tech Community College, and the communications committee for the Brewers Association. Sumit received his undergraduate degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, his graduate degree from Georgia Tech, and his MBA from UNC Chapel Hill.
What do you like best about your job?
Besides the tremendous outlaws I work with, I enjoy the passion of craft beer drinkers. A great moment for me is when I am sipping Lonerider beer incognito at a bar and a patron next to me orders our beer and exclaims what a fantastic brew ours is. Even after almost 10 years in the business, I still get that smile on my face. That exclamation encapsulates all the hard work our team puts into creation and delivery of that perfect brew.
What inspires you?
Unrequited kindness of others. I have always been a big believer in empathy more than sympathy. The emotion that allows you to understand how another individual feels and then respond with positivity is amazing. Over the years, I have seen many acts of kindness, from a simple offer of “let me buy your food” to “you can crash on my couch tonight; it’s cold outside.” These are the things that inspire me and make me want to leave the world a better place. I know I am biased here, but craft beer industry is fairly empathetic. Who can’t be empathetic after drinking a delicious cold one?!
Who should we be paying attention to?
We should absolutely be paying attention to Mike Capps and his new Raleigh startup, Diveplane. He took Epic Games to considerable heights, and I am looking forward to his take on artificial intelligence. He has an uncanny ability to dive into heart of what’s relevant and then inspiring others to execute with him.
What was your biggest challenge this week?
So much to do, so little time. The biggest recent challenge I would say was, after months of preparation, sitting down and re-envisioning our execution in remote markets. As craft beer gets crowded, remote markets become harder to execute. How to constantly stay ahead of the game is tough in a hyper-competitive consumer goods world. But we constantly rejigger our execution parameters to stay ahead.
Favorite N.C. vacation spot?
My favorite N.C. vacation spot is wherever I have the opportunity to hang out with my friends and loved ones. For me, people make the places count and not the other way around. We are lucky in North Carolina to have a diverse set of places to go to; we live in a beautiful state.