Chattanooga natives husband–wife duo Carter Hudlow and Emily Spurling have recently launched a business inspired by their love of the South and Chattanooga.
Pure Southern cocktails come ready-made, but unlike other products on the market, they are made with all-natural ingredients, Spurling said.
"As a consumer, I knew there were other ready-to-drink brands, and even some that marketed themselves as natural; however, after trying many of these brands, I was disappointed with the quality and taste," she said.
The couple currently lives in Los Angeles and they work in corporate finance, but their goal is to move back to Chattanooga and operate the business full time here.
About the company
The idea for Pure Southern came up while the couple was at dinner in L.A. They were having drinks, talking about the South and feeling homesick.
As Spurling sipped her cocktail, she started to wonder why she couldn't have similar, quality drinks at home without the hassle of getting all the ingredients and mixing them just right.
Many other options on the market are made with high-fructose corn syrup and other artificial ingredients, and they also often have a relatively low alcohol content, she said.
"So you're not getting a good bang for your buck," she said. "We were talking about the South, I was having my drink, and the light bulb went off."
They would create all-natural, ready-to-drink cocktails that would pay homage to their home.
The duo started out with the name. They wanted to make sure they could trademark Pure Southern.
From there, they took kitchen recipes they had developed together over the years and turned them into commercial products with the help of a development company.
Next came the packaging, graphic design work, logo and marketing. They did a soft launch in April at the Wine and Spirits Wholesale Convention in Las Vegas.
There, they met distributors, and their products are now in the Chattanooga region and Georgia. They have a broker currently working to get their products in Texas, and also have prospects for Pennsylvania and Alabama.
Locally, the products can be found at Jax Liquor, Imbibe, JJ's Liquor, and Open Spigot Wine and Spirits in Ooltewah, among others.
Over the holidays, the couple came to town and visited some bars and restaurants whose leaders may have interest in selling the products, Spurling said.
They've self-funded and gotten help with a small business loan to fund the new venture.
About the products
The couple had various cocktail recipes they had mixed up over the years for parties and vacations with friends and family.
"We found a great product development company that helped us take our kitchen recipes and turn them into commercial recipes," she also said. "After six-plus months of product development, we had our initial product line."
The line currently includes three flavors, each one inspired by the couple's ties to specific states.
Tennessee Cucumber Cooler is made of cucumber juice, lime juice, mint, vodka and cane sugar. It's named in honor of the couple's home state.
Alabama Dixie Melon is composed of watermelon juice, lime juice, mint, vodka and cane sugar. Spurling's mother was born and raised in Florence, Alabama. She also still has a sister, cousins, aunts and uncles in northern Alabama.
Carolina Spiked Tea is made up of tea, lemon juice, vodka and cane sugar. Hudlow's mother was raised in Brevard, North Carolina, and Hudlow spent many summers in the mountains around Brevard.
A fourth flavor—Georgia Peach Margarita—is in the works for 2017.
Hudlow's grandfather was born in Fort Valley, Georgia, and Spurling's grandmother lived in Ringgold for more than 40 years.
The products are currently made in Missouri, but the goal is to eventually manufacture them in the South and operate the business in Chattanooga.
"Success means being able to operate the business in Chattanooga full time," Spurling said.
About the couple
Starting any business isn't easy. But the duo has entrepreneurship in their blood.
Hudlow's grandfather Clarence Hudlow was in the restaurant business for more than 50 years in Chattanooga. For more than 30 years, he owned a restaurant called the Home Plate.
Spurling's father, Gary Spurling, is a co-founder and partner in a local engineering consulting company, Contech Inc. Her mother, Vickie Spurling, opened the first coffee shop in her hometown of Florence, Alabama. She later sold it, but it still exists today.
"Operating a business in a highly regulated industry like alcohol is even more challenging," Spurling said. "We are fully aware that more businesses fail than succeed; however, we have created a company with great products that celebrate the South, and we are excited to see where this venture takes us."
In addition to having entrepreneur blood in the family, their motivation comes from two things: their 17-month-old daughter and their love of Chattanooga, she also said.
The couple both had great childhoods growing up here, and they want that for their daughter.
And, in general, Spurling has a sweet spot in her heart for the Scenic City, which she said is sometimes overlooked by other companies.
"I love Chattanooga; it has so much potential," she said. "One of my lifetime goals is to operate a successful business in Chattanooga. I want to create jobs there."