Natural Foods Merchandiser

40 Under 40: Matthew Baris

Matthew Baris
Co-founder and co-owner Vodka 14, Boulder, Colo.
Age: 29

It could be said that premium vodka runs in Matthew Baris' veins. His great-great-grandfather distilled vodka in Eastern Europe before his family immigrated to America, and Matthew and his father decided to renew the tradition by launching a vodka company in 2005. Inspired by the pristine Colorado Rocky Mountains, the duo combined organic and eco-friendly production with business principles that treat their local community members well, too. Vodka 14, which for now is mainly available in Colorado and through Internet sales, supports a litany of causes, charities and local community events, from The Organic Center to the Rocky Mountain Cancer Center.

What first inspired you to go organic with Vodka 14? We wanted Vodka 14 to be a product we would choose to buy ourselves, and we wanted our friends, family and community to feel the same way. That made going organic a natural choice. Not only does organic allow us to support the sort of sustainable agriculture and sound environmental practices we believe in, but it allows us to make the best possible vodka by using the purest ingredients and the cleanest distillation methods.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up? Among other things, I particularly wanted to find the cure for cancer and be a fireman. I actually am a volunteer firefighter here in Boulder, and though I have not quite cured cancer, I figure helping to eliminate pesticides from our farming and chemical additives from our beverages is at least a step in the right direction.

What do you enjoy most about what you do? The best part of my job is working with my favorite people in the world. I founded the company with my dad and we have hired unbelievably talented people to work with us, some very close friends among them. One member of our team is a friend of mine going all the way back to preschool and another one is one of my college roommates. It is wonderful to be a part of a team with people you love and respect.

What are you most proud of? One thing that certainly puts a smile on my face is watching people taste Vodka 14 for the first time. People are often unsure at first, believing that one vodka is just like any other, or that their favorite vodka can't be topped or even that they don't like vodka. But then they taste it and a pleasantly surprised look along with a smile will come over their face. I'm also tremendously proud to run this company the way we do, as a socially and environmentally responsible, family-owned business that is completely dedicated to offering the best product and never cutting corners. We take a lot of pride in that.

What's next for you and Vodka 14? People are starting to really notice our product and people are starting to tell their friends. So we plan to keep meeting people around the state, shaking their hands and introducing them to Vodka 14 and to our company.

Any tattoos? No tattoos for me; it's just too permanent, I guess.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVIII/number 8/p. 14

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