Duke & Dame Whiskey, Whiskey, Black Owned Whiskey, Entrepreneur, Career, Finance

Duke & Dame Founders Craft New Legacy: A Journey From Wall Street To Whiskey

Former finance professionals Chima Burey and Amani Macaulay successfully transition to the spirits industry.

In the bustling streets of New York City, where the pulse of finance beats incessantly, two friends found themselves at a crossroads, their paths intersecting at a fateful going-away party in 2012. Chima Burey, 47, and Amani Macaulay, 45, both seasoned finance professionals, felt burnt out from their careers in finance and wanted to embark on something new. In a city where success often hinges on the next big deal, they dared to prioritize a different currency: life balance. Recent research from the World Economic Forum underscores the universal desire for equilibrium, even within the high-pressure confines of the banking world.

Fueled by a shared vision and a passion for fulfillment, they embarked on an unconventional journey. Their destination? The dynamic realm of the spirits industry, where they would carve out a new path fueled by passion and purpose. What began as a casual conversation over dinner evolved into the birth of Duke & Dame in 2017. This Black-owned whiskey brand captured the essence of nostalgia with its salted caramel flavor profile.

BLACK ENTERPRISE connected with the Duke & Dame Whiskey founders to discuss their transition from the finance industry to spirits, the challenges they encountered, and the legacy they are leaving behind.

From Finance to Flavor: A Serendipitous Encounter

Their journey commenced with a meeting at a mutual friend’s farewell gathering. As Chima reminisced, “She was like, you know, you guys are very much alike. You guys need to meet.” That initial introduction sparked a friendship that would eventually blossom into a partnership fueled by shared passion and entrepreneurial spirit.

The genesis of Duke & Dame traces back to a dinner conversation where the idea of crafting a flavored whiskey took root a few short months after initially meeting. “Crazy ideas started at dinner,” Chima recalled, reminiscing about the moment that ignited their entrepreneurial spark. “If you could start your own flavored whiskey, what flavor would you choose?” As the discussion unfolded, Chima envisioned a whiskey reminiscent of the beloved Werther’s Original candies, thus planting the seeds of their flavorful venture.

A Journey of Innovation and Discovery

With the flavored whiskey market on the rise, fueled by the success of brands like Fireball and Tennessee Honey, Chima and Amani recognized an opportunity to carve their niche with salted caramel whiskey. Drawing upon their backgrounds in finance, they approached the challenge with meticulous attention to detail, transforming their kitchens into makeshift laboratories. Reflecting on their dedication to perfecting the recipe, “Our kitchens looked like chemistry labs,” Chima, a former trade advisor to private equity groups and family offices in New York, remarked.

As they delved deeper into whiskey making, Amani, a former investment banker in New York and Sydney, Australia, articulated their commitment to excellence, stating, “We wanted something different…something respected by whiskey enthusiasts but also loved by folks who may not even like whiskey.” Armed with determination and a commitment to quality, Amani and Chima quit their careers in finance in May and October 2017, respectively, and embarked on prototyping, taste testing, and refining their creation until it embodied their vision of unparalleled flavor and sophistication.

Navigating Challenges and Breaking Barriers

Despite their expertise in finance, Chima and Amani encountered obstacles as they navigated the intricacies of the spirits industry. As outsiders in a traditionally insular realm, they faced the daunting task of learning the nuances of whiskey production and distribution. Yet, fueled by their relentless work ethic and a thirst for knowledge, they forged ahead, seeking guidance from industry veterans and charting their path to success.

Reflecting on their journey, Chima acknowledged the scarcity of resources and networks available to black entrepreneurs in the spirits industry. “There wasn’t this community of black spirit makers for us to call on,” he lamented. Undeterred, they forged ahead, leveraging their determination and resilience to overcome barriers and secure placements for their brand, which retails for $29.99 with significant retailers like Total Wine, ABC, Walmart, and Costco.

A Legacy of Quality and Inclusivity

For Chima and Amani, Duke & Dame represents more than just a brand; it embodies their commitment to quality, inclusivity, and innovation. On average, since 2020, the company has achieved a 45% increase in revenue annually and reported a 150% increase in the number of cases sold in 2022.(Duke & Dame declined to reveal its annual revenue.). As Chima articulated, “We envision this power couple enjoying their whiskey together,” alluding to the brand’s namesake, which pays homage to both men and women who savor its distinctive flavor. With Duke & Dame, they aim to redefine the flavored whiskey experience, offering a product that transcends gender stereotypes and appeals to a diverse audience.

As they continue to expand their footprint and explore new avenues of growth, Chima and Amani remain steadfast in their dedication to crafting exceptional spirits. “We’re in the lab, creating,” Chima affirmed, hinting at future offerings promising to captivate whiskey enthusiasts and novices alike. With each bottle of Duke & Dame, they invite consumers to join them on a journey of flavor, innovation, and celebration.

RELATED CONTENT: Uncle Nearest Brand, Valued At $900M, Aims To Stay Black-Owned