Make your own vodka
This is Åsa Caap
Family: Married with three children aged 8, 10, and 12
Lives: Stocksund, north of Stockholm
Leisure time: Loves to ski and has spent a few seasons working as a ski instructor in the Alps. Also helps international organization The Hunger Project, where she works as a coach to female entrepreneurs in developing countries such as Ghana, Bangladesh, and India.
Career: CEO and Global Brand Director of Our/Vodka. Named Intrapreneur of the Year in Sweden this spring by the Talentia company. Previously worked as Innovation Director at The Absolut Company/Pernod Ricard.
In a corner of the eighth floor of Pernod Ricard’s Scandinavian headquarters, five people work in their own little world. There are clocks showing the time in different continents, and a large map of the world has pins positioned at carefully selected addresses in major cities such as Berlin, Detroit, London, Seattle, and Amsterdam. This is Åsa Caap’s team. Their mission is to achieve organic growth for Our/Vodka in strategic locations worldwide.
The success of Our/Vodka is fueled by the craft brewing trend. In recent years, the number of micro-distilleries has tripled year on year.
“Our/Vodka is both local and global at the same time,” Caap says. “I’ve been working on this full-time for four years and have not seen a single brand that has successfully achieved that combination. It’s a challenge even the big brands get wrong.”
Pernod Ricard had for some time wanted to boost its credentials in local markets, and Caap provided the key – literally. “I began to think about how to build a genuine partnership with successful young entrepreneurs who know and love their cities – with us providing all the investment. We teach them everything we can about distillation and provide them with our handbook; then they are given the keys. I hand them over symbolically at the opening.”
Same DNA, different cities
The way Our/Vodka works is the exact opposite of Pernod Ricard’s basic concept, which is for the company’s brands to look the same from Hanover, Germany to Hong Kong, China. Our/Vodka is produced locally, and as the ingredients vary, the taste is not identical everywhere.
“I usually compare it to having ten children,” Caap says. “They are recognizable as yours, and they have the same DNA, but we want some to grow up Berliners, others as Detroiters and so on. The local entrepreneurs act as adoptive parents, so all the partners have different backgrounds. This principle could have been applied to just about anything.”
The journey, though, has been anything but straightforward.
“People here said it was impossible. And my husband was afraid I’d get fired if I tried to push the idea. It’s still controversial within the company, and I was probably close to getting fired several times. It’s a project driven by gut feeling. I worked on it for two years after work, in the evenings, and at weekends. I’m an entrepreneur at heart – and I’m stubborn.”
Caap is a frequent traveler to the US – she has flown across 22 times in the last two years to promote Our/Vodka. Her drive and energy are a big part of its success.
“I’ve adapted and learned to navigate this corporate world,” she says. “I’m trained in marketing, but I’m an innovator and an entrepreneur at heart. I’m dyslexic, so the chances of an academic career seemed remote, but I think that illustrates my profile pretty well. I’m a doer, and I like to build things up.”
Text: Lars Collin
Published: March 13, 2018