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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Charles Ferri, Founder and CEO of Star Vodka

CHARLES FERRI, FOUNDER & CEO of Star Vodka, graduated with a B.S. from SUNY Buffalo in 1996. From 1997-2000 Charles worked at Sanford Bernstein Investment Management. Subsequently, he worked at Deutsche Bank from 2000-2004, and at each financial institution he managed assets for high net worth individuals, families and select companies in sports, entertainment and media.

In 2004, Charles left banking to fulfill his entrepreneurial passion and purchased a lounge under the famed Chelsea Hotel. He quickly became a major player in New York Nightlife and soon expanded to the Hamptons owning the world famous Star Room Nightclub.

Charles wanted a special gift for his private clientele to remember their experience at his venues and began researching starting his own vodka line. Having had the opportunity to see firsthand what it takes to measure up to the quality standards sought by socialites and Celebrities, Charles knew he needed a product that stood out from the many vodka brands on the market today. Charles felt the time was right for premium American vodka and knew that it wouldn’t be easy to create vodka that would measure up to his highest standards.

Charles began his quest in 2008 traveling and researching to find the finest quality ingredients and production facilities for Star Vodka. He met with distillers and purveyors of grains and selected the best corn from the Midwest, Cascade Mountain water from Oregon and a unique distillation method called volcanic filtering. The first production became available the spring of 2008 and met with instant success.

Since that time he has been producing limited quantities for his private clientele and in May 2009 began selling Star Vodka to select parties and individuals. He is slowly beginning to increase production to include specific high end hotels and venues in Manhattan, Miami, and Los Angeles.

Star Vodka will be signing an agreement in September 2009 with Liberty Jet Management to be the exclusive vodka for their private jet service globally. Whom You Know is so pleased to present him as our latest Mover and Shaker!

Peachy Deegan interviewed Charles Ferri for Whom You Know.

Peachy Deegan: What similarities are there between investment management and the vodka industry?
Charles Ferri: With both, you're dealing with people and you need to understand who you are dealing with, their needs and wants to make sure you can fulfill that. I started Star Vodka because I heard from so many people they wanted something different. I truly believe the time is right for an American Premium vodka to take the world by storm.

What is the most challenging aspect of being an entrepreneur?
The negativity from a lot of people. It seems many in our society today would rather see people fail than succeed. As an entrepreneur you get a lot of naysayers and haters but you have to fight through that daily and stay strong. Nothing is easy in life but if you can get past that part you will begin to see clearly with what you believe and can go for it!

Before you made your own Vodka, what brands did you like?
Belvedere to me is a really nice tasting vodka. It cracks me up when people say Grey Goose which to me has a bad after taste but then again they have coined themselves “The Worlds Best Tasting Vodka” so what do I know.

What makes your brand superior in your opinion?
The water, grain and filtration method. What always shocked me was other parts of the world get so much credit from their water sources and grains etc but our country has the best in natural water sources and grain in the world. To me there is no excuse why we cannot have the best vodka in the world. We filter Star Vodka 5 times through lava rock which is very unique and a longer procedure, but creates a super smooth finish.

How can Whom You Know readers buy Star Vodka?
Right now we produce a limited amount of Star Vodka to ensure our quality is of the highest standards in the world. With that being said, we are focusing on private individuals and select events to showcase Star. We have a liquor store called Winfield Flynn on 37th & 3rd in Manhattan that carries it and we also will ship to clients’ homes via our website We will be expanding to LA and South Florida soon.

How is it that it does not induce hangovers?
There are many scientific factors in relation to hangovers like mixing various spirits, what you ate before, what you drink with your spirit etc. I do believe however you can greatly reduce a hangover the next day by drinking Star Vodka because of our unique filtration method called volcanic filtering. It takes more of the impurities out of the vodka leaving you with a smooth, fresh vodka and alert the next morning!

What or who has had the most influence on your pursuit of excellence?
My Father – he is a perfectionist and a hard worker. He always made sure the job was done right no matter what. We grew up a struggling middle class family and as a young boy I would always see my friends with various new toys and things. I felt jealous and had resentment towards my parents for that but my father would set me straight by saying “Don’t expect any hand outs from anyone. If you want something in life go out there and get it yourself.” Hard for a young boy to understand that, but as an adult it became the foundation of who I am today.

What is your favorite place to be in Manhattan?
My Apartment in Hells Kitchen. Things get so hectic living in New York City I really love being home and relaxing whenever I have the chance. I think we all need to take more time out of the days for ourselves. Life goes by so fast.

What is your favorite shop in Manhattan?
Winfield Flynn Liquor store on 37th & 3rd of course it’s where my Star Vodka is showcased!

What is your favorite drink?
Star Vodka on the rocks with a lime twist it’s so good.

What is your favorite restaurant in Manhattan?
I actually prefer to cook at home when I can. I love to entertain people.

What is your favorite Manhattan book?
I am the worst book reader! My mind wanders too much with new creative ideas going through my head.

What has been your best Manhattan athletic experience?
When I worked for Sanford Bernstein we were involved in a football league. I played football in college so it brought me back to the old days. I played quarterback and led us to the finals.

What is your favorite thing to do in Manhattan that you can do nowhere else?
Drinking and not having to worry about driving! What a great city!!

What has been your best Manhattan art or music experience?
I love the free concerts they do in Central Park every summer. It is a great time to catch up with friends and relax on blankets eating snacks and drinking nice wine.

What do you think is most underrated and overrated here?
Underrated is the people of New York for sure. New Yorkers are some of the nicest and well-cultured people in the world I have no clue why we always get a bad rap. Overrated – the fast pace of the city it can be grueling at times.

Other than Movers and Shakers of course, what is your favorite Whom You Know column and what do you like about it?
Champagne Wishes of course, because Star Vodka has been featured there!

How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers?
They can email me at only positive comments please I’m trying to build a brand!


[We think Whom You Know readers are positive people, no worries Charles!]

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