Life has a funny way of taking you on different journeys. Karl Franz Williams, a world-renowned mixologist, entrepreneur and founder of Uncle Waithley’s Vincy Brew Ginger Beer, knows this all too well. Yet, despite having a path equipped with many twists and turns, he always finds a way to connect his work with his passion. A skill that takes tenacity and intentionality.
A Vincy Upbringing
The entrepreneur was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, but calls NYC home, having moved there when he was six. With his father’s roots in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Williams’ connection to the southern Caribbean island was always present, especially embracing the term Vincy, which natives use to encapsulate their culture.
“I have always been into Pan-Caribbean culture because there was Vincy culture in my household and with my family. And in my community, I was always around Jamaican or Trinidadian cultures too,” he shares.
At the time, the future restaurateur did not know that these cultural admirations would be his foundation for starting his entrepreneurial legacy. On the contrary, Williams went to Yale University to pursue and later graduated with a degree in electrical engineering.
From Electrical Engineering to Food Innovation
After graduating from the elite ivy league school, Williams went on to do brand management for Procter & Gamble, which craved a path for him to land at Pepsi working on food innovation. The path from electrical engineering to food science made sense because of the foundation in chemistry and math essential to creating products.
Working with food and flavors felt oddly comfortable to the professional. “I was on a mission to develop an idea for the next generation of Pepsi beverages. And that’s when I started working with mixologists for inspiration,” he shares.
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Product innovation came naturally, but the New York native was getting fed up with creating ideas for large companies. While working on different flavor concoctions, Williams says, “The call to become an entrepreneur was strong. So I decided to leave Pepsi.”
Establishing a Legacy
The former Pepsi innovator decided to take a risk and open four drink and food spots within ten years. The first restaurant to open was Society Coffee in June 2005. Followed by 67 Orange Street (December 2008), Solomon and Kuff (December 2015) and the Anchor Spa (June 2016).
Unfortunately, Society Coffee closed in 2011 and Solomon & Kuff in 2019. Yet, despite these trials, the restaurateur learned a lot about remaining connected to his businesses. “I was under a lot of financial pressure, and so I started to realize that one of the things that I could do to really turn things around was to get closer to what was going on, connect to the essence of the experience,” shares Williams.
This realization helped the business owner re-prioritize, which later allowed him to excel and receive several accolades celebrating his mixology efforts.
Launching Uncle Waithley’s Vincy Brew
Williams leaned into his passion for unearthing flavors. However, he wanted to push the boundaries further by developing his own drink. So, with more than a decade of innovating new products and running bar programs under this belt—all while constantly educating himself—the future ginger beer enthusiast decided it was time to pilot a product of his own.
It’s only fitting that the inspiration ties back to his Vincy roots. At his late restaurant, Solomon and Kuff, the bar was known for having hundreds of rums tracing back to different Caribbean countries. It became increasingly apparent that a dark n’ stormy (made with dark rum and ginger beer) was the cocktail of choice for those frequenting the bar.
After trying many ginger beers to get the perfect notes for this highly requested cocktail, Williams felt that many fell short of the flavor profiles he was looking for. “The ginger beer from home always has a rich and fresh taste of ginger and is packed with deep flavors and spices,” the ginger beer enthusiast shared.
And so, unafraid of pursuing new business ventures, Williams did what he knew best; he created his own. In 2021, the New Yorker launched Uncle Waithley’s Vincy Brew—a small batch and all-natural ginger beer made with Scotch bonnet pepper inspired by his grandfather.
Globalizing Ginger Beer
Uncle Waithley is the name his grandfather went by. The Vincy brew encapsulates Williams’s roots and starts by incorporating fresh, pungent Scotch bonnet peppers. It was important for the drink innovator to pick this pepper because of its history of being widely used across the Caribbean and West Africa and prized for its spicy and sweet flavor. Uncle Waithley Vincy Brew’s vibrant mango-esque yellow color comes from ginger, turmeric and lime. It is finished with crispy Vincy-inspired mineral water, giving it a sparkling effect.
It is the only Black-owned Caribbean ginger beer with Scotch bonnet in the U.S. market. And if that’s not enough, what truly makes this ginger beer stand out from the crowd is its vintage brewing process. A step-by-step guide for creating the perfect drink, inspired by his father. “My dad was like, ‘If you’re making ginger beer, you know, the best way is to put it on the windowsill and let it sit there for a couple of days.’”
The mixologist refers to a process of fermentation. “We felt it was really important to allow our brews to ferment to give them this really rich flavor,” says Williams.
Uncle Waithley’s Vincy Brew has been perfected and is expanding with bottles now in Whole Foods, Boisson, and 35-plus other retail establishments. The drink brand is also gearing up for retail internationally. Furthermore, the company has secured a distributor to get their brews into Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
“I really want to celebrate our culture. And so, to me, that makes what we’re doing more of a mission than just the business.”
Williams recently launched an investment campaign to expand Uncle Waithley’s Vincy Brew due to its growth on Start Engine. For more information and to invest, visit www.startengine.com/offering/unclewaithleys.