Female Importer Brings Russian Vodka Exclusively to Pittsburgh
Ustianochka importer, Margaret, has been a metallurgical trainee, biochemistry major, licensed Real Estate agent, teacher, professional nut-roll baker and a stay at home mother. Today she brings the smooth and clean taste of Ustianochka vodka to the United States, beginning in Pittsburgh, Pa., through her company, Amruss Inc.
In the “Spirit” of New Business
Originally from Slovakia, Margaret learned to speak Russian in 5th grade, when her country was still under communistic rule. Back then, she didn’t realize how important her knowledge of the Russian language and culture would become, especially after her family immigrated to America and she had to learn English. However, years later after she moved to Pittsburgh, an opportunity came when she met a family, visiting from Russia, involved in the liquor business. Margaret’s knowledge of Russian culture and her love of Russian vodka sparked an idea. Unable to find the top quality Russian vodka she loved in the Pittsburgh market, she had the idea to import it herself.
“I just simply couldn’t resist. I had to start my own business,” Margaret said.
So began the hunt for the perfect vodka. After dozens of tastings, travelling to Russian distilleries across the country, Margaret was introduced to Ustianochka vodka, made with pristine water and the finest grains. Made in small batches using the old blending technique, it was distilled many times over and platinum filtered. Margaret had found the vodka she was looking for.
In order to bring her vodka to Pittsburgh, Margaret had to create a business entity. Amruss Inc. was created in 2009, and the first bottle of Ustianochka vodka was delivered to Pennsylvania liquor stores in September 2012. It took several years to earn the first sale after the company’s creation, due to the strict and lengthy alcohol regulation process.
Built on Quality (and Taste)
Companies are only successful with their management team truly believes in their product or service. Margaret started her company because of one important fact – she loved the taste of Ustianochka. But many customers already have their “favorite” brand, and the biggest challenge that Margaret has faced since bringing Ustianochka to the U.S. is convincing people to abandon their go-to brand to try a new vodka. The good news is that vodka drinkers can try out Ustianochka without going over budget.
“There is a premium product for a premium price. And a lower quality product for a lower price. Ustianochka vodka is a premium product at an affordable price.”
A 750 ml. bottle of Ustianochka is avaliliable at Fine Wine and Good Spirits for just $16.99, a steal compared to the $20 – $35 bottles being sold by other companies.
Competing in the ‘Boys’ Club’
Being the only woman in the room isn’t a new experience for Margaret. During her education and throughout her career, her peers were mostly men. This carries through to the alcohol industry, where female importers are unheard of.
But being the minority in her field doesn’t sway Margaret.
“The only thing with which I could not keep up with compared to my male counterparts was beer drinking.”
Margaret is thriving in the liquor business, not just from a sales perspective, but on a personal level. She considers this business to be an amazing learning experience which has introduced her to a new group of kind, interesting, and smart people. She said that she learns something new every day, relating to the alcohol production process in Russia, international shipping processes, branding, advertising, and creating custom crafted cocktails.
The future for Ustianochka, Amruss Inc, and Margaret is wide open, but she has a goal in mind.
I would like Ustianochka to become a household name in the U.S., at least in the vodka lovers’ households.”