People & Places

Sipping to success: Bleu Vodka founder created her own path

Locally produced, flavor-infused vodka expanding distribution throughout the Midwest

Alizabeth Jetter CEO at Bleu Vodka with the company’s “Bleu Original,” a wild blueberry liquor and “Bleu PEL,” a citrus liquor at La Cantina in northeast Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Alizabeth Jetter CEO at Bleu Vodka with the company’s “Bleu Original,” a wild blueberry liquor and “Bleu PEL,” a citrus liquor at La Cantina in northeast Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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Sitting down to chat with Alizbeth Jetter is a bit little sitting front row at a TED Talk. She’s a motivational entrepreneurial spirit who isn’t afraid to ask, “why not” a lot.

Jetter is co-founder and CEO of Bleu Vodka, a craft liquor company she started with her husband Britt Jetter and business partner Dr. Tony VandenBush, in Cedar Rapids. There are currently two flavors on the market — “Bleu Original,” a wild blueberry liquor and “Bleu PEL,” a citrus liquor — and Jetter said they are proud of the fact that the products are 100 percent all natural, gluten-free, with no artificial colors or flavors.

The Jetters were first introduced to the idea of infused liquors in August 2014. They had been focusing on another potential entrepreneurial venture but were told by Scott Swenson of the Entrepreneurial Development Center that there was someone they should meet. The Jetters were then introduced to Dr. VandenBush, who while not working on cancer treatments in Iowa City was whipping up his family’s infused liquor recipes. The Jetters fell for the wild blueberry liquor instantly and struck up a partnership.

“I spent years really working hard on other people’s visions, on other teams, but I was not living an extraordinary life. I wanted to experience growth and freedom and wanted to dream.”

- Alizabeth Jetter, co-founder and CEO of Bleu Vodka

“I can tell you about literally being open to what the universe puts in front of you,” Jetter said of their decision to get into the liquor production business. “And then you’ve got to be willing to put in some serious work. So, my lesson is about sitting in a place of expectancy and knowing it’s going to happen.”

By December of 2014 they had created the company and kicked off many months of customer discovery and research along with much paperwork. Then in 2016 Bleu Vodka was ready to hit shelves. They placed product in their first retail location, Benz Beverage Depot in Cedar Rapids. Today you can find Bleu Vodka at Hy-Vee, New Pioneer Co-op, and several locally owned restaurants. Jetter said expansion in Illinois is happening as we speak, and they are looking at signing with a distributor.

With a background in organizational development and human resources, Jetter said she brings a wealth of knowledge to such an entrepreneurial adventure. “I’ve always been the type of person who can look at something and can get from A to Z really quickly. While others are still thinking about the problem or situation, I’ve already worked through it,” she said. “If you put it in front of me, I’ll figure it out. It’s just the way my mind works.”

Jetter said she spent many years working in the corporate world and is excited by the opportunity to follow a new personal passion. “I believe in freedom and empowerment, being able to walk in your own truth,” she said. “I spent years really working hard on other people’s visions, on other teams, but I was not living an extraordinary life. I wanted to experience growth and freedom and wanted to dream.”

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One of the keys to her success thus far with Bleu Vodka, Jetter said, is her complete involvement in the business. “I’ve touched every part of this business,” she said of her hands-on approach. Jetter handles all the day-to-day operations, new business growth and planning and she’s even been known to deliver the 50-pound boxes of product to customers.

“I worked my fingers to the bone making other people successful and now I’m drawn to entrepreneurship so that I can steer my own ship. I can do this for me and see what happens.”

Jetter is quick to point out that success doesn’t come without needing other people, however. “I am blown away by the people who have really cheered us on. I’ve always been that person for others, so it’s wonderful seeing people loving the products. The beauty of being part of a small business community is that other people are speaking on your behalf and wanting you to do well. Whatever you want this place to be to you it can be, you will find support and resources and new friends.”

It’s not surprising, then, that Jetter will be the first to high five another entrepreneur along the way. “I enjoy seeing the people I get to work with make new discoveries about their own skills and abilities,” she said. “I tell people to ask the question, dream the dream, and have the courage to walk into it. I’m all about being able to see people live extraordinary lives.”

Not having a background in the liquor industry has not been a deterrent either. “I’ve talked to people who have been in the industry for 20 years and they can’t believe I came into this knowing nothing,” she said. “This industry is tough to get into and people say, ‘you are doing this for real.’ I absolutely love seeing this vision manifest, come to fruition. There have been days that I was a complete lunatic and only my husband saw that … but the discovery continues to happen.”

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We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.