Life of Reilley (LOR) – a micro-craft distillery in Cazenovia, N.Y. – is first and foremost a family business. After all, it was born in Ben ’01 and Shioban Reilley’s home. Ben served as the director of operations for a local winery for four years and, while he loved the people, working 80 hours per week for someone else took a toll on him. But more than that, Ben realized he was “an entrepreneur at heart” and that there might be an even better outlet for his talent and energy. He discovered that there was an opening in the market for a vodka made using local ingredients – and for a ready-made cocktail – so he began experimenting with recipes. It was an instant hit with their friends.
LOR was born.
Today LOR vodka and its signature drink – Disco Lemonade – is available in stores, restaurants and bars around the state, and will expand into six more states next year. The company earned the distinction of being the first distillery in Madison County and the first in the state to receive a license to produce a ready-to-drink cocktail. LOR has been featured in numerous industry publications, including Wine Enthusiast Magazine, and is a regular fixture at events like The Great New York State Fair and local wine and chocolate festivals. Disco Lemonade recently earned third place in a national online poll for favorite new beverage.
Ben recently returned to campus to share the secret of that success with today’s students – many of whom are aspiring entrepreneurs as part of Le Moyne’s Home to the Heights series. In his case, he said, LOR grew out of “equal parts nerve and excitement.” Its foundation lies not just in a sound business plan, but in a deep understanding of its customers. Ben stressed that, whatever their field, entrepreneurs must have vision, drive and a certain tolerance for risk. Most important, they must “build relationships and communicate in a way that is authentic.” For Ben that means thoughtfully sharing the story of LOR through videos, podcasts and blogs – and in person, as he did at Le Moyne.
“I had an absolute blast with all of the students,” he said. “Their energy, enthusiasm and willingness to learn and try different things was infectious.”
Since graduating from Le Moyne, Ben has given back to his alma mater not just by speaking to current students, but by serving as a board member for the Keenan Center for Entrepreneurship and as a mentor for the StartFast Venture Accelerator, which is housed at Le Moyne. He has also committed himself to being a lifelong learner. Ben credited his success with a willingness to continue to grow and a commitment to surrounding himself with mentors, people who are similarly passionate about what they do. Likewise, he encouraged today’s students to connect with other people who can offer them sound professional guidance, and to continue working toward their goals.
“I’ve learned the importance of learning from others and being persistent,” he said. “You’ve got to keep taking your at bats and your swings.”
English at Le Moyne
Home to the Heights