Startup Lessons From Catoctin Creek's Scott & Becky Harris

By Allison Levine, Foodable Contributor


Becky Harris, a former chemical engineer, had been a stay-at-home mom for 10 years when her husband Scott had an idea to start distilling spirits.

At that point, Scott had spent 20 years working in government contracts. When he told Becky about the idea, she thought he was crazy, so she decided to write a business plan to talk him out of it — and almost succeeded. Becky noted that there were less margins, higher taxes, and more regulations compared to other products they could produce. The husband-and-wife duo realized they could make it work only if they took their 20 years of savings and invest it into equipment, and if Becky would work for free. "If you are going to take a chance, it was as good a time as any," says Becky.

They began in 2009. Surprisingly, getting through all of the regulatory processes took less than a year. And while some traditionalists might assume a man is better suited for production and a woman is more fit for marketing, Becky and Scott nixed the stereotype, flip-flopping these roles based on their personal strengths. Once they got started, the question was not how to distill but how to make money doing it. Through both luck and preparedness, they started Catoctin Creek, the first legal distillery in Loudoun County outside of D.C. since Prohibition. Pronounced Ka-TOCK-tin, the name is derived from the Indian tribal name "Kittocton," which means "place of many deer" and describes a range of mountains and the creek which flows into the Potomac River. Read More