BELLIVEAUS COVE, NS – In 2018, Daniel Surette was in the midst of nearly a decade-long career in the insurance industry. It was the only job he knew, but it wasn’t his passion. However, given the amount of time and energy he devoted to his work, it would have made sense to hold onto and climb the corporate ladder.
But that year he did what many would call reckless – he gave up everything to start a new job as a winemaker assistant.
“The clock never stops ticking,” says Surette of his motivation to quit his insurance job. “I knew there would be a point where I would take the leap.”
When he first turned to Planter’s Ridge Winery for a job, Surette didn’t bring a résumé, but a bottle of wine he’d made himself.
“I brought them a bottle of wine and they said, ‘This is pretty good, maybe we’ll hire you,” Surette recalls.
The skills Surette learned as a winemaker helped him get started in the business he owns and operates today: Statera Spirits Inc in Belliveaus Cove, Nova Scotia, where he distills his signature bottle of STAT Vodka.
And Surette is still creating wine with his second company, Maison Meuse & Fils, which only recently launched its first wine product this summer.
Surette is clearly a young man with a passion for distilling and fermenting his own beverages. This passion stems from growing up in an Acadian area where it is common for people to make their own alcoholic beverages.
“It was something the classic cars did … the fact that you can brew your own beer at home was so amazing to me,” recalls Surette.
In March 2020, Surette officially registered Statera as a company. Then, about a month later, he received a big boost from an organization called Futurpreneur – a Canadian nonprofit that provides funding and mentoring to young entrepreneurs between the ages of 18 and 39.
According to statistics from Futurpreneur, many young Atlantic Canadians have recently made the decision to start their dream business. During the pandemic, the organization saw applications from this region increase by 25 percent.
With the help of Futurpreneur, Surette was able to build its business quickly in 2020.
“Futurpreneur has been great through the whole thing. You were so helpful [with] the process from the start – they run you through, ”he explains.
“With that money, I basically started placing orders for the distillation equipment, bottles, and everything I needed.”
So far, business has been going well for Statera. Surette has sold all 40 bottles of STAT Vodka and will have a new batch by the end of August. Sales have so far been entirely online, although he hopes his vodka will soon be sold through retail stores and restaurants.
“At the same time, the pandemic has definitely changed things. There are more ways to sell it online than before, ”notes Surette.
Surette even has a lead on an owner of a Mexican chain restaurant down in California. With travel becoming safer again and restrictions lifted, Surette hopes to fly south and personally give the owner a vodka sample.
“The owner said if the vodka is good it will be served in our restaurants,” said Surette.