DISCUS and Pronghorn Unite to Host Inaugural DEI Summit June 13 

-Summit To Precede DISCUS Annual Conference in Chicago-

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Distilled Spirits Council (DISCUS) is convening its inaugural Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Summit in partnership with Pronghorn on June 13 at the Marriott Marquis Chicago, in conjunction with the 2023 DISCUS Annual Conference taking place June 14-15.

The pre-conference, all-day summit aims to unite and empower professionals interested in advancing DEI efforts throughout the spirits industry. The forum will foster discussion on ways to expand opportunities, share best practices, and continue to lead and affect change for the industry.

“DISCUS and our member companies are fully committed to making the spirits industry a top choice for diverse professional talent by knocking down barriers to entry,” said DISCUS President & CEO Chris Swonger. “Our goal with this inaugural summit is to encourage and prioritize important discussions surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion, and to exchange ideas that will create positive change in the spirits sector.”

Added Jomaree Pinkard, CEO & MD of Pronghorn, “This is a joining of forces between DISCUS and Pronghorn to bring together industry leaders, founders, and the investment community.  Our goal is to collectively nurture the pipeline of talent we are helping guide as they enter roles in the industry, as well as demystifying ways underrepresented founders can access know-how, networks, and capital. After an agenda that will serve both intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs, the day will culminate with a showcase of an incredible portfolio of diversely-owned brands.”

The DEI Summit will kick-off with keynote speaker Brooks Scott, founder and owner of Merging Path, executive coach and DEI strategic advisor. During the address, sponsored by Alston & Bird, Brooks will share actionable steps spirits industry professionals can take to cultivate a more inclusive workplace across all functions of a company or organization.

Top leaders in advancing DEI initiatives will participate in various sessions including:

  • Driving an Inclusive Culture and Expanding Opportunities in the Spirits Industry
  • From Grain to Glass: Finding Diverse Industry Partners
  • Identifying and Eliminating Barriers to Inclusive Hiring
  • Employee Resource Group/Business Resource Group Best Practice Sharing Panel
  • Appealing to a Diverse Consumer Base: Selling and Marketing to the Diverse Consumer

Victoria Russell, Beam Suntory Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer and Chair of the DISCUS DEI Committee, stated, “This is the first time we are leveraging our collective power as an industry to come together and drive a broader impact for all our people and consumers.  Historically, we’ve worked in the silos of our respective organizations with marginal impact on the diversity of our industry.  We are better together, and this inaugural DEI Summit has the potential to positively impact the industry as a whole.”  

The summit will also feature two afternoon panels that focus on specific issues related to both underrepresented founders and investors who specialize in mission-based brands, such as Pronghorn, Distill Ventures Pre-Accelerator, Constellation Brands and 1731 Management.

The investors panel, “How Underrepresented Founders Can Engage Mission-Led Investors,” will feature investor perspectives on how to find capital; investment stages and types; how investment decisions are made; and tips for founders on how to craft a winning pitch.

The founders panel, “Accessing Funding and Support as an Underrepresented Funder,” will cover topics including the pros and cons of raising capital; how to manage shareholders; and what to consider when evaluating potential acquisition offers.

The summit will close with a special “Founder Showcase” cocktail reception, where attendees will have the opportunity to meet more than a dozen successful founders and sample their minority-owned brands including Abisola Whiskey; Alexander James Whiskey; Anteel Tequila; Den of Thieves; Delta Dirt Distillery; Ego Tequila; Hella Cocktail Co.; IslandJon Vodka; Jon Basil Tequila; Los Hermanos Tequila; Old Hillside Bourbon; Red Hazel Whiskey; SIA Scotch; Sorel Liqueur; TCapri Tequila; Ten To One Rum and Tequila With Friends.

For a full summit agenda click here. Summit tickets are available as an add-on when purchasing DISCUS conference registration for an additional $275. Those who register for the DEI Summit will receive a $100 discount on the DISCUS conference registration price.  To register for the DEI Summit and DISCUS conference, click here.

The DEI Summit and DISCUS Annual Conference are open to accredited media who wish to register and attend. Accredited media can receive a complimentary registration by emailing [email protected].


The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States is the leading voice and advocate for the distilled spirits industry and adult spirits consumers in the United States. For 50 years, DISCUS has effectively advocated on behalf of its members on legislative, regulatory and public affairs issues at the local, state, federal and international levels. DISCUS members are committed to responsibility and encourage adults who drink to do so in moderation.

Pronghorn is focused on cultivating the next generation of Black entrepreneurs, executive leaders, and founders within the spirits industry. Through sustainable capital investments, incubation, and recruitment programs, Pronghorn removes barriers and grants access to critical resources that empower untapped talent and emerging Black businesses to reach their full potential.