For three alumni, starting a business together made scents
Moonshine is bottled in a flask and stored in a wooden box stuffed in a burlap sack, but it’s not actually bootlegged whiskey. It’s a cologne created by UGA graduates Charlie Holderness (BSFCS ’05), Matt Moore (BBA ’05) and Colin Newberry (AB ’05).
After graduation, the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity brothers settled in different cities but kept in touch. Holderness moved to Greensboro, N.C., where he worked as an insurance salesman and started modeling; Moore pursued work in music and publishing in Nashville, Tenn.; and Newberry settled in Austin, Texas, after finishing law school. Sharing the details of their lives by email, they gradually began discussing the idea of starting a business together.
“We certainly did not start out as friends thinking that we would ever start a fragrance company, but you know life works out that way,” Moore says.
The three considered themselves Southern gentlemen—man’s man type of guys—and saw a void in the fragrance marketplace, which was dominated by brands like Polo and celebrities like David Beckham.
“We just thought it was ridiculous,” Moore says. “We thought you could be a man and smell good without really having to be associated with a brand or a model.”
To create their product, they partnered with French fragrance company Galimard, choosing a scent with hints of black pepper, tobacco, leather, gin and patchouli. The three bottled it themselves in the basement at Holderness’ parents’ house in Greensboro, launching Moonshine in 2011. Moore, who’d published a cookbook (Have Her Over for Dinner), handled sales and marketing while Holderness oversaw insurance and product liability and Newberry handled the legal side. They named their company EastWest Bottlers, paying tribute to a favorite Athens restaurant.
Since then the company has expanded its product line, adding Moonshine soap and after shave balm as well as Speakeasy, a women’s fragrance. For Speakeasy—named after another Athens establishment—the trio wanted to sweeten some of the same notes found in Moonshine. The resulting scent has hints of pink peppercorn, white moss, sapphire gin, patchouli and nutmeg.
EastWest products are available at more than 500 retailers nationwide, including Belk and smaller, local stores like Onward Reserve in Athens. This year the company will reach $1 million in sales, which means they’re long past the days when they could bottle it themselves.
“The thing that I miss most is spending time together,” Moore says. “We’d spend three or four days together just sitting in the basement drinking beers and eating pizza and bottling fragrance, which is so funny to me.”
Despite their company’s success, Holderness, Moore and Newberry have kept their full-time jobs. They’ve taken EastWest earnings and reinvested in the company, focusing on growing their brand while staying true to the Southern heritage that inspired their vision.
“We’re just three guys working really hard to create a product that we’re proud of,” Moore says.