As President of O & W Inc., I am proud to represent women in Michigan’s thriving beer and wine distribution industry. It has been my life's greatest thrill — and challenge — to take the reins of my family business in an industry that men had primarily run for decades.
Today, breweries and retailers of all sizes are owned and operated by women. There are female head brewers, and women continue climbing the ranks of Michigan’s family-owned, independent beer and wine distributors.
I am proud to be part of the fifth generation to lead O & W Inc., along with my sister, Jamie Wanty, and cousins Cooper Wanty and Isabel Wanty. It has been an honor to grow up in this warehouse and be one of three women in leadership roles today. We pride ourselves on providing good-paying jobs to over 170 people, offering a premium level of service to our 2,400 licensed retailers, and giving back to the communities we serve.
We’re in great company, with more women taking on key leadership roles in sales, marketing, human resources, finance, operations, and more in our industry across Michigan. Women are working in warehouses, merchandising in retail stores, and leading their organizations as presidents and CEOs. They are making strategic business decisions and creating cultures of collaboration and inclusion that are opening doors that had been closed for generations.
There is, of course, more work to be done. That’s why I’m excited to help increase the role of women in my industry as Chair of the Michigan Beer & Wine Wholesalers Association’s Women’s Advocacy Committee. The MB&WWA established this committee in 2020 to advocate for distributor interests in Lansing and highlight women’s vital role in the beer and wine industry.
Our dynamic committee consists of female executives from distributors across the state, as well as the Vice President of Operations & Events for the MB&WWA and one of its lead female lobbyists. We are all evidence of how the beer and wine distribution industry continues to evolve, with strong women rising through the ranks every day. Our goal is to showcase that progress and educate other women about the numerous job opportunities available to them that can lead to rewarding and fulfilling careers.
The beer and wine distribution industry is unique in that it provides the ability to choose your own path. I encourage young women to lean into who they are, trust themselves, and pursue what excites them. If you love being creative, distributors utilize graphic designers, marketers, social media experts, public relations professionals, and more. If you enjoy working with numbers, there are finance and accounting departments. If you prefer working directly with people, merchandising in retail stores or sales could be for you.
There have never been more opportunities, and we’re just getting started.
Kit Wanty-Lambert is president of O & W, Inc. in Ypsilanti and chair of the MB&WWA Women’s Advocacy Committee.