Washington, DC (March 16, 2023) – The American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA) and The Spirits Training Entrepreneurship Program for Underrepresented Professionals (STEPUP Foundation) are proud to announce that as the second class of interns, mentors, and participating distilleries are well into this year’s programming, both graduates of the 2022 class have now accepted positions of employment within the drinks industry.

STEPUP Foundation is a diversity initiative that aims to provide underserved and underrepresented individuals with training, encouragement, and opportunities to enter the craft spirits community through a comprehensive and immersive internship program. ACSA has long recognized a lack of diversity in the alcoholic beverage industry and has been working behind the scenes for some time now to develop a comprehensive program aimed at increasing talent through facilitation of workplace diversity. Now in its second year, STEPUP will continue to engage diverse applicants with an interest in the beverage sector and help those of different races, color, national origins, genders, disabilities, and sexual orientations to acquire the skills and experience they need to succeed in the industry.

Honored at STEPUP’s first-ever graduation ceremony, which was held on Saturday, February 11 during the 10th Annual ACSA Distillers’ Convention and Vendor Trade Show, Erin Lee and Yakntoro “Yaki” Udoumoh are now working full-time at distilleries, bringing full-circle the intention of the STEPUP internship program. Erin is working as a distiller at FEW Spirits in Evanston, IL, while Yaki has joined Sagamore Spirit Distillery in Baltimore, MD, also as a distiller. Meanwhile, STEPUP’s 2023 InternsAmy Salter and Ashley Grayson, are making great strides and excelling at their Host Distilleries, New Riff Distilling and Sagamore Spirit Distillery.

As the STEPUP internship program is primarily funded through Cornerstone Partners and donors, distilleries and industry partners are finding new and creative ways to support this important cause. Recently, Westward Whiskey hosted “Cocktails for a Cause,” a happy hour celebration during ACSA’s Distillers’ Convention and Trade Show, where 100% of proceeds benefited STEPUP. More recently, Catoctin Creek launched its #SipForEquality initiative, and will be donating $1 for each bottle sold and $1 for each cocktail tagged on social media to STEPUP throughout the month of March. Catoctin Creek and Westward Whiskey join other major donors, including Diageo North America (Cornerstone Partner), Beam Suntory (Keystone Donor), Infinium Spirits (Keystone Donor), St. George Spirits (Foundation level), and others. To learn more about our tiers of support, visit https://stepupinternship.org/donors/.



Amy Salter

Amy has been in the restaurant industry since graduating from Le Cordon Bleu in 2007. Her experience includes everything from managing a pizzeria owned and operated by people with hearing loss to consulting with several restaurants and breweries.

Ashley Grayson

A Cicerone Certified Beer Server and Certified Tourism Ambassador, Ashley has been in the hospitality business for 15 years. The Ohio-based based bartender’s affinity for designing and developing menus and signature cocktails led her to STEPUP.


Darci Stuhlman
Darci Stuhlman’s career started in a restaurant and ultimately took her on a journey into the world of distilleries that landed her at Copper & Kings Distillery, where she drove marketing and sales strategies, client relations and recruiting. She is passionate about diversity, empowerment and inclusion, which is her focus in her current role at TKT & Associates — a leading provider of diversity management, innovative workforce and outsourcing solutions.

Nicole Shriner

Nicole Shriner brings a unique combination of education and hands-on industry experience with a Doctor of Philosophy in Chemical Engineering and track record of working with brewery and distillery producers. As a current owner of consulting company Effervescent Solutions in Lansing, MI, she continues to focus on fostering quality and growth in the fermented beverage industry. Her achievements include completing the Master Brewer Program at Siebel Institute of Technology, as well as receiving a grant from the Michigan Craft Beverage Council to fund the start up of a fermented beverage analysis lab at Michigan State University.


Sagamore Spirit Distillery (Baltimore, MD) New Riff Distilling (Newport, KY)
Glacier Distilling (Coram, MT)


Republic National Distributing Company


STEPUP’s Board of Directors has created an immersive internship program for underrepresented individuals in the alcoholic beverage industry. Margie A.S. Lehrman (CEO, ACSA) serves as the organization’s president, working together with Secretary Rebecca Harris (Head Distiller and Co-founder, Catoctin Creek Distilling Co. and President, ACSA) and Treasurer Julie Kinch (CEO/Founder, JK Leadership Advisors, LLC). They are joined by a seasoned Board of Directors, including Chris Montana (CEO and Head Distiller, Du Nord Social Spirits), Chris Underwood (CEO, Young’s Holdings), David Cid (Owner, Silver Sun Group), and Ingrid Wetzell (HR Director, Bently Enterprises). The organization also has the support of Advisory Board member Nicole Austin (General Manager and Distiller, Cascade

Hollow Distilling Co.). These critical liaisons help identify potential partners, secure financial resources and develop training materials to ensure the program’s success. The program design was initially crafted by a committed group of volunteers, now serving as members of the STEPUP selection committee: Paul Hletko (Few Spirits), Rob Masters (The Family Jones), Jake Holshue (Rogue Ales and Spirits), Tracie Franklin (Head Distiller Apprentice NJAI), and Lucy Farber (St. George Spirits, Inc.).


STEPUP Foundation participants are guided through every facet of operating a distillery, with the added bonus of an immersive internship opportunity with a wholesaler. Interns will experience hands-on training in and job exposure to several facets of the alcoholic beverage industry, including distillation production, safety, sales and marketing, business and finance, tasting room operations, and distribution.

In its second year, the internship program will have a revised and updated curriculum design.

Interns will begin the program at a host distillery, after which they will spend time at up to three additional distilleries, and then return to their host distillery to complete a final capstone project. Interns will begin the journey in January. In an effort to remove any financial impediments that may limit applicants, the internship will also include a living stipend, travel expenses, and lodging. In its second year, the STEPUP Foundation will run an additional two candidates through the program with the expectation to run an increased number of interns in year three.

The STEPUP Foundation is a 501(c)(3). To learn more about the foundation, visit www.stepupinternship.org or contact margie@americancraftspirits.org and alexandra@gatherpr.com.

About ACSA

The American Craft Spirits Association is the only national registered non-profit trade association representing the U.S. craft spirits industry. Its mission is to elevate and advocate for the community of craft spirits producers, and membership in ACSA is open to anyone.

ACSA is governed by a Board of Directors elected by the eligible voting members of the Association. Voting members must be independent, licensed distillers (DSPs) annually removing fewer than 750,000 proof gallons from bond (the amount on which a Federal Excise Tax is paid.) For information about ACSA, call 202-669-3661.

Privacy Settings
We use cookies to enhance your experience while using our website. If you are using our Services via a browser you can restrict, block or remove cookies through your web browser settings. We also use content and scripts from third parties that may use tracking technologies. You can selectively provide your consent below to allow such third party embeds. For complete information about the cookies we use, data we collect and how we process them, please check our Privacy Policy
Consent to display content from Youtube
Consent to display content from Vimeo
Google Maps
Consent to display content from Google
Consent to display content from Spotify
Sound Cloud
Consent to display content from Sound