Some Leaders Make Themselves: QNSY Co-Founder Tara’s Story
QNSY Co-Founder Story: Tara Merdjanoff, pt. 1
Today, we’re sitting down with QNSY co-founder Tara Merdjanoff to discuss her somewhat roundabout journey to building a Queens-born, go-anywhere cocktail brand. Read on to learn how an unconventional path can lead to exciting opportunities… and a damn good ‘rita on-demand.
Q: Hi Tara, thanks for taking the time to deep dive into your history and how you came to co-found QNSY. Let’s start with your college days (read: early imbibing times) and go from there.
T: Sure! Well, I earned a degree in political science from Johns Hopkins University.
Q: Not exactly the typical major for future-entrepreneurs. Why poli sci?
T: Studying politics is really studying human psychology – why do governments, countries, and the people who inhabit them make the decisions that they do? How do they pivot and adjust along the way? A lot of those decisions have to do with the underlying systems that governments build / create to manage their populations and resources; systems that are all based on human behavior. These issues always seemed like essential knowledge to me, so I was drawn to the important life-knowledge a political science degree provides.
Q: Wow, that's way deeper than I was anticipating. Admittedly, I was expecting to hear about your favorite wine coolers from back in the day. But I have to ask, what steered you away from politics or academics?
T: Not to get too dark, but while in college one of my friends was killed and that put things in a completely different perspective for me: life is precious, life is short and oftentimes really sad, so do what makes your heart sing every day and bring joy to the world along the way. So I decided to pursue an acting career - more specifically, a comedy career!
Q: Sadly spurred on by sad circumstances, but what an impactful and profound realization. From fledgling comedienne to canned-cocktail mogul… or at least mixer and connoisseur, what made QNSY your eventual joy-bringing venture into the more liquid realm?
T: Full honesty? If you’re gonna work in comedy, you’re gonna need another job (ha!) I was tremendously fortunate in that my first temp job assignment was as the executive assistant to James E. Burke. To put it mildly, Mr. Burke is a business legend. I worked for him, all the while keenly observing his leadership and people skills: be kind, be inspiring, be human, be humble, and always do the right thing (not always easy see: here and here). Connect as humans first, everything else flows from there.
Q: Do you think it was luck or fate that brought you to James Burke, and not filing case docs for an assistant to an intern in some vague Manhattan legal office, or answering phones at an ad agency? How do you think that experience shaped the journey that followed?
T: If it was simply luck, it didn’t stop there. My next temp assignment was in the office of one of heirs to the Sears & Roebuck fortune; she’s one of the most active anonymous philanthropists in America and an impressive leader, identifying and fighting for the progressive causes she believes in. Interestingly, she and Mr. Burke shared a lot of the same qualities: kindness, inspiring others, humanity, humility, and always doing the right thing. Their combined lessons gave me the basis for all future endeavors and leadership roles, including the creation of QNSY.
Join us next month for Tara’s journey, part 2! In the meantime, get your hands on a bit of Queens and taste a damn good cocktail, decades in the making. Find your local QNSY retailer here.