Cherice Jenelle: 2024 Woman To Watch

PHOTOGRAPHY: Anthony Ferrell


MUA: Deanna Christine

HAIR: Sed B.

SET DESIGN: Avion Thomas

PRODUCTION: Riot Jones Management

Meet Cherice Jenelle,a trailblazing marketing strategist and business visionary whose expertise spans multiple industries, from consumer packaged goods to retail and the dynamic spirits sector. With a remarkable track record of success, Cherice serves as a catalyst for driving transformative change within brands, leveraging her keen insights into cultural shifts and consumer trends. Currently, as the Director of Innovation for RTD & Strategic Ventures at Beam Suntory, Cherice is spearheading the development of a Center of Excellence and innovation pipeline for the North America Ready-to-Drink portfolio, encompassing iconic brands such as On the Rocks, Hornitos Seltzers, and Jim Beam Kentucky Coolers. Her leadership extends beyond the boardroom, as she actively champions diversity, equity, and inclusion both within Beam Suntory and in the wider community, notably as Board President Emeritus of the National Black MBA Association of Dallas – Fort Worth. Join us as we delve into Cherice’s remarkable journey, insights, and impactful contributions in this exclusive article and Q&A with COSIGN Magazine.

Cherice, thank you for taking the time to chat with us at COSIGN. On a personal level, if you remove the awards, accolades, career, and accomplishments, who is Cherice Jenelle? 

Cherice Jenelle is an ambitious and resilient girl from Detroit, who honestly never felt like I “neatly fit” in many of my surroundings. I moved around a bit in my career – from Miami to Minneapolis, and of course now here in Texas where I’ve resided for the past decade. Perhaps it’s because I was raised by an educator and fireman, but I’ve always been driven by purpose and passion – and living a fulfilling life at the intersection of all those things (arts, entertainment, culture, marketing, and service within communities). I live by the quote once said by Oprah: You can have it all – just not all at once. Each day I navigate the delicate balance of being a leader, a mom of two, a daughter, and pseudo “life coach” that many friends go to for guidance.

Your career trajectory has been nothing short of impressive, spanning various industries and roles. Can you share with us the journey that led you to your current position as Director of Innovation for RTD & Strategic Ventures at Beam Suntory? 

Thank you – although I must say this journey looks (and sounds) more like a roller coaster. Highs, lows, a few thrills and screams, tears of joy (and fear), but ultimately I keep landing safe and sound. I navigated a corporate career in marketing without much of a blueprint nor many mentors to guide me. As the kids say now, “I went off vibes” and chose companies and roles that felt like a great fit for the skills and experiences I wanted to obtain at the time. Consequently, I left roles where I felt it wasnt mutually beneficial anymore.I was curious about consumer behavior, loyalty marketing, brand management and innovation – so I sought opportunities that allowed me to flex my curiosity and skills with great brands that were going through change. Honestly, this desire to build a career of breadth was seen as a weakness for many company recruiters back in the day who felt I was a bit “flighty”, but fast-forward to today, I am able to be a much more powerful and evolved marketing executive because I have learned how to quickly adapt and pivot in the culture with foundational marketing skills. 

That’s amazing! What advice would you give to other women looking to enter or excel in your industry? 

One thing I love about most women is that we are introspective thinkers. While many of us can’t always articulate it, there is generally a purpose or “why” behind all the things that we do. I encourage women to keep this same lens and dig deeper as it pertains to your career – and especially in white male dominated industries like spirits. 

Your WHY is a solid understanding of the role you play in this world – what are you here to do, and who are you here to serve. As I’ve navigated lifestage and career changes, this is a question that constantly pops up – because the reality is your vision for yourself is yours alone. Once you lock in on this, it allows you to seek opportunities (even in the face of challenges / barriers) with grace and resolve that this is just par for the course. 

I love working in the spirits space, but I won’t pretend it can be a bit challenging to get in – and stay top of mind for new roles and promotions. Demonstrate grit and skills through your background and experiences, but more importantly build relationships and be tenacious in networking not just to get in the door – but to stay in the door. 

Thanks for sharing. As a marketing strategist and business thought-partner, you’ve been instrumental in disrupting and innovating brands against new macro-economic challenges and consumer trends. What inspires you to push the boundaries of traditional marketing and drive transformational change? 

I’ve been fortunate to work on a lot of great household brands, but many of those brands were/are going through a “midlife crisis”. They simply have lost sight of their core – their own why. This economy is evolving at such a rapid pace, especially with the recency of the pandemic, and for many companies if you aren’t thinking ahead, you are simply left behind. Transformational thinking is my superpower. I challenge the status quo because I know what got us here, won’t necessarily get us there. I listen and observe what’s going on in the culture, how consumers are behaving, and seek solutions that meet the people where they are going – so we can ride with them.

In your role at Beam Suntory, you’re responsible for building a Center of Excellence and innovation pipeline for the North America Ready-to-Drink portfolio. Could you tell us more about the strategies and initiatives you’re implementing to drive innovation in the spirits industry? 

Innovation is one of those elusive roles that sounds cool but nobody really knows what I do. Simply put, I study how consumers shop and drink alcoholic beverages, and I create new products that meet their needs. Although this sounds pretty straightforward, we know consumers nationally and globally are very diverse and have different taste buds. We also know that people are influenced by many things in culture. So trying to create and prioritize new exciting products that have the ability to scale and grow, can be challenging to navigate. A huge part of my job is building processes that allow us to better understand consumers with data, make collaborative decisions faster, and bring products to market at an accelerated pace. In my two years in this role, I’ve launched over 50 innovations, including our On the Rocks cocktail portfolio and bringing Japan’s #1 Ready-to-Drink to the US with the flavors and marketing that works perfectly for the American consumer. 

Prior to your current position, you led the growth and cultural relevance of brands like Maker’s Mark, Courvoisier, and the Tequila portfolio at Beam Suntory. What were some of the key challenges you faced in this role, and how did you overcome them to achieve success? 

When we use language like culture in many corporate organizations, I find that folks really don’t understand what it means or how it drives people’s taste and shopping behaviors. This is especially true when dealing with diverse, underrepresented groups. Understandably, people want short-cuts to understand things they don’t know about. But unfortunately culture is NOT something to take a shortcut on. Culture is deep rooted. 

I provide this context because the challenges I’ve faced across our spirits portfolio are the same challenges many industries face. We often don’t have the patience – or budgets – to accurately breakthrough culture. We also don’t accurately define what success really looks like. So as I managed Maker’s Mark for two years, it was important to me to find quick win opportunities within specific cultures, while also building long-standing partnerships that allow us to show up consistently over time. A special shout out to KG and COSIGN for being one of those key partners who embody the essence of Maker’s Mark brand. 

With your educational background from the University of Michigan and the University of Miami, how have your academic experiences influenced your approach to leadership and innovation in the corporate world? 

I went to two great schools known for their impact on the global world. While I certainly learned quite a bit through my degrees in Political Science and MBA in Marketing & General Management, the absolutely best learning was through navigating unknown territories and interacting with diverse people. To be a leader, others need to follow – and being able to influence people from all walks of life to align on a final project (for instance) is an underrated skill and experience. I’m from Detroit, where African-American is the majority. So to navigate University of Michigan where I was a clear minority with a tough academic major was tough to say the least. Similarly in Miami, it was so diverse, that it was a bit hard to determine where I fit in and find my tribe. Those experiences taught me huge lessons in resilience, while also picking up a global mindset that carries through in all the marketing and innovation work I do today.

Balancing a demanding career with family life can be challenging. How do you manage to prioritize both professional and personal commitments, especially as a parent to two young daughters aka your two young bosses? 

I get this question often, and my response is typically the same: I just do. As I’ve mentioned previously, when you’re operating in a space of passion and purpose, oftentimes you can navigate into situations and opportunities more seamlessly than most. My life is so intertwined and fluid, because mostly everything I do has a greater why behind it – and that’s creating a legacy that my daughters are proud of and benefit from. I want them to see mom living her dreams and breaking down barriers, so their lives are just a tad bit easier to be innovators and break down barriers for the generations behind them. We talk a lot about generational wealth, and I also want to support passing down generational ease and rest. Struggle is too glorified these days. So while I admittedly need a bit more rest and ease myself, I balance my commitments knowing that it will pay off in the end. You do an amazing job from what we see. 

As a marketing professional, staying ahead of industry trends is crucial. How do you stay informed and adapt to evolving consumer preferences and market dynamics within the spirits industry? 

One of the most under-utilized ways of being informed is simply sitting back and observing. It’s absolutely fascinating to watch and listen to how people navigate the world. We have a bad habit of assuming people think and act like we would in a particular situation, but that mindset limits us from truly being of value to others around us. We need to immerse ourselves in the cultures and environments of the people we are trying to impact. In my role, I also study a lot of trends and foresight – leveraging tools and intel that allow us to see somewhat in the future. Lastly, every innovation I manage is tested by consumers and customers (often multiple times) before we decide to launch to ensure it’s truly meeting their needs. 

What do you love most about your career and current role? 

I love that I am creating the blueprint for me. I am in the driver’s seat of my career and it feels good knowing that I made choices that served my vision – not just the vision of what someone else wants me to be. I continue to be fascinated by great (and bad) marketing, and believe there’s still so much room to grow and discover how to be stronger and sharper – especially with all the new tools (i.e. AI). Driving change in organizations is tough work – but I only want roles that require disruptive thinking and creativity. I also love that I’ve (finally) arrived at a place where I can be my authentic self in order to attract great opportunities. 

We love to hear that. Outside of your professional endeavors, how do you enjoy spending your free time? 

Do you have any hobbies or interests that help you recharge and find balance in your life? One thing about me is I’m always going to negotiate fun into my life. The ocean gives me a quarterly recharge and regrounding on my vision. It’s my goal to travel to the best beaches in the world. Music is my love language – from discovering new artists, zoning out to 90s R&B videos, attending concerts/festivals or mastering piano lessons. I’m also a huge fan of sports – I did go to two great sports schools, and start my career with the Miami Heat afterall. And lastly, dancing is my therapy – gratefully my silly girls keep me active with our dance competitions.

Moving forward, we’re definitely going to negotiate fun into our lives as well. Cherice, what does success mean to you personally, and how do you measure it in your career or creative pursuits?

 Success is peace and a sense of calm that I’ve done the best I could in this crazy world. While I’m clearly a purpose-filled, introspective person, I don’t get too caught up in chasing things that aren’t for me. Success is having a sense of security – knowing whatever is coming around the corner (good or bad) will not take me off my square and focus. It’s operating with strong mental health and physical health. These are the things that are priceless – but yes, success is also a healthy bank account and investments as well. 

Cheers to healthy bank accounts. What initiatives or projects are you currently working on that you’re excited about? 

I’m pretty excited about continuing to build out my personal brand and enterprise, Cherice Jenelle LLC. In my 40 years on this earth, I’ve accumulated such a wealth of knowledge and skills, and it would be a pity to not be able to share that with the world in some way shape or form. Over the next few months, you’ll see more of me doing keynote speaking on the topics of cultural competency within marketing organizations. I’ll be also facilitating workshops with small business owners, and providing tools that enable them to have sharper marketing outputs. This is just the start, but I’m excited about the opportunities to expand my impact into diverse outlets. You can follow me on IG at @chericejenelle or check out my website www.chericejenelle.com to see what’s next. 

Congratulations, you have our support. In honor of Women’s History Month, is there a woman from history or contemporary times who has inspired or influenced you in your journey? If so, how? 

The women that come to mind are nameless. In fact, I will call it more of a women’s movement that I’m witnessing and inspired by. Women from all walks of life who are making choices to choose the happiness of themselves over the opinions or expectations of others. Over the past couple years, I had to personally make some courageous choices about who I wanted to be and how I wanted to show up for my daughters. Many women I know are living lives that aren’t fulfilling, nor are they getting the care and support they deserve from partners, managers and family. So when I see any woman – celebrity or local woman at the grocery store – choosing to take ownership over her life and future, I am instantaneously a #1 fan. 

Finally, is there a woman that you currently support and co-sign and would like to publicly give them their flowers? If so, who and why? 

There’s actually a collection of women (friends and colleagues) who I want to cosign that are killing it in their careers, but facing challenges in an area of their life that matters most: infertility. Out of respect, I will not disclose their names but I want these women to know that their resilience and strength to the outside world is remarkable, knowing they are grappling with internal pressures and obstacles. I’ve been in their shoes and I know how hard it is to put a smile on our face and still deliver the business. I honor and pray for these women as they navigate solutions to infertility, and the impact it has on our mental and physical. I wish you all successful outcomes.

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