How the Loyalty of Friends and Family in Your Community Can Help Jumpstart Your Small Business


By Lorraine Grubbs, President of Lessons in Loyalty

This is a story about how a small business in San Leon, Texas overcame the hurdle most start-ups face – lack of working capital.  That means no money for help or advertising.  Owners Matt and Kelly Railean relied on the loyalty of their friends and family to help launch their rum distilling business.  “People thought we were crazy”, said Kelly. “They told us that the sale of rum was a huge market better served by the big brands, not some mom and pop distillery out of San Leon.”  Well, Matt and Kelly proved all the naysayers wrong.

In 2007, the building, the equipment, and the permits to distill the rum were in place.  They were in business but their seed money was spent.  Their budget tight, they worried about how they could afford to hire people to bottle and label the rum.  Then Kelly did the thing that came naturally – she asked her friends and family to help…not with money but through volunteering of their time.  Because Matt and Kelly had been great friends and huge community supporters over the years, when they called, people came.  Thus the “Rumbassador” program was born.

Kelly explained, “What we do is pretty unique.  Most people have never been to a distillery, let alone bottled rum and filled barrels!  I guess it also helps that most of our friends are either rum-drinking sailors or in the beverage industry.  So they literally had the spirit.”

To show the community her appreciation, Kelly decided to run for Mayor of San Leon which is a volunteer position.  Her campaign strategy was to donate all monies raised during the race to the San Leon Volunteer Fire Department.  Needless to say, she didn’t win but the community did not forget her generosity.  Vendors, business owners, and the fire department joined the legions of “Rumbassadors”.  You see, being a Rumbassador carries responsibilities.  They ensure that every bar or restaurant they frequent carries the Railean Rum line. Soon, sales were going up.  While Matt and Kelly were busy making deals with major chains like Specs, the Rumbassadors got their rum in the majority of restaurants and bars in the Kemah/Seabrook area.  They became great eyes and ears for Matt and Kelly as they alerted them to new bars and restaurants being built.

The results speak for themselves.  Today, Railean Rum has expanded their product offerings to include Light and Dark Rum, Agave, and Spiced rum.  Their sales are up and their Rumbassadors number in the hundreds.  The next time you are in San Leon, look up Railean Rum and schedule a tour.  They’ll be glad to have you…and you’ll most likely become a fan!

So, here’s to a small business that recognizes the value of loyal friends and family in their community.  Railean Rumbassadors are a great example of how a small business can turn that loyalty into a winning combination.


Lorraine Grubbs is the president of Lessons in Loyalty.  You can contact Lorraine by phone at 281-813-0305, by email at, or visit her website at


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