Q&A: Taylor Donato, Dread River Marketing Coordinator
Jun 02, 2022
Taylor Donato's role as Marketing Coordinator of Dread River offers her new adventures every day—from sales, social media, and experiential tasting events to marketing, graphic design, and more. And the New York-born and Arizona-bred transplant to Alabama takes it all on with her signature no-nonsense charm, which has roots in her "very big, very loud, Italian family"—one that empowered her to speak her mind, seek out new horizons, work hard, and dream big. We sat down with Taylor to talk about working in the spirits industry, volleyball, and her unique feelings about watching movies. Meet Taylor Donato!
Where are you from and what brought you to Birmingham? Give us a snapshot of your upbringing.
I was born in New York; raised in Peoria, Arizona; and I moved to Livingston, Alabama, to play volleyball at the University of West Alabama in 2016. After that, I decided to move to Birmingham and start my career!
I was raised in a very big, very loud, Italian family, where we spent every moment together. They are a huge part of my life and why I felt empowered to move away from home and be on my own. My family has always given me the confidence and support that made me feel like I could do anything and that has made me who I am today.
How did you get into the hospitality industry? Tell us a bit about your professional journey.
I got into hospitality on a sheer whim. When I moved to Birmingham, I took a job that I ended up despising and I eventually quit. My best friend, Ellie, was working at Dread River, so I ended up spending a lot of time around the business and John [Cubelic, Dread River Cofounder]. When Ellie had to move due to her husband’s job relocation, John graciously offered me her position and I have been loving the spirits industry ever since!
You handle sales, marketing, social media, and more. What makes you successful in your position within Dread River?
Working for a small business is definitely different than it would be working for a larger one. I get to wear a lot of hats and do a lot of different things in my position here, and being able to balance that is super important. Understanding that you work in an industry where people go to eat, drink, and have a good time is imperative as well, and it is key that they know you love your job and are having a good time too.
What is most challenging about your role?
Definitely filling a lot of roles. As much as I enjoy having so many different responsibilities and doing different things on any given day, it is challenging. It keeps me on my toes and isn’t monotonous, and that is something I love about this job.
Honestly, when you give people a free tasting of the spirits. It is such a small part of the job but people love you for it, and those moments are always filled with smiles and conversations. That is why I love the spirits industry, it really brings people together and you make a lot of friends when you’re the person pouring the drinks. [Laughs]
What exciting things do you see on the horizon for Dread River?
I think the bourbon we just put out is going to open a lot of new doors for the brand, and we have some exciting products coming down the pipe!
Do you have a mentor or role model, and if so, how have they influenced you or what have they taught you?
My mom. Without her and the things she went through for me, I wouldn’t be who or where I am right now. She always inspires me, and I hope to be half the woman she is. She taught me how to speak my mind, to be fiercely independent, and to always work hard for what I want.
What do you like to do when not working?
Coaching and playing volleyball.
Little-known fact people might be surprised to learn about you:
I hate movies because I get really stressed out watching ones I've never seen … I will literally look up the ending because they stress me out that much.
Proudest accomplishment or life dream you’re still working towards:
My proudest accomplishment was being a part of the team at my college that made history for the volleyball program. A life dream I’m still working towards is owning my own nonprofit organization.
OK, rapid-fire questions …
Favorite band: Queen
Most recent passport stamp: Freeport, Bahamas
Childhood dream job: A Rock Star
Hidden talent: I can cook.
Favorite team: New York Yankees
Favorite breakfast food: Everything bagel, lox, cream cheese, and onions
I’m good at: Speaking my mind
I’m bad at: Speaking my mind in a kind way
Guilty pleasures: A vodka soda with a ton of lime, sour candy, spending all day asleep
Must-have style staples: Leather Jacket, several good bags, and a platform sandal
Pets: Sage Rae, a shepherd mix pup; and I just lost my baby JT, a full bred lab.
Podcasts:Crime Junkie, The Deck, Morbid … Anything true-crime-related
Shows:New Girl, Euphoria, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Schitt’s Creek
Movies:Harry Potter series, Star Wars, Love Actually, Pulp Fiction
Fave Birmingham hidden gem(s): Innova Coffee off 280 and the Vegan Hot Chicken Sandwich at Eugene’s Hot Chicken
Inspirational motto you live by: Unless I am myself, I am nobody. –Virginia Woolf