McGeeney, EllenOn Wednesday, Dec. 2, Venture Connectors hosted Ale-8-One president and chief operating officer Ellen McGeeney, who discussed innovations she has implemented at Ale-8-One since she joined the company in September 2013.

The first professional manager outside the founding family brought in to run day-to-day operations, McGeeney has helped lead the fourth-generation, family-owned company to break all previous sales records and defy industry trends. Ale-8-One soft drink has been bottled in Winchester, Ky., since 1926 and is the only soft drink invented in Kentucky still in existence.

McGeeney has focused much of her efforts on marketing and sales, engaging distribution partners and investing in employees. Under her leadership, the company updated the branding and marketing strategy for its bluegrass beverage and expanded the brand’s distribution territory, resulting in a 10-point turnaround in the business’ core market sales, double-digit growth with outside distributors and above-industry-standard gross margins and income from operations. In addition, McGeeney has made investments in Ale-8-One employees, including a performance bonus program, enhanced employee benefits, additional training and the design and implementation of a strengthened safety process. Ale-8-One is among only three of about 30,000 companies to win the KEMI Destiny Award for Safety five years in a row.

McGeeney’s prior beverage experience includes Rooibee Red Tea, a rapidly growing ready-to-drink, organic tea based in Louisville. During her tenure there, she played a pivotal role in growing the business, overseeing 80-percent sales growth and nationwide distribution. McGeeney has also held both operational and consulting roles in the consumer products, health care and communications and technology industries. She worked with the international consulting firm Booz-Allen and later Braun Consulting, which secured financing through a successful IPO on the NASDAQ Stock Market. Her expertise includes business strategy, financial and operations management, branding and marketing strategy and new product development.

McGeeney earned an undergraduate degree with honors from Brown University and an MBA from Yale University. She serves on the advisory board of The Oliver Group, the board of the Kentucky Beverage Association, is in the mentor program at the Gatton College of Business and Economics at the University of Kentucky and was honored as a Green Giant in Louisville’s LEO Weekly.