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American Spirits: Onyx Moonshine’s Adam von Gootkin Speaks at Goodwin College

“Luck is hard work meets opportunity,” Adam von Gootkin, founder of Onyx Moonshine, told an intimate audience on December 3 as part of Goodwin College’s Vital Voices: The T. Boone Pickens Endowed Lecture Series in Education, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship.

Onyx co-founder Peter Kowalczyk and restaurateur Peter Guimaraes joined von Gootkin for the panel discussion on entrepreneurship, which was moderated by former Hartford Courant MaryEllen Fillo. Guimaraes is a partner at AOA Bar and Grill in NYC and managing partner of Cuvee Bar and Restaurant in West Hartford; he is also the co-owner of Tipsy Girl Bar in NYC and has been featured on The Real Housewives of NYC on Bravo TV.

Preceding the conversation, the speakers shared catered hors d’oeuvres and samples of moonshine with guests at the free event in the Community Room at the College’s East Hartford campus. Copies of von Gootkin’s newly released book, Living Proof: Onyx Moonshine’s Journey to Revive the American Spirit were available for purchase at a book signing following the discussion. The book was published by Career Press with a forward by famed football coach and ESPN commentator Mike Ditka.

“Why not create something in Connecticut that’s been lost for a couple hundred years,” von Gootkin said of the decision to pursue creating moonshine in the face of a market that, at the time, was a risky endeavor.

“That risk, that challenge, is where the opportunity is,” Kowalczyk said. “When you go all in, you’ve got nothing to fall back on.”

Guimaraes also talked about finding success in the face of failure.

“If I look back now, I wouldn’t be where I am now if it weren’t for my failures,” he told the audience.

But the most important part of delving into a new business? Knowing exactly what you want to do and why you want to do it.

“If you don’t love what you do, you might find a little success,” Guimaraes said. “But you’ll never find big success.”

“You make friends, you sit down, and you dream together,” von Gootkin told the budding entrepreneurs in the audience.

Vital Voices is von Gootkin’s second collaboration with Goodwin. Last summer, he co-sponsored the hugely successful “Secret Stash Beer Bash,” a competition among Connecticut breweries that raised funds to support scholarships for deserving students at the College.

“I take pride in helping future entrepreneurs succeed in their endeavors,” he said, “and I love the Goodwin College spirit!”

The event also helped collect food for the needy in partnership with the Hoffman Auto Group’s “Honda Against Hunger”