Troy Bigby has led his life with the greatest lesson he learned from his father — to not allow people who can’t do something on their own to convince you that you can’t either.
At 9 years old, Troy was attempting to re-engineer his remote control car into one that could fly with the help of his father, Mackie, when the owner of a toy shop looked at him with disdain. It was a moment his father ceased to teach him that lesson.
Both of his parents were in leadership positions at work. His father at a plumbing supply company while his mother was a social services supervisor in New York City. His brother, Keiron, also led a successful corporate career after earning a Super Bowl ring with the Washington Redskins.
We met over a decade ago, well after Troy double majored in computer science and engineering at New York University. He was a few credits shy of his engineering degree when wrestling with the decision to continue. He sought counsel from his mother who said “Don’t worry about finishing something you don’t love.”
After earning his computer science degree, Troy spent the next several years architecting some of the world’s largest mobility deployments from his time at Goldman Sachs to BlackBerry. But it was in the mid 1990s while in university when he broke into the music business working for Roc-A-Fella Records where he toured with Jay-Z and other artists. Initially, he was helping at the local university radio station.
“WNYU was known for breaking out acts and bringing them mainstream. It was a test bed for Jay-Z, Wu-Tang Clan, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, and others,” he said.
Music has always influenced Troy, but he he shrugged off the experience working with some of the most successful artists like another day at the office.
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“Looking back I could have taken many selfies, but I was just in the moment and these artists were like regular people,” he said.
I could sense a trove of lessons from this experience. But during this time, Troy observed his brother’s passion for working for one of the largest spirit distributors — experience that would prove of value two decades later when they developed a cinnamon spiced rum.
“I saw the connection between music and spirits and it was a perfect opportunity for my brother and I to collaborate based on our collective experiences.”
The idea sparked from Troy’s friend. Her parents would bring sorrel, a popular Jamaican drink derived from a hibiscus plant that’s commonly mixed with cinnamon, ginger, and rum.
“The goal was to create a sorrel flavored cognac,” he said. Mother’s kitchen became the laboratory where the Bigby brothers formulated what would be Devil’s Reef.
“What’s it like?” I asked.
“A rum with heavy cinnamon on the nose which mixes well because we use natural cinnamons and clove. It tastes great as a mixed drink with cola or ginger ale. My mom prefers a rum punch which includes cranberry, pineapple, and orange,” he explained.
The Bigby brothers understand the competitive terrain of the spirits industry. Like winning a Super Bowl, lots of hard work and a bit of serendipity are required to breakthrough.
Computer scientists are known for thinking critically and creatively. They pay attention to detail by design because they know the smallest errors can lead to failure. This approach will pay dividends for Troy. As for the flying remote control car; it like Devil’s Reef, successfully took flight.