Keith Weaver is entering a new chapter.
Serving As An Executive At Sony Entertainment Pictures
After more than 20 years at Sony Entertainment Pictures, Weaver made his exit, a press release mentions. He most recently served as executive vice president of global public policy and external affairs, climbing the ladder at the company where he started as senior vice president of government affairs in 2002, his LinkedIn profile mentions.
Weaver tells AFROTECH he feels “incredibly blessed” for his tenure. He also notes the duality of his post as there were few people of color at high level positions at Sony.
“There are only six major studios, certainly back when I started 20 years ago. So, for a lot of roles, by extension, there’s only six big jobs, and when you think about people of color in executive roles, which I started way back then as an executive, there were very few people of color, and it was fortunate that I got the opportunity, but also unfortunate,” Weaver explained during an interview with AFROTECH. “Then in terms of Black representation at the studios from a corporate executive level, I wouldn’t be in everybody’s top 10 list. That’s not okay back in 2003. It’s not okay today. The good news is that there’s been some progress, but it’s not nearly enough.”
Turning A New Leaf
Weaver had the benefit of operating in rooms where the conversations shaping movies and television take place. His occupancy allowed him to share a perspective that would not otherwise be present in the room. The opportunity propelled him to be bold, not only while at the mass media and entertainment company but also in the pursuit of his business goals.
“At Sony Pictures Entertainment, I had a really great experience there, but what started to be seeded was really the growth of everything else I’m helping support,” Weaver explained.
He launched Uncle Nearest alongside his wife and CEO, Fawn, in 2017. The company has positioned itself as the “best whiskey maker the world never knew,” has launched six whiskeys, and is available in over 25,000 stores across all 50 states and 12 countries, per its website.
Additionally, the Black-owned company, which generated $100 million in sales by 2022, has a $50 million distillery located in Shelbyville, TN.
Uncle Nearest is also home to Weaver’s brainchild Humble Baron, a restaurant and entertainment venue with the world’s longest bar at 518 feet long.
“Launching out from ostensibly, a safe, high level corporate role to do something different and big is meaningful,” Weaver said. “Even for one to say, ‘I’m not just going to build a bar, I’m going to build the longest bar in the world. And it’s not just going to be the longest bar on the world, it’s going have best-in-class music, from a sound engineering perspective and from who’s on the stage.'”
He added, “I’m a part of helping found Uncle Nearest, which is the fastest growing whiskey or bourbon company in American history. There’s a theme here, some data, which is boldness. That’s what took me through that career at Sony so successfully, and what really poises us for continued growth and success as I charter out and embark upon this next entrepreneurial pursuit.”
Launching Hospitality Company Nashwood
Weaver now has an expansive vision to revitalize the state of Tennessee, which will be done through his new hospitality company, Nashwood Inc. He serves as founder and CEO.
The inception of the hospitality company followed after Weaver and his wife moved near Nashville from Los Angeles, CA. The area was an adjustment, and they ended up posing various questions about nearby food and entertainment spots.
“We were pretty welcomed, but as we were developing the distillery, you know, Fawn ably kept leading that company, developing the company to what it has become,” Weaver said. “But, there was a little bit of a hole for me, which is, ‘Wow, we’re in this area. It’s exciting. It’s beautiful. But where do you eat that’s elevated? Where do you go for entertainment here? Because again, we’re not Nashville. Where do people that come here stay overnight?’ So, as we started to pose those questions to ourselves and others, Nashwood was born out of creating the answers and opportunities to respond to us and others that either live in and around the community, or are just coming here from a tourism perspective.”
Nashwood's 5-Year Plan
Weaver is looking to fill a void in the surrounding area through a five-year plan that will invest $100 million in the community, according to the news release.
Project plans will include an immersive experience held outside Humble Baron that could resemble Coachella, an annual music and arts festival. The restaurant can hold 500 customers, while the area outside the venue is projected to entertain 15,000 customers. Weaver says the festival is in the early stages of development.
Through Nashwood, Weaver will also look to invest in real estate development in the surrounding area and will reimagine properties useful for housing or creative avenues.
“There’s some beautiful properties here,” Weaver told AFROTECH. “Let’s not just let them sit here underutilized. Let’s invest in them. Let’s reimagine them. Let’s make them centers for creativity. Let’s think about housing. Let’s think about art. Let’s think about the spaces in places differently.”
He added, “Under that five-year plan, we’re building a hotel. I want it to be where when you come here, I want you to feel like you’re not constrained. I want a place to stay that mirrors the brand identity of Uncle Nearest and Nearest Green Distillery, which is excellence. And it’s Black excellence in everything that you see and touch with the brand.”
Nashwood will also be forging its own lane in the spirits industry, with plans to open a brewery on land that was once a box factory. The venue will be called Classic Hops and will include a diner with a menu offering items such as elevated burgers and “boozy” milkshakes. The business will be driven by a similar strategy and experience that was applied to Uncle Nearest.
“I don’t want to be the best brewery in Shelbyville,” Weaver added. “I want to be the most awarded craft beer company period, similar to Uncle Nearest. So Classic Hops is coming, that’s part of that big financial commitment that we’re bringing with the aggregate of these projects.”
He continued, “I’m really excited for what that we’ll do in this region. And I’m really excited for those who don’t already live here, what it will be like when they come here. It’s really going to be something unparalleled. I’m continuing to double down on that. I think the sky’s the limit creatively. Let’s do all the things, and let’s do them with excellence and let this area be a mecca for people to come and enjoy.”