In the 1980s, Dafoe discovered he is a supertaster, a person who experiences flavors more intensely than most. He honed his skill at combining chemicals to duplicate flavors at a Cincinnati company and was then hired as a product development specialist for Louisville’s Brown-Forman Corp., where he created products like Jack Daniel’s Lynchburg Lemonade.
The MBA program gave Dafoe the skills to start his own successful business.
After about five years at Brown-Forman, Dafoe began thinking about starting his own business, “but I worried that I didn’t have the appropriate business skills,” he said. “I applied and was accepted to the Bellarmine MBA program.”
He was impressed by the caliber of the instruction and “the ease of scheduling classes while still working and building a career,” he said. “I am proud to say it worked out and has paid off!”
Dafoe completed his MBA in 1991. The following year he started Flavorman
, then called Pro-Liquitech, with one employee and one client, Chiquita Brands. Today, Flavorman employs 59 people in downtown Louisville and has worked with Sunsweet Growers, Jones Soda, Crispin Cider and hundreds of other brands.
In 2012, Dafoe launched the Distilled Spirits Epicenter
, which holds hands-on classes for aspiring and new craft distillers and spirits enthusiasts using a custom distillation system built by Louisville’s Vendome Copper & Brass Works.
The Epicenter’s Moonshine University has helped students from all 50 states, three U.S. territories and 49 countries to launch 192 distilleries around the world, including Kentucky Peerless and Copper & Kings in Louisville.
The Small Business Administration of Kentucky named Dafoe the Small Business Person of the Year in 2016, citing his “vision, tenacity and leadership.” Last year, the American Distilling Institute presented him with its prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to distilling.
“David Dafoe has spent his whole career creating flavors and launching brands,” ADI President Erik Owens said in presenting the award. “We may be in this ready-to-drink explosion right now, but in 1983 David was already there doing it—and he didn’t stop there.”
In accepting the award, Dafoe said the honor had given him the opportunity to reflect on his success.
“I landed on three explanations: First, I had great teachers; second, I found an opportunity; and third, I took action to build something. Now, I am grateful for the opportunity to pay it forward,” he said. “Flavorman and Moonshine University are designed to equip others with the tools they need to identify their own opportunities to build something—and be successful doing it.”