Undoubtedly, experiencing the sweet nectar that is Flying Panda can be quite the euphoric experience. You’re probably asking yourself, “How in the world do you cram all that flavor and mouth-watering freshness into this slender can?” We know it’s bewildering, but no matter how much you might want to believe that it’s magic, it’s not! Flying Panda is a genius concoction mixed up by the marvelous Michelle Porter. Those juicy cocktails are the culmination of a microbiology degree from the University of Tennessee and multiple years serving as a mixologist (that’s code for a fancy bartender). Michelle’s passion for vibrant cocktails and lifelong love for animals inspired her to create Flying Panda to enable her creations to give back to our wonderful planet and all its beautiful inhabitants. Flying Panda’s mission is synonymous with Michelle’s, which is why every can benefits and supports an endangered species.
Despite how it might seem, Michelle is a human, just like the rest of us (if you’re not human, we’d love to speak to you). That means that she’s just as quirky and complex as you, but she just happens to be the CEO of an up and coming alcohol company (she’s a total badass, we know). We decided to sit down with Michelle and ask her some questions about her life and her passions to understand what makes her tick, and what makes her, well...The Marvelous Michelle Porter!
Q: “I never like to start off on a serious note, so tell me your favorite joke.”
A: “Why shouldn’t you trust atoms? Because they make up everything… I guess that’s why I’m not a comedian.”
Q: “You made me chuckle, so that’s at least something, right? If you never saw yourself as a comedian, what did you want to be growing up?”
A: “When I was really young I always wanted to be a veterinarian. I spent some time interning at a local vet’s office and realized pretty quickly that I didn’t have thick enough skin for dealing with sick animals.”
Q: “What inspired you to take care of animals?”
A: “I’ve always been that crazy animal lover, ever since I was just a little kid. For my birthday, I used to ask my parents if I could foster puppies from the animal shelter. I took several trips out to a huge no-kill rescue called Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah when I was younger. I was absolutely blown away by what they were doing to help homeless pets. It’s heartbreaking to me how often animals are mistreated and misunderstood. My love for animals is just a part of me, so it felt natural to use my business as a tool for helping them.”
Q: “Besides business and animals, what’s your greatest passion?”
A: “I would probably say it’s science. I’m obsessed with learning and would usually rather read a textbook than a novel. I’m especially fascinated by the microscopic world.”
Q: “Is reading textbooks your favorite hobby?”
A: “No, I’d say my favorite hobby is hanging out with my doggos and listening to music. In a perfect world, I’m listening to vinyl on an old set of speakers. I also enjoy cooking and pretty much anything to do with the outdoors.”
Q: “Who’s your favorite musical artist/band?”
A: “As cliché as it sounds, I’d have to say The Beatles. I go through different phases every week in terms of what I like to listen to, but if I had to pick one all-time favorite band, it would have to be The Beatles.”
Q: “It seems that you really like music, do you have a favorite album?”
A: “Yeah! While The Beatles might be my favorite band, my favorite album from top to bottom would have to be Pink Floyd: The Wall.”
Q: “That’s a great one, you definitely have an ear for good music! Do you play any instruments?”
A: “Of course! I grew up playing bluegrass music with my dad on the mandolin. I played quite a bit of guitar during high school, which made me actually start out my career at the University of Tennessee as a studio guitar student with a blues/jazz focus. I played in several bands throughout and after college. We played lots of folk, electronic, and everything between. Playing music will always be a part of my life in some form or fashion."
Q: “Music is transcendent, I love how it breaks down barriers and unites people. Do you like any other art forms, like movies or books?"
A: “Absolutely! My taste in movies changes with my mood, but my favorite filmmaker is hands down Quentin Tarantino. I do have a favorite book, though. It’s a childhood favorite called Where The Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein."
Q: “Quentin Tarantino is probably my favorite filmmaker, too! Oh, this next question is always interesting. What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done, and would you do it again?”
A: “I sailed 48 hours down to the Florida Keys with some other college students. We were on a small boat with zero service in the middle of the ocean. I would absolutely do it again in a heartbeat.”
Q: “If you could have dinner with anyone from history, who would you want to talk to?"
A: “That’s easy, it would have to be Albert Einstein. I love his perspectives on intelligence and imagination.”
Q: “I figured you’d want to talk to a scientist! Speaking of science, do you believe in aliens?”
A: “Oh yeah.”
Q: “ At this point I'm pretty sure you're one of them... It sure would explain a lot! Who is your biggest inspiration?”
A: “My biggest inspiration is my mom. She’s kind and compassionate, but also strong-willed and intelligent. She leads people in a way that makes them want to be a part of what she’s doing, and she always focuses on solutions rather than problems.”
Q: “How would you inspire other women to pursue entrepreneurship?”
A: “Embrace skepticism, and ignore labels! As females, we often tend to weigh the words and opinions of others a lot more heavily than we should. Learn to take criticism and skepticism and use it to shape your business and perfect your idea or product. Never let someone tell you that you can’t do something because of your gender, it’s 2020… ain’t nobody got time for that.”
Q: “Did you doubt yourself at any point in your journey?”
A: “Sure! When you’re learning to do a new thing, there will always be some level of self-doubt, but that voice is a lot quieter than the one that keeps me moving forward.”
Q: “What specific characteristics do you possess that you feel have propelled you to where you are now?”
A: “I’m extremely stubborn, which helped me get over all the people who told me that Flying Panda was a bad idea, or that getting a beverage product to the shelves was close to impossible. I work best under pressure, so the stress of the business usually motivates me to work harder. I like to think outside the box, which is probably a characteristic of most entrepreneurs.”
Q: “What’s your biggest fear?”
A: “Missing my purpose in life, or not doing the things that I am meant to do. Also...clowns.”
Q: “Besides clowns, what makes you feel overwhelmed and anxious?”
A: “Thinking about the changes that we face as a human race if we don’t take some crucial steps over the next couple years.”
Q: “What do you value most?”
A: “I’d say knowledge and compassion. I believe that these two things can change the world.”
Q: “That’s really inspiring, actually. What’s your favorite inspirational quote?”
A: “ ‘Whether you think can or you can’t, you’re right’ - Henry Ford.”