A powerful partnership

Motu Viget sets out to shake up the spirits and wine industry.
Jonathan Jelks, left, and Willie "The Kid" Jackson at Buffalo Traders Lounge with their spirit Motu Viget Brut. Photo by Bryan Esler

Creating a drink label is no small feat. Yet, serial entrepreneur Jonathan Jelks and partners Jamiel Robinson and recording artist Willie “The Kid” Jackson seem to have successfully launched Motu Viget with pop-up events at local restaurants, strong social media activity and a presence at the Grand Rapids Wine, Beer and Food Festival.

Motu Viget — which means “strength in activity” — is a Grand Rapids-based wine and spirits company that launched in 2019 with a unique approach to business and product development.

In short, Jelks said they develop high-quality products and put them on the market at an affordable, accessible price.

Rather than taking on the work of a distillery or winemaker, Motu Viget partners with different beverage makers to create new products.

Motu Viget, left, and Avani Supreme Vodka Photo by Bryan Esler

“Partnering with different companies to create the products we have in the market has been a fun and exciting process,” Jelks said. “We felt the best business model for us would be to work with established entities who can help us develop the highest-quality Michigan-made wine and spirits.”

The company’s first partnership was with Paw Paw-based St. Julian Winery for the Motu Viget Brut. Its second collaboration launched in February 2020 with local favorite Long Road Distillers to create Avani Supreme Vodka — a gluten-free, corn-distilled vodka made in Grand Rapids.

“When developing a new product, we collaborate on everything with our partners, starting from where the ingredients are made to how each product will taste,” Jelks said. “We are extremely hands-on and intentional about anything we release.”

One of the partners, Jackson, even designs all of the bottles.

“We are extremely excited (about the launch of Avani) because vodka is a growth market,” Jelks said. “We were able to take the learnings from all of our experiences from the last product release and apply them to our new vodka.”

The way Motu Viget releases new beverages also sets it apart from other companies; to unveil Brut, the team amped up the hype on social media and also partnered with local venues on what they call “tastemaker events.”

In a way, the entire ethos is reminiscent of how a recording company might collaborate with different artists to create albums with the social-first hype and a collaborative business model.

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