Motu Viget pops cork downtown


In Latin, motu viget means “strength in activity” and is part of the city of Grand Rapids’ official motto. The owners of a new beverage enterprise downtown certainly expect that to be the case.

Grand Rapids entrepreneurs Jonathan Jelks, Jamiel Robinson and recording artist Willie “Willie The Kid” Jackson announced the launch of their new beverage company, Motu Viget Spirits, in May of 2019 and have since debuted their first product, Motu Viget Brut, in over 50 bars, restaurants and retailers in Michigan.

The company’s debut product is a semi-dry, sparkling wine with pear and apple aromas. It has a citrus and fruity character, with light honey notes that complement the crisp, off-dry finish and comes in at 12% ABV.

The goal of Motu Viget Spirits, Jelks said, is to create high-quality beverages at an affordable price point in collaboration with local craft beverage makers. Motu Viget Brut is made in collaboration with St. Julian Winery in Paw Paw.

The young entrepreneurs also went about the launch in an unusual way.

“We introduced Motu Viget Brut via a secretive invite-only event entitled ‘The GR USA Brunch’ at New Hotel Mertens, one of the city’s coolest, most posh bar/restaurants,” Jelks said. “We had a classic rooftop party where several of the city’s top industry leaders, influencers and prominent Grand Rapidians from different sectors partied and were able to preview Motu Viget Brut for the first time.”

While the approach may have been atypical for some startups, Jelks said the move was simply a reflection of the owners’ generation.

“Typically, it takes a company a year to introduce a new product and see significant traction in the business,” Jelks said. “Our unconventional guerrilla marketing campaigns and brand strategy has helped us establish product awareness and demand … as a millennial-owned company we know how to effectively utilize social media. We followed that up by investing heavily in sponsoring community events across the city.”

And they’re just getting started.

Motu Viget Spirits also will roll out its second product to the beverage market later this month. Jelks said the yet-unnamed spirit will be produced and bottled by a “highly respected” distillery in Grand Rapids, reflective of the community partnerships Motu Viget Spirits is hoping to forge.

Motu Viget Spirits is its own company, separate from Ambiance GR Kitchen & Lounge, another business venture by Jelks, Robinson and Jackson, along with other partners.

While Jelks said Ambiance GR will carry certain Motu Viget products, each company has its own staff, goals and identity.

Photo courtesy Motu Viget Spirits

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