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Spirited Venture

Veteran Entrepreneur and RoadHouse Cinemas Founder Roger Badenhuizen Enters the Spirits World With the Launch of his Shakespeare Vodka

Like many memorable stories, business owner Roger Badenhuizen has one that starts in Vegas with a bottle of good booze. In this case, it was vodka.

A lifelong entrepreneur mostly known locally for his RoadHouse Cinemas in Scottsdale and Tucson, Badenhuizen’s latest spirited venture can be credited to a friend introducing him to Shakespeare Vodka—a 20-year-old brand boasting a smooth, balanced purity reminiscent of the early Polish vodkas that emerged in the 8th Century.

The award-winner, with accolades that include a double gold medal at the San Francisco Spirits Competition and a four-star rating by The Spirit Journal, impressed. Finding out the company was for sale further sweetened the experience.

“When I tasted it, I knew I had to buy the company. I know it sounds cliché, but it just happened,” Badenhuizen recalls of that night in 2019. “I’m a whiskey guy, but sometimes you try something that’s just so good that it just seems right.”

Badenhuizen made the deal and found himself an owner of the vodka that made his palate fall in love at first straight sip. Shakespeare Vodka is made in Las Vegas while its bottle—also an award-winner—continues to be made in the vodka’s native Poland.

After a pandemic-delayed debut with its new look and ownership, Badenhuizen looks forward to an official summer launch of his latest baby.

But it’s far from the first professional unveiling in the Tucson native’s booming entrepreneurial career.

And it all started about 25 years ago when his boss wanted to fire him.

As long as he could remember, Badenhuizen had his eye on starting his own business. Naturally, he was brimming with ideas on not only how to start a company, but also generate income and grow its success.

So when Badenhuizen was in his 20s and working for a health club chain in his hometown, he put his thoughts into action. The club served as an early proving ground for his ideas, and they did what was intended by generating new members and rewarding current ones—all at zero cost to the club.

This made the club owner happy. But like his growth strategies, Badenhuizen could not be controlled or reigned in. That didn’t sit well with his boss.

But the club’s general manager took notice of his talents and industrious bravado. He told Badenhuizen that his boss was about to let him go, and encouraged him to start his own company.

Badenhuizen loved the thought, but he had no money or backing. Instead of asking for either, however, he approached successful entrepreneurs and business veterans asking for mentorship so he could establish his own steady ground.

“I always liked to hustle. Getting out and meeting people is my passion. I’d walk into any door and try… Show up with a box of doughnuts and just try. I went to the school of hard knocks. I was the guy who didn’t mind getting kicked in the face and learning from it,” Badenhuizen says of his very personal method. “All my broke friends were telling me why I couldn’t do it. People who had success told me to swing for the fences.”

He did, and it worked. The strategies he implemented that spelled success for the health club were the seeds that grew into BIG Promotions, Badenhuizen’s employer rewards company that attracts large international corporations seeking to give their best employees perks like travel, hotel stays, tickets to events, waterparks, balloon rides, and theme parks. This also allowed him to indulge his philanthropic side by giving donations to charities.

This, he says, was the big move that opened doors to the opportunities that followed and continue to thrive, like Roadhouse Cinemas and the upcoming Shakespeare Vodka.

“The best way to get an investor is not to ask for an investor. Sooner or later, they come after you,” he says.

It also sparked his foray into film.

Badenhuizen was the associate producer for the 2019 documentary/reality TV series Success in Your City, which follows a newly engaged couple who set out to find the meaning of success in cities across the country.

Badenhuizen also has two published books under his belt: the business-focused Winning Not Whining, and the children’s book Monster in the Middle of the Night, inspired by his own children.

“Things like that, I did them because they’re just fun,” he says.

And as Badenhuizen anxiously awaits seeing his Shakespeare Vodka in restaurants, comedy clubs, and luxury movie theatres, keeping the personal human element front and center of his professional acumen remains.

Badenhuizen talks about an encounter years ago with a big money investor at a hotel bar. They start talking business. The man was impressed by what he had going on, and asked Badenhuizen how much money he needed so he could be part of it.

Badenhuizen stunned the man with his response.

“I’m like, ‘I have to know we can be friends before I take your money.’ He looks at me and says, ‘Who says that?’” Badenhuizen recalls.

Clearly, someone who not only knows the value of a dollar, but also knows its proper place and the intangible benefits that go beyond the financial bottom line.

“I care about people in the relationships first. Everything else is secondary—the money, everything. Because people are important,” Badenhuizen says. “What’s rewarding are the lifelong friendships I’ve made, but also the complete freedom. It’s always been about the freedom, not the money.” RogerBadenhuizen.com

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