33 Lessons about Beer, Life, and Building a Business

33 Lessons about Beer, Life, and Building a business
Dave Selden, 33 Books Co.
  • A graphics artist by background. Starting a business stretched his comfort zone.
  • Background
    • Went to art school and journalism school. Main lesson: beer is awesome.
    • Ended up in advertising.
  • Art/Journalism school is great, but doesn’t teach you everything.
    • They teach you critical thinking skills and art skills, but none of the business skills.
    • But you can teach yourself...
  • Started a blog (Blog Sober Brewing Co.)
  • But art school taught him how to see possibilities.
  • Scout Books: 32 pages, 100% recycled. You can customize the cover. Local, family business with emphasis on sustainability.
  • Gave idea that he could create a book for beer tasting.
  • Made a spreadsheet to estimate costs and profits.
  • “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”
  • “33 bottles of beer book”
    • 3-pack is 99 bottles of beer
    • Each page has:
      • a flavor wheel with characteristics like: linger, body, bitter, sour, burnt, toffee, alcoholic
      • stats like IBU and ABV
      • notes
      • beer name, brewer, etc.
  • http://www.33beers.com  -> website to sell beers. nice looking, emphasis on how much it costs and where to buy it.
  • But building a website isn’t enough... You need to get people to go to the website.
  • PR doesn’t have to start with bloggers.
    • Simple intro letter to bloggers with link to website, low-key solicitation. Every person contacted took the free sample.
      • It’s a given that you should avoid stupid stuff like attaching a 3 mb pdf to the email.
  • Some of the blog reviews were totally awesome... but it generated at most a dozen orders after each post. Good, but not enough.
  • But seeding blogs like to some other sites picking it up: an online beer site reviewed the product, and that generated 150 orders in one day.
  • And that led to traditional print publications like Food & Wine, and Sunset magazine reviewing the product, which has led to even more reviews.
  • “Beer can be tax-deductible”
    • blog project to taste 999 beers in 999 days.
    • the blog draws search traffic, which helps sell the product.
    • so the cost of the beer is an advertising expense.
  • E-commerce can be simple...
    • Just string together a little PayPal and HTML.
  • USPS is great, and easy.
  • Pricing isn’t easy.
    • Subsidizes shipping to keep it simple.
  • Shipping out books takes 30 minutes to an hour every night.
  • Retailers are important:
    • He gives them a free sample. Of those, about 75% will actually decide to sell the product.
    • He makes the display stands himself from recycled wood.
  • The other thing that is awesome is that as a web person, he felt like he missed the green thing. Now actually making a physical product, he can make a green product.
  • The time to expand is when you have orders.
    • 33wines 
    • You don’t want to run out of stock. Especially you don’t want to run out of money to reorder stock.
  • His wife is very supportive, which is critical. She ships when he has to go on business.
  • Other facts:
    • Hops and marijuana are 99% genetically similar.
  • Q: How does it work with retailers?
    • A: When I first got started, I asked to put the book in the store, and they paid me only if the book sold. Then later, it worked out that I sold the books in bulk at discount price to the retailer, and then the retailer sells it for profit.
  • Q: Are you continually doing marketing and PR, or does that diminish?
    • A: Doing less now than I was before. I’m spending more time doing fulfillment than marketing. I used to have a sales week, in which I would approach retailers, and then a marketing week, in which I would approach bloggers.
  • Q: Are you doing any affiliate marketing on the website?
    • A: Oh, that’s a great idea... I should do that.
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