A new venture that blends commerce and content
Join. Taste. Share. Explore. That’s the motto of an online startup looking to help craft startups.
If you find yourself, as I do, leaning more and more toward high quality craft and small batch spirits products, availability and purchase are often a problem. All levels of the business – craft producers, retailers and consumers – face hurdles.
The craft producer has limited budgets, a cluttered marketplace and is generally ignored by the mainstream distributors. Consequently, it is difficult for these producers to build awareness and to gain significant national distribution.
Retailers have low margins, need to depend on large brand deals and face limited shelf space for new craft products. In fact, the first question from a retailer when you walk in to pitch a new craft brand is very likely to be, “Which of the products that are selling do you want me to take off the shelf for your new start up brand?”
For consumers, lack of availability is a problem. If you live in a large metro area you may find a nearby store that might carry what you’re looking for and maybe they’ll deliver it. But, what about in the suburbs or smaller cities?
You can use companies like Drizzly, Thirstie, Flaviar, DrinkupNY, Binny’s and Caskers but for the most part you need to know what you want and you don’t always have the opportunity to get a range of reviews and/or ratings.
The Craft Spirits Exchange (CSX) approach
CSX describes itself as “the first and only online community and marketplace exclusively focused on artisanal craft spirits
They see themselves as a platform that, well, is like TripAdvisor and Amazon rolled into one. The CSX community provides loads of information about brands, events, recipes, and interactive tasting notes and reviews. There are more than 1,100 spirits profiled on their site.
At the same time, CSX works with spirits retailers nationally to provide a single online resource for a wide range of quality spirits. You name the brand and chances are they can provide it.
As to producers, CSX does not, at this stage in their development, charge a fee for being listed. Instead, they have a brand partnership program that provides links to websites, social media, product offerings and more. In the program so far are distillers such as Tuthilltown Spirits, New York Distilling, Mezan Rum and Finger Lakes Distilling.
This new venture officially launched on October 1st and is founded by Luis Troccoli, a man passionate about being an entrepreneur and a craft spirit advocate. I asked him what makes CSX different from other sites. “We’re both about content and exchange of information as well as an ecommerce site. I don’t know any who do both.”
He also seems to appreciate that craft spirits are more than just about the process. “More than just batch size, type of still or yearly production, these spirits have a unique story or heritage, often produced through artful or otherwise creative methods.”
The Chief Marketing Officer is Steve Gilberg, a real pro in digital marketing and communications with a string of successful ventures under his belt. Rounding out the team is Kelly Magyarics, an experienced published wine and spirits writer and educator. Kelly’s postings are fun to read.
Unlike many new ventures, they have the product and marketing under control. In fact, here’s an interesting article from New York Business Journal about their launch event, which was top-notch. And, their website has a great look and feel and is easy to navigate.
Like many new ventures, funding is an issue but CSX is handling it better than most. For one thing they raised a quarter of a million dollars pre-launch and have increased their seed round to $750,000.
Worth looking into, folks.