PM: Please share your story as to why you started your business.
ET: My father made cider as long as 40—50 years ago, so I grew up around it, however, I didn't pick it up until recently.
I lived out of the country for quite a while (Spain for 7 years and then India for 5 years and other places in between for short periods of time) and came back to the U.S. 10 years ago. I went into movie production in the city (NYC), and then I started fooling around making cider in my garage in upstate NY.
I would go to Jenkins-Lueken Orchards in New Paltz to buy juice, and the owner there is the grandson of who my father used to buy juice from when he made cider long ago-quite a connection. I was experimenting with cider making and we both realized that cider was really hot. So three years ago, we decided to start a business – my business partner runs the farm, and I do the business side.
Here we are three years later. The first couple of years we spent getting the appropriate licensing, building a small facility, doing testing, and spending time to perfect a product. We’re not a year into sales and we’re already looking at distributors and thinking about how we can expand and move up.
The first year we did pretty well –it’s not your typical craft or hard cider, it’s a still cider, which is a European type cider- it’s “off-dry”. I created a really nice balanced cider that’s barely sweet – so much so, most people think it’s dry. I did 36 tests to get it the way I wanted it.
I hope to finalize deals with a few distributors and have state-wide distribution. Then I’ll be able to spend more time at the cidery and more time at events.
PM: As a small company, how do you maximize your marketing spend so that you get the most return for your investment? What types of programs have you done/are doing?
ET: One thing that we’re lacking is cash, so I can’t spend money on marketing. What I do is I go to as many events, tastings, etc., as I can but I’m selective. I don’t give out more free samples than what can be bought.
We do some media outreach as well. We have a media section on our website and we do cross promotion. I spend a lot of time at my computer researching potential events and programs.
PM: What do you consider your top business challenges?
One of the top business challenges for us is getting into enough places to sell our product. You have to be presented to as many points-of-sale places, whether it’s grocery stores, restaurants, bars, or liquor stores. You then have to get it out there so people can taste it. It’s hard for one person to do all of that. There are distributors but they’re not necessarily sales people, they’re taking orders.
PM: What are you doing to address these challenges?
ET: We’re looking at distributors but you have to make compromises when you go that route. Sometimes you get push back from them – your needs don’t always align with what they say they can deliver. You have to be firm with distributors but sometimes you just have to make the deal.
PM: What would you like to accomplish over the next year? Over the next three years?
ET: Over the next year, I’d like to expand regionally in NY state and then other states like New Jersey, Connecticut, up in New England, and Pennsylvania.
Over the next three years, I’d like to spread out beyond the northeast. In 3-5 years, I’d like to be national. I’m also already talking to international contacts – maybe stuff will happen - you have to plant seeds everywhere. It’s a numbers game and the more seeds you plant sooner, the more you’ll get back in 6 months to a year from now.
PM: Please share any books, websites, events, speakers, etc., that you enjoy and leverage in order to stay on top of what’s going on in the industry, in your neighborhood, with your customers or resources you used to launch/manage your own a business.
ET: I’m a much better researcher. I spend a lot of time on the computer, researching to find the best events and opportunities.
I've also done some Skype sessions for branding and marketing with a consultant that has proven to be beneficial.
Contact Yankee Folly Cidery at: www.yankeefollycidery.com