Only a decade ago, Americans’ taste for whiskey had soured. Big time. And now, business is booming. According to the Distilled Spirits Council, sales of American whiskey amounted to $3.4 billion in 2017. What was once considered your daddy’s (or granddaddy’s) drink is again back in style – making now an ideal time for Alexandra and Samantha Blatteis to be in the whiskey business.
Twin sisters and co-owners of Home Base Spirits, Alexandra and Samantha got the idea for their business in 2011, while they were developing their taste for whiskey. One particular distillery tour allowed the sisters to see whiskey not just as a libation, but as an agricultural product that could support local farms. Cheers to that, they thought.
Combining Alexandra's background in business administration and Samantha's experience working for small family farms, the Blatteis sisters began partnering with local farmers and businesses to develop exceptional yet approachable whiskies and spirits out of Oakland, Calif., where they were born and raised.
Alexandra and Samantha registered the business in 2015 and launched their first product at the end of 2016. Off to a strong start, they’ve hit their projections for each year and are on course to launch their next products and increase production and sales over the next few months.
How SCORE Helped:
While there’s plenty of promise in the craft spirits industry, success doesn’t come cheap. “There are significant startup costs and overhead to building and running a distillery,” the sisters admit. “Since we were planning to self-fund the business, we wanted to make sure our alternative approach to making craft spirits would be financially viable.”
Like smooth whiskey, good things take time. “We sought mentoring from SCORE to look over our business plan and determine our capital needs for slow, long-term growth.” They worked with SCORE mentors Richard Arney and Jim Cogan for help refining their business plan, making it approachable to potential investors. The sisters also received support charting out different financial outcomes and cash flows for various growth models.
Their advice to prospective small business owners: “We consistently overcompensate for how much things will cost and how much time things will take, and that gives us the flexibility to try new things and make mistakes.”
What’s more, they add, “There are so many decisions to make when starting a business. Having a clear mission and purpose makes those decisions — from vendor selection to sales tactics — so much easier, and ultimately more authentic.”