Small Talks features insider expertise from successful small business owners. This video series offers real-world advice and highlights how successful entrepreneurs overcame their most pressing challenges.
Sonat and Robert Birnecker wanted to bring the distilling traditions of Robert’s Austrian grandfather to America. So, they founded the first distillery to open since prohibition. KOVAL Distillery has become one of the largest independent craft distilleries in the world. But the husband-and-wife team didn’t stop at producing award-winning whiskeys, brandies and liqueurs. They launched Kothe Distilling Technologies, a consultancy which has helped more than 170 other distilleries get off the ground.
Where some might be fearful of helping their competitors, the Birneckers see it as a way to make the industry better as a whole. Sonat had this to say about paying it forward and paving the way for other startups.
How can businesses work together to better their industry?
1. Research all aspects of your industry. “The number one most important thing is to really know your industry and everything about it because then you can identify areas that could be improved,” Sonat said. She and her husband share this knowledge to help others launch successful distilleries, and they keep learning to stay ahead of the curve. “We are more than happy to prepare you to be a great craft distillery, but in doing so, it’s really helping us grow,” said Sonat.
2. Think of yourself as a lobbyist. “If you identify something that needs to be achieved for your business to do better, why wouldn’t you try to address it?” Sonat said. The Birneckers blazed a trail by petitioning local government to launch the first distillery to open in Chicago in more than two centuries. And that has given rise to the city’s booming craft distillery scene.
3. Turn your expertise into a new revenue stream. Your expertise can actually be a service line in and of itself. Not every aspiring distiller wants to do the research, so why not be a leader and turn all you’ve learned into a product you can sell? The Birneckers have educated 3,500 people so far. Though some of these people have become competitors, the Birneckers are OK with that. In the end, a strong craft distilling market benefits everyone.
Watch the full video above for more insights.
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