Tuesday, April 21, 2015

CiderCon 2015: Friday and Wrap Up

Here's part three of my documentation of CiderCon.

If you want to see my earlier posts on this amazing event please follow these links:

Tuesday's Sensory Analysis Training: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/03/cidercon-2015-sensory-analysis-training.html

Wednesday USACM meeting and Cider Swap: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/03/cidercon-2015-usacm-business-meeting.html

Thursday Clicker Session, Keynotes, Panels and Workshops: http://alongcameacider.blogspot.com/2015/03/cider-con-2015-thursday-clicker-session.html

I started my day with a marketing and sales panel, "Cider Sales Strategies & Tactics" a shared panel with Bob Egan,Vandermill Cider; Patrick Gould, Windy City Distributing; Michelle Foik, Eris Brewery & Ciderhouse; Anthony Belliveau-Flores, Rowan Imports LLC. This group had energy to spare and so much to share with cidermakers ready to sell their products. They spoke about building relationships with the accounts (bars, restaurants, bottle shops and more) that sell the cider. Everyone emphasized both educating consumers and being educated by them. I think one of my favorite takeaway ideas was to find out where your customers are and what they are doing then bring cider to those activities whether that means bars, museum events, renaissance fairs, fine dining or night clubs.

They also spoke specifically about the cider market of Chicago, its growing pains, idiosyncracies, and educational network. I was massively impressed, and I know I wasn't the only one who really appreciated how much immediately interesting and useful information this panel had to share.

A few other useful thoughts I noted particularly:

This Multi-Step Approach
Be engaged: Talk with everyone about your expectations
Plan-not just one year but three years or more
Support- not just at the point of sale but everywhere, educate people, sales materials
Partnership- Be an advocate for yourself, make distribution and marketing and sales work together, nothing happens in a vaccuum.

Understand the law.

Don't sell to the store. Sell through the store.

There were great questions at this panel as well. I love being part of a motivated audience and CiderCON offers those consistently!

My last panel on Friday at Cidercon was a fantastic one, "Surviving the American Dream: Cider Business Startup" by Bruce Nissen. This is an anther panel to which I showed up early because I knew the room would fill, and fill it did. There are so many people who want to start cideries right now, and they are hungry for good specific information about that process. Nissen is in a great position to share good information because of his history in the industry; he started Fox Barrel Perry with Sean Deorsey in 2004 and is in the process of some fantastically interesting new projects (http://hoodriverbizbuzz.com/?p=6006)

Nissen's first and primary emphasis was on planning. "Have a plan. What are you doing?" he said to us.

He encouraged people to plan for scale and profitability and to be honest about the need for human capital. This is a point I've seen in action. People need to plan to pay themselves and have have enough money to hire other people. So many businesses struggle with this, especially small businesses and young businesses. Products don't look good because the company cannot afford a professional graphic designer for their packaging. Websites go offline or become outdated because a company doesn't spend the money (or necessarily even have the money) for well-supported website. Products languish because there isn't money to pay for adequate sales staff. Tax issues because no one hired an accountant who knows and understands the tax laws. I've seen all of these things mulitple times in the cider world. I hope people listened when Bruce told people to budget for all of these things before even starting.

He told folks to think about format: tap room vs tasting room? bottle size? kegging?

Who are your customers? Where are they? Can the business have ancillary revenue streams? It should.

Next Nissen spoke about timing. Many businesses underestimate how long it will take to get up and running. There will be delays and they can be expensive. When can a new cidery owner afford to quit her or his day job?  How long does the start up phase last? Things take more time than most folks expect.

But the presentation wasn't just a list of questions for potential cider owners to ask themselves. He also talked about grant opportunities.

It was a very thorough completely riveting talk. Once the materials go online, I'll link to them here. I don't have the notes necessary to completely recreate his talk here, but I wish I could, because it was that good.

Sadly, after this I had to fly home. I missed the guest speaker: Congressman Earl Blumenauer from Oregon. But from what I understand, he appeared to discuss the CIDER (shorted from Cider Industry Deserves Equal Regulation) act, which is a bipartisan Act, HR 600. Blumenauer reintroduced this with Congressman Chris Collins from New York with the goal of improving taxes codes relevant to cider and especially small or farm based cideries.

All in all, CiderCON was a wonderfully inspiring and education experience in addition to being a fun and delicious one.  I'm so grateful for the opportunity to attend and meet so many fellow cider lovers.