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SamM73

I’m the most famous guy in the distilling industry that you’ve never heard of.

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Why? Because back in 2006 I wrote the book on opening, operating and marketing a craft distillery.

Now hold on, because the rest of this is going to blow your mind.

I live, currently, in Wheeling, WV, and my family comes from the area even though I grew up further south. Now the story is that my two great uncles on my father’s side were the biggest bootleggers from Pittsburgh, PA, to south of Parkersburg, WV. Now I didn’t know anything about this until 2006ish when I started my trip down distillery lane. I’ve been a wine maker for many years and in 2005 I had a batch go bad, so instead of tossing it I found this little company in Plano, TX, that sold “water distillation” devices. So, I spent $600 and bought myself a reflux still – for water, because home distillation without the paperwork is illegal. I actually built my first pot still years earlier with a thumper but we won’t talk about that either.

I consider myself a pretty sharp guy so I learned everything, and I mean absolutely everything that you could learn about distillation (the whole business from soup to nuts) and since my job had me traveling over 200 days a year globally I visited every distillery that I could find which at that time wasn’t many. Today I’ve visited well over 100 in my travels – I’ve probably toured yours and you didn’t even know.

Then after playing around with different things all my friends said that my different “waters” were better than what they could buy in the stores. With my background in sales and marketing through wholesale distribution and retail and the fact that I’ve worked on the both sides of the venture capital game so I got to thinking, hey I could write a business plan, get some VC and open a craft distillery. I spent months and crafted the greatest business plan that I’ve ever written. It’s about 2007ish now and I needed some info, so I got hooked up with Bill Owens and this little thing called the American Distillers Institute.

Well he thought it (Business Plan) was amazing too and I had everything ready, money, business and marketing plan to distill and use some NGA to produce a line of vodka, rum (blackstrap), and moonshine. I had gov paperwork finished, distribution for a dozen states, I even had gone to Chicago and had a still ready to be built.

This was 2007 so the market was small. I also had a treatment sent to a large production company in Hollywood and we had a couple of meetings for a show pitched to the Discovery Channel – no joke. Then, the housing market crashed – and my main $2MM investor was very high up in B of A so the Countrywide deal pretty much ruined my plan.

I wasn’t doing anything with the business so Bill took it and used it in his classes that he taught and I got a good friend that would always be close to the industry should I ever decide to get back into it. I kept my day job and visited distilleries everyplace I went wishing I could get the nerve to just do it on my own. I was too busy anyway and making a nice living so here I am.

And you’re probably wondering how I got the meeting with the production company? Well back in 2003 I did a single episode show for the Discovery Channel and they produced it. The story about my great uncles was shared with me by my grandmother while I was writing the treatment for the show – she had two sisters and they all sat around and told me about them so I guess distilling is in my blood.

I’m a triple threat for distilling – I know the whole deal and can run a pot or reflux still and I know a pretty large amount about fermentation and aging. So, I’m just looking for a right opportunity…

I’ve got a pretty impressive resume with over 25 years of experience in everything including product management, marketing, sales and global operations at the VP level or higher. I’ve worked in the startups, corporations and large scale, global turnarounds – I know business, I know sales, I know retail marketing and I know the distilling industry from the inside out.

If you’re interested in talking, please feel free to reach out to me directly.

304-780-9154 mobile

Sammatheny73@gmail.com

https://www.linkedin.com/in/sammatheny/

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just curious from one wheeling guy to another.... whats the name of the book? interested in reading it

 

All the best,

 

Dave Pié

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20 hours ago, dpie178 said:

just curious from one wheeling guy to another.... whats the name of the book? interested in reading it

If you read this gentleman's one other post on this forum he explains that when he says he "wrote the book on craft distilling" he really means he wrote a business plan the some other distilleries might have referenced when they created their own business plans.  Personally I would think claiming you "wrote the book on craft distilling" when you never actually stared one is a bit of a stretch, but then what do I know?  

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His plan may have actually worked 10 years ago.

Now he's behind 800 other made up stories about people's great grandpapies mothers aunt on their fathers side moonshine recipe that was consumed by the founding fathers during the signing of the Independence. Which can be magically replicated by only him, mixing warmed up NGS with local wonder-water.

i'll wait for the paperback. 

 

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In the spirit of the Brooklyn Bar Menu generator, I'm wondering if someone here would do the honors to come up with a Artisan Brand Story Generator?

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6 hours ago, MDH said:

Brooklyn Bar Menu generator

Had to Google it. Brilliant!!

 

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Craft distilleries not nearly as creative as Brooklyn.

Youve got like 4 main stories.

First Distillery (insert something here) since prohibition - except your not.

My pappy was a moonshiner or related to Al Capone - so was everyone else's.

Secret recipe found hidden in a safe or wall of a building - was probably thrown away for good reason.

Local and sustainable - except distilling is only slightly less ecofriendly than a superfund site.

 

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7 hours ago, MDH said:

In the spirit of the Brooklyn Bar Menu generator, I'm wondering if someone here would do the honors to come up with a Artisan Brand Story Generator?

Brilliant !

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47 minutes ago, Silk City Distillers said:

Craft distilleries not nearly as creative as Brooklyn.

Youve got like 4 main stories.

First Distillery (insert something here) since prohibition - except your not.

My pappy was a moonshiner or related to Al Capone - so was everyone else's.

Secret recipe found hidden in a safe or wall of a building - was probably thrown away for good reason.

Local and sustainable - except distilling is only slightly less ecofriendly than a superfund site.

 

Don't forget the "we use only the finest grains" line even though they have never previously handled any raw grains or sent their grains out for analysis to see just how good they are.

I like to joke and tell people that we're the oldest, largest and longest running distillery in the city. We're also the first and only distillery in the city, but that's beside the point.

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"Then after playing around with different things all my friends said that my different “waters” were better than what they could buy in the stores."

This has to count for something at least.  Every home distiller I know thinking of starting a distillery always talks about how much negative feedback they get from their friends. </sarcasm>

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This is pretty GD hard to read; frankly it made me wince.  Sorry, man, but there are better ways to introduce yourself to this range of time in industry and experience than what you did here.  "I wrote the book on craft distilling" is a hard point to make when you haven't (as far as your Linked In profile or Google says), well, written a book on craft distilling. 

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"Now hold on, because the rest of this is going to blow your mind."

Mind not blown. I hear essentially the same story multiple times per year from people who dream and talk but never do a damn thing.

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LOL – The responses which I hoped to get. I gave my story that headline for artist flare and I knew it would get some looks and garner more than a few responses. You’re all correct, what I wrote 11 or so years ago was a very solid plan for the startup of a medium scale craft distillery. And it’s still in use today available through the ADI. 11 years ago, how many of you had thought about, much less put almost two years into planning into a craft distillery. We raised 2.3MM in initial funding and I was only 32 years old.

Depending on how much Bill used the original plan was about 75 pages and included everything from funding ideas, site creation, market analysis, product planning, equipment and a full 12 through 36-month revenue outline.

Regarding my lineage and their background – it’s a story, I’ve got some pretty amazing pictures that tell me what I was being told is true. Sure, I made some horrible stuff but the difference is I didn’t share with my friends until it was something drinkable. There was no artisan widely available products back then so everything off the shelf was just that, off the shelf and boring.

Marketing – great products fail all the time because no one ever hears about them. If something catches a person interest and get them to stop you’ve now gotten past the biggest obstacle.

I’ve spent the last 11 years following this industry obsessively, I traveled over 200 days a year for 17+ years and have taken every opportunity to visit every craft distillery I could (just over 100 I believe). I’ve see operations from inception in the US, Europe and South America. I make no claim to be a master distiller – hell I ended up with a $2500 custom built reflux still (FrankenStil) that’s now in pieces in my basement. I’ve got enough paperwork detailing every aspect of the market to fill a small storage unit and predicted in 2007 that within 15 years the craft distilling industry would eclipse that of craft brewing. I believe that gov taxes/regulation and interstate shipping will be a factor in this.

I’m what I claim to be only – a guy that loves this industry more than anything and knows how to market and sell products into retail. In 1991, I started recycling toner cartridges there were about a dozen of us doing this to any degree back then – everyone told me that was a dead-end job because no one would be printing in 10 years. Last year that industry pushed past $50 billion.

I mention this because I’m not an artist like most of you – I know what’s good and why I like and usually how to position something in a marketplace based on the demographics of your target customers. You guys make the music – I just know how to sell the records.

Honestly, I did this for effect and to see the feedback which where spot on. You guys are all masters at what you do, I’m just a pencil pusher with some history. You have all had the nerve to do what I couldn’t, when my funding dried up and my investors backed out I could have done everything, just much smaller and but I couldn’t risk it. That’s the difference, you guys are my idols – I wish every day that I could go back and get a do over and push through…

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Also - I walked away from my dream 11 years ago, and for no money at all, gave my dream, something which I spent two years of my life creating to the ADI in the form of a business plan for other to use - I walked away from close to $100k of person money and unknown amount of time invested in that plan. In the first few years when everyone was getting started I used to get a lot of calls and emails from guys wanting advice - I'll let them chime in if they want to but I never took a dime to help anyone who had questions about the business or marketing side of the industry. So yes - I wrote the first real, published business plan, openly available for starting up a craft distillery. Say what you will but sometimes people have to fail for other to succeed. I failed and hopefully what I created, no, I know what I created helped to start a lot of people in this industry.

Guys - I absolutely don't take myself too seriously, regardless of what you might think. You honestly can't expect to post something like that if not for effect but I should have gone a little deeper into the what and why.

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And hey Roger  Silk City DistillersSkaalvenn, cheer up and be a little trusting and open to people. 99% of the time a persons story has some grain of truth in it. I grew up in WV, my families from WV and we didn't buy Mad Dog, we'd spend $5 for a quart of moonshine then mix it with lime green Cool Aid and fruit - we called it Green GodDamnIt. Until you can prove a man wrong I wouldn't be so quick to brush off his family history. My great uncles sold to the riverboat captains on the Ohio River - and that's a fact, we're proud people and we don't take lightly to people disrespecting or questioning our heritage or honesty. I know that I wouldn't do that to you.

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Is this business plan still in circulation? I'd like to read it. Curious to see it thats all

 

 

 

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It is - Bill Owens has been using it for 10+ years in his classes.

So here's the treatment for the show - it was 2007 when I wrote it not 08. The registration number is from the Writers Guild and is required to done before anyone reads it in Hollywood - they wouldn't touch it until it was registered so that number dates the concept to 2007. Now remember - the first one I wrote got trashed by every production company that we pitched it to, why? Because it was too dull, no excitement so I rewrote it to be outrageous and completely off the wall. I made dozens of trips for this business, all on my own dime - so I know what you have in it.

Bill suggested I post on here, I told him, "Bill, you know me, I'm not one for doing something quietly..."

You read it, conversations started, and down the road its "Hey, maybe that Sam guy is okay." "Maybe's he not full of it." (I am that), "Maybe he's as passionate as all of us just slightly twisted." That I am.

And isn't catching attention what marketing is all about?" I hate the new KCF commercials, in fact the Colonel creeps me out but I don't forget them.

I also found the Distillers list from 2008 - funny, it's a pretty small list.

The Still Men - Steel Valley Distillery LLC - created and developed by Sam Matheny.pdf

craft distillers directory08.pdf

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And now I'm in front of the other 800 people with a story about their families.

Honestly there's a lot more than 800 people who's grand dads or uncles fired a still in the south. You can't spit in some parts of this state without hitting an old still. I personally know where quite a few old ones sit.

You may be the artist and create liquid sunshine from that still but I wouldn't go around questioning anyone's family history unless you know for sure - that's just disrespectful and pain old short sided. When a person is proud enough to share something about their family with you, you should feel honored that they thought enough about you to share it. Sometimes the tales get bigger as the story gets retold but that's the great thing about it - you spin the tale and that's what makes it interesting.

Gee what a great story to sell something which is "artisan". Imagine this... "My family are accountants, we like getting drunk so I thought distilling would be fun, here's a bottle of stuff which I created..." Anyone buying this? I'll take the tall tale with a little truth and some heart and passion any day of the week.

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58 minutes ago, SamM73 said:

Also - I walked away from my dream 11 years ago, and for no money at all, gave my dream, something which I spent two years of my life creating to the ADI in the form of a business plan for other to use - I walked away from close to $100k of person money and unknown amount of time invested in that plan.

You spent 2 years and $100,000 dollars just to write a business plan?  

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Over two years I made a dozen trips to CA and NC for investors etc. I started buying up parts and pieces because at one point we start putting together a homemade column still and tanks. We had logo's designed, marketing plans for local brand development made up for 10 major cities. I pulled in the investors that I had because I tried to think of everything before they could ask for it. I know just the attorneys fees alone were around $10K. So yes, over two years I easily spent $100k. I sold a ton of stock back then to do this, talk about cringing. I started digging out some of this stuff a few weeks ago when Bill and I started talking about nano distilleries and the money back then was flying out the window. I was 30 when I started working on this and I spent a ton of money just flying around to the distilleries which were already open trying to figure out what they were doing which I could use.

I may not have gotten it right then but my story isn't just some story - only you guys that own your businesses know what it like to put everything into your dream. Your nightmare is it failing, right? I know what that's like, I cringed every time I walked into another distillery after that. I got the newsletters, I went to openings I traveled with a custom made rolling ballistic case (still have it) that holds 24 bottles and can be checked with an airline. At one point I had more craft products behind my bar at home than a liquor store.

I am passionate - hell yes - am I slightly out there - hell yes. Have I made a bunch of people rich, including two ex wives - hell yes. I don't go into anything half-assed, I am just as passionate about wine and I also went to culinary school in the early 90's so I can cook my ass off too. It doesn't make me Bobby Flay but I'm pretty handy. So maybe I am a little bit of the artist - I'm just better with the pen than the brush.

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I made some outrageous statements - damn right. I'm a pretty outrageous guy but I get the job done and they all 100% facts. Any more questions... Comments? Statements about my honestly and family heritage? Do you actually think that I would join this forum, make huge bombastic statements and not be able to back them up.........

Cool, I'm trying to figure out how to help grow this industry in everyway that I can. You all have my deepest respect and admiration, I would now ask for a little faith. Have a question or comment - call me, email me, I'd love to talk with every one of you at length about what you do. I love it more than anything I've ever done. 

And now, we all know each other.

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On 5/7/2017 at 7:09 AM, Silk City Distillers said:

Craft distilleries not nearly as creative as Brooklyn.

Youve got like 4 main stories.

First Distillery (insert something here) since prohibition - except your not.

My pappy was a moonshiner or related to Al Capone - so was everyone else's.

Secret recipe found hidden in a safe or wall of a building - was probably thrown away for good reason.

Local and sustainable - except distilling is only slightly less ecofriendly than a superfund site.

 

That shit's FUNNY!

(And spot-on)

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Sadly, I shall never regain the 15 minutes of my life I just wasted reading this thread. 

Best of luck. Over and out. 

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3 hours ago, SamM73 said:

And hey Roger  Silk City DistillersSkaalvenn, cheer up and be a little trusting and open to people. 99% of the time a persons story has some grain of truth in it. I grew up in WV, my families from WV and we didn't buy Mad Dog, we'd spend $5 for a quart of moonshine then mix it with lime green Cool Aid and fruit - we called it Green GodDamnIt. Until you can prove a man wrong I wouldn't be so quick to brush off his family history. My great uncles sold to the riverboat captains on the Ohio River - and that's a fact, we're proud people and we don't take lightly to people disrespecting or questioning our heritage or honesty. I know that I wouldn't do that to you.

Wasn't trying to strike a nerve, just chiming in with the other person on how many of us go out there to try and be different...yet have the exact same story as everyone else.

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My swipe was directed at everyone, a general statement on the fact that what we believe is a differentiated brand story is actually some kind of prerequisite industry conformity.

Even the commercial spirits business sees this, and brands are embracing insulting their own brand stories.  Dos Equis "Most Interesting Man in the World" for example, or John Jameson jumping into rough seas to rescue a barrel that had gone overboard.  If it's all nonsense anyway, then just take the nonsense to the next level, and it becomes more interesting than reality.

Take it as you will, but it was a response to @MDH.

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