We interviewed Vixen Vodka, a Tin Shingle member and a fantastic content marketer. With the craft beer industry booming, some have turned to the spirits market to have a hand in producing alcohol. Marketing alcohol and selling it has many restrictions, so we wanted to know now the gals at Vixen Vodka have sailed through it:
How did you choose your cool looking bottles and the slick graphics on the bottle? What type of direction did you give to your designer?
We had a totally different bottle at first. Then our distiller found the one we currently use, which is still a stock bottle to keep costs down, and we fell in love with it. It was a challenge however because we couldn't silk screen directly onto it, and thought we'd need to go to a paper label which we didn't want. But we then found a printer who could ceramically bake the paper label into the glass and voila! Since then, we've found yet another printer who now has the technology to silkscreen ink directly into the glass, the colors are much deeper and more pearlized and we're in love. :)
My designer is my ex-husband (the whole husband thing didn't work out but he's a helluva creative director) and my only direction to him was "NOTHING PINK" - he had the idea of using legs to represent real women and he took it from there. The typeface is even proprietary, he made a Vixen Typeface, and married it with Bodoni which is a very old school typeface. We think it's nothing short of brilliant.
What is a challenge in marketing alcohol that other business types might not experience?
Every state is different and you have to be licensed in each state. We can't sell vodka out of the back of our car like Sarah Blakely sold Spanx out of hers. And before a state will grant you licensing, you have to get a distributor to carry you which is a challenge seeing that there are 5000 other vodkas on the market. But we've persevered and we're now selling in six additional states. Who can say no to a little Southern sweetness, right?
Is it true that having "vodka" in your domain name and email address gets you blocked by spam at times when you're emailing your newsletter or the media?
Yes, we get 'filtered' a lot, not sure if it's the word vodka or the word vixen, but I suspect it's the combination of both. I think corporate servers think that we're Russian mail order brides looking for an American gentleman. I use it to my advantage to do a lot of follow up.
Can you buy your vodka online?
Yes, we have a retailer in Minnesota who offers our product online. acespirits.com
What is your main type of sales? Who is buying VixenVodka? Liquor Stores? Restaurants?
80% of our sales come from "off premise" which is liquor stores. So we tend to focus on them obviously. They order cases, restaurants order bottles, so it's kind of a no-brainer. Although bars and restaurants take a lot more of your time and resources to incentivize the bartenders / staff - to provide swag, t-shirts, menu cards, table tents, etc. You need both but when you have limited time and resources, you tend to let one follow the other.
Was it hard to get thru all the State & Federal Permits? Do you need to with each state?
YES!!!! As well as the trademark process. Very time consuming and difficult. Still is. Each state is different. WV I had to fill out 55 excel spreadsheets. Fl I did it online in about 10 min.
How did you find your vodka source (distiller)?
I talked to A LOT of people. Interviewed a bunch. Made the connection with our boys in Denver and haven't looked back since.
Do you plan on distilling in house at any point?
Doubtful. I know a couple who distill their own rum and although it saves you money, you're tied to that process and your marketing and sales suffer.
Does the final product ship to you and then you distribute?
Nope, I never even touch the product. In fact, I have to buy my own like everyone else! Total Wine LOVES me. The product ships direct from the distillery to a warehouse in NJ then all the different distributors go there to pick up all the different products.
Where did your seed money come from (Bank loans/angel investors/personal savings/friends & family)?
At first, it was all Carrie and I putting our money in (we both still had day jobs), but once we got to the actual production part, we knew we needed money, so we started a friends and family financing round about a year and a half ago. We're raising $1mm and we've got around $100,000 left in the round.
What's it like being in the alcohol market? Is there anything interesting about this market that you didn't expect?
It's super fun, crazy challenging, ridiculously hard for two girls trying to break into such a male dominated industry, but we love every minute of it. Definitely not as glamorous as some people might believe. But we're certainly not afraid of hard work. I think the most surprising thing for me, perhaps I'm a little naive, is the underside of this business. But there's been so many good people that have outweighed that. No regrets.
Your brand has such appeal...Do you plan on branding any other types of spirits?
We own the name Vixen in the spirits category so we can do a Vixen Tequila (the word in Spanish is Zorra - I know because I've already bought the website:), a Vixen Scotch, a Vixen Whiskey. I think I'd like to do a Vixen Bathtub Gin - can't you just see those legs coming out of a claw footed old fashioned bathtub??