Q & A: Starting a Distillery

Brothers Will and Dave Willis launched the Boston-based craft distillery Bully Boy in 2011. It’s the first distillery in Boston since prohibition and one of many new small batch distilleries that have sprang up across the U.S. in the last few years. Reuters Small Business interviewed Dave Willis over email about launching Bully Boy and what he’s learned along the way.

How long did it take to go from deciding to start a distillery and actually distilling? And what were the biggest obstacles? Funding? Licensing?

Moving from the idea of a distillery to actually distilling took about a year and a half. Nothing about the process was easy. We knew we wanted to be in Boston, so one of the biggest challenges was finding suitable manufacturing space. We need fifteen-foot ceilings for our still, concrete floors, and either a loading dock or bay doors. Most of the industrial space in Boston is either way too big, or small, cramped, and raw. Funding the operation wasn’t easy either. We started looking for capital in 2010. The economy was improving, but there still wasn’t much appetite for risk, and starting a distillery is very risky. What’s more, the risk is difficult to assess because the banks have no point of comparison. We ended up raising cash through friends, family, and anyone who was willing to listen. Then, of course, there is the licensing component. Don’t even get me started.


How to avoid getting swindled under the JOBS Act

The new JOBS Act was aimed at making it easier for start-ups to raise cash, but critics warn the legislation makes it easier for criminals to do the same. In this Reuters TV video, Fred Katayama explains how you can avoid getting ripped off.

Study: Crisis in employee retirement planning

A study from Nationwide Financial shows African American small business owners are worried about their employees’ retirement plans, but are increasingly optimistic about the economy and willing to invest more in employee benefits than other small business owners.

According to the study, small business owners say not enough of their employees have sufficiently planned for  retirement and the situation has reached  “crisis levels.”

“There’s a tremendous level of desperation with small business owners today,” notes Robin Wilson, CEO of Robin Wilson Home, in the below video from Reuters.

Looking at Greece’s entrepreneurs

Maybe it’s Instagram-size payouts or maybe it’s just pure desperation and a lack of good opportunities that drives someone to start a business in the middle of a recession. Either way, instead of protesting or moving away in search of work, a group of entrepreneurs in Greece are tapping into that same spirit and defying the odds to launch their own startups, NPR reports.

The Athens entrepreneurs, based around an incubator called CoLab, include at least one tech startup, BugSense, that has already raised capital from Silicon Valley. So while many tech startups, including those in Greece and those that launch during a recession, will never turn a  profit, it’s worth noting that a more than few startups have successfully launched during a recession.

For perspective, here are just a few of those companies that launched during hard economic times:

MentorMob turns textbooks to playlists

Kris Chinosorn is addicted to online learning. But the frustration of having too many windows open while trying to source good information took its toll. His answer was to create MentorMob, a site that allows users to curate online content into step-by-step lessons on any topic.

MentorMob calls these lessons learning playlists. The playlist topics range from the New Hampshire GOP primary to how to bake sourdough bread at home.

“We’re providing the platform for sharing information, but it’s really about anything you want to learn,” says Chinosorn.

Q & A: Uncovering the hidden agenda

According to Kevin Allen, we pitch business ideas every day. But how do we ensure our pitches will be successful? Allen’s forthcoming book, The Hidden Agenda, teaches readers how to connect to their audience on an emotional level in order to win pitches. Entrepreneurial spoke with Allen about how to find and connect to what he calls the hidden agenda.

You write in your book that each of us makes a pitch every day. What do you mean by that?

Whether you’re trying to get a group of people to follow you for the first time who you’ve hired or you’re running a small company, at the end of the day there’s an organization you’re trying to reach and connect with. In business (that’s) an audience that you’re trying to get to do what you want them to do and to buy your product. So the notion of pitching, that is reaching someone and connecting with them so they will follow you is a universal thing in business we do each and every day.

Obama’s vision splits small businesses

Last night’s State of the Union address from President Barack Obama left small business owners divided over his plans for economic recovery which included eliminating tax perks for companies that offshore jobs and beefing up training stimulus for technology jobs. Here is a roundup of what stakeholders are saying around the blogosphere:

Atlanta small business leaders were skeptical and angry about some of the proposals put forth by Obama and scoffing at what they perceive as a growing regulatory environment while cringing at the thought of a minimum tax on the wealthy, reports WSB Radio.com.

The American Small Business League declares Obama ignored the needs of small businesses; a major contributer to the economy as they create 90 percent of new jobs.  The group that represents 98 percent of U.S. companies (those with fewer than 100 employees) takes particular issue with contract abuse which sees federal small business contracts beign awarded to large businesses. This year that figure is over $6.6 billion.

from MediaFile:

Why are cheap startups so expensive?

Starting up a Web company is never easy, but at least it's not as expensive as it used to be. Instead of buying and maintaining an IT infrastructure, as they had to do in the dotcom boom, startups now turn to cloud server services like Amazon's. Instead of costly proprietary software, OpenOffice and Google offer cheaper (or free) options. Instead of paying office rent, employees can work from home. And the viral power of social media can bring new customers with little marketing. Open-source projects and the durability of Moore's Law promise to lower costs even further.

But if it's cheaper than ever to fund a startup's growth, why are some Web companies receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in financing? And why are valuations rising quarter after quarter, to the point where some venture capitalists are complaining that certain startups have simply gotten too expensive to invest in? How is it that Web companies are becoming both cheaper and more expensive? Are VCs valuing companies on fundamentals, or following the market's momentum?

Such questions might seem academic, except that the gap between startup costs and valuations keeps widening. The last six months alone have seen a surprising number of nine-digit venture rounds. In July, Airbnb, a home-sharing startup that had 130 employees, raised $112 million in a round that valued the company at $1.3 billion. A week later, Twitter, which had 600 employees, raised $800 million (half going to cash out early investors), valuing it at $8.4 billion. In October, online-storage company Dropbox, another small company of 70 employees, said it raised $250 million in a round valuing the company at $4 billion. And just last month, group-buying company LivingSocial closed a $176 million round, vowing to raise an even larger amount in the coming months.

How to sell anything using social media

This article by John Jantsch first appeared on Duct Tape Marketing. Any opinions expressed are his own.

One of my predictions for 2012 is that more people will come to understand that you can indeed do business using social networks and, frankly, I’m already seeing it.

First off, people are getting more comfortable with social media and social behavior. The idea is fading that social media is a pure engagement temple mentality.

2012: The year of the artist-entrepreneur

(This article by Michael Wolf originally appeared in GigaOm.)

(GigaOm) – While 2011 was a big year for political unrest, another uprising was afoot in the world of content creators and artists. Everywhere you look, artists are taking more control over their own economic well being, in large part because the Internet has enabled them to do so. You see it in all forms of content, from books, to video to music.

A few examples from this year:

e-books: Probably the most active area in large part because there is huge shifts taking place in digital publishing. From former mid-list writers like Barry Eisler to superstars like JK Rowling, writers are increasingly making waves in digital publishing.

Video: The story of the year for artists-as-entrepreneur came at the tail-end, with Louis CK saying no thank you to corporate middlemen and putting his new concert video online for $5 a pop.