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A Barware Company for the Pros Adds Amateurs to the Mix

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This article is part of Owning the Future, a series on how small businesses across the country are coping with the coronavirus pandemic.

Greg Boehm recognized early how serious the coronavirus might be. He was flying from New York to Florida to visit family on March 5.

“I could see global travel was impacted,” he said. “It was the unknown, and the unknown is never good for bars and restaurants.”

And that meant it certainly would not be good for Mr. Boehm’s business, Cocktail Kingdom, which designs, manufactures and sells online professional barware to restaurants and bars globally.

And 76 percent of Cocktail Kingdom’s sales are to businesses, which were no longer operating because of the pandemic.

“We closed Cocktail Kingdom on Friday, March 13, and at that time pretty much instantly decided to do an about-face,” said Mr. Boehm, founder and chief executive.

First, he had to ensure that the 52 staff members, including those who work in the Bronx warehouse and salespeople nationwide, were safe and set up for work at home.

Mr. Boehm had moved from Manhattan to his cabin in Sullivan County, New York, and spent intense days talking with central employees. And since the internet wasn’t great, “we lived on WhatsApp,” he said.

They quickly concluded that they had to focus more on selling to consumers, which meant a major shift in how the company viewed itself.

“We are a company that sells professional barware to professional bartenders, so we had to abandon that,” he said. In the home consumer market, the barware is often as much about what the tools look like as how they function, he added, “and we’re all about function.”

“I didn’t want to compete with other people selling on price or style. I think our barware looks great, but first and foremost it has to work well when used by a professional bartender on a busy Saturday night.”

Image

Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

And while Cocktail Kingdom is a leader in professional barware, there is competition everywhere for the amateur mixologist.

But there really was not an option. And the good news was that even before the pandemic, alcohol sales to home users — what is known as off-premise sales — had been growing for years.

While beer, wine and spirit off-premise sales have all increased since 2017, spirit sales grew the most, by more than 4 percent every year, except in 2018, when it increased by 2.6 percent, according to the market research company Nielsen Global Connect.

And making a cocktail at home is a big part of that growth.

“The mixology trend has been around for quite some time,” said Brandy Rand, chief operating officer for IWSR Drinks Market Analysis. It started in the late 1990s with the return of the cocktail bar, and it didn’t hurt that the women in the TV show “Sex and the City” loved their cosmopolitans.

And from 2007 to 2015, when “Mad Men,” the TV series about the advertising industry of the 1950s and ’60s, was on the air, Google searches for the classic old-fashioned cocktail, which were consumed regularly on the show, rose steadily, according to an IWSR analysis.

That era also included the creation of Tales of the Cocktail, an annual trade show and festival in New Orleans, and the rise of celebrity mixologists. Like the home-cooking trend, people took to mixing cocktails as a serious hobby, and they realized they could make a great drink at home much cheaper than buying one at a restaurant, Ms. Rand said.

Social media accelerated the fad as people posted their fancy drinks and wanted some good-looking barware to go along with it, said Paul Clarke, executive editor of Imbibe Magazine, a drinks publication.

Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

That was the world Cocktail Kingdom became extremely interested in, especially as the company watched its sales dip from the end of March to the beginning of April by 80 percent. That was brutal for a company that has had steady low double-digit growth year to year since it opened in 2009, Mr. Boehm said. As a private company, it does not release its annual revenues.

“This was a complete 180 for us,” he said of turning to the consumer market. So, the first thing he did was try to find influencers on social media, spending “hours and hours going through Instagram and Facebook to see who were most likely to understand our brand.”

Some, it turned out, were bartenders, who were focusing on social media while out of work. Mr. Boehm said the company sent gifts to influencers and received enthusiastic responses from many, some of whom wanted to promote the barware to their viewers.

That helped bring in sales and raise morale because by then, many of Cocktail Kingdom’s workers had to take a pay cut.

The company also began designing and selling T-shirts on its website to benefit the bars the company works with; the T-shirt sales raised $26,000 for the bar workers. Word about the T-shirts went out on the company’s email list, Mr. Boehm said, which has almost 70,000 names, and the bars’ social media sites, driving traffic to Cocktail Kingdom’s website.

He also noticed that a five-piece cocktail set, which sells for $99 to $159, became the company’s best seller. Sales for the set skyrocketed in April and May.

More plans are in the works. Mr. Boehm hopes to partner with local wine bars and liquor stores to present Zoom classes teaching people about spirits and cocktail-making, which would, of course, feature barware from Cocktail Kingdom.

“We’re thinking what we can do to create an experience at home,” he said.

Mr. Boehm owns five cocktail bars in the East Village and West Village, a Manhattan showroom, and the Miracle franchise of Christmas-themed pop-up cocktail bars around the world.

When the bars or festival will be running again is anyone’s guess, he said. But web sales continue to do well — just 16 percent down from the same time last year, but with 80 percent to the consumer market. All staff members are back up to 100 percent pay and no one has been laid off.

Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

And despite the troubled times, Mr. Boehm decided to continue the tradition of an annual introduction of a new product and in May started the campaign for Overlord knives, which are mainly for professional bartenders.

“I was hiking in the woods and thought, ‘Let’s move forward instead of treading water.’”

Sales for the knives have generated almost as much revenue as Cocktail Kingdom’s last major product introduction, he said.

And although the focus of the business will still be on selling to bars and restaurants when they reopen, he has learned a few things by being forced to change course.

“In the past, I said no to things that weren’t a perfect fit,” Mr. Boehm said. “One of my tips for others during this time, is, don’t be too proud to try something you said no to in the past. I found myself looking for ways to say yes to every business opportunity because I wanted to increase sales and make sure my staff had jobs. And some of these relationships can be pretty bright for the future.”

  • Be open to ideas you’ve rejected before. They might work this time.

  • Look for complementary businesses with which you can partner. That can provide new products or services.

  • Offer classes, interviews, shows or other experiences virtually. It’s a way to drive people to your website.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/12/business/cocktail-kingdom-barware-pandemic.html

Publications

Security and Sustainability Forum-With Hazel Henderson and Claudine Schneider. 10/22/2020

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Steering Societies Beyond GDP to the SDGs

With Hazel Henderson and Claudine Schneider

October 22, 2020

1:15 pm to 2:15 pm EDT

The next webinar in the SSF series, with ecological economist and futurist Hazel Henderson, will address how the UN SDGs can and should replace GDP as the basis for valuing society leading to an economy based on planet protection and human wellbeing. Claudine Schneider is Hazel’s guest.

GDP accounts for all the public expenditures as “debt” while ignoring the value of the assets they created. If GDP were to be corrected by including the missing asset account, these debt-to-GDP ratios would be cut by up to 50% — with a few keystrokes! Learn why money isn’t what you think it is and why that matters to life on Earth in the next two webinars with Hazel and guests.

Register

Claudine Schneider is a former Republican U.S. representative from Rhode Island. She was the first, and to date only, woman elected to Congress from Rhode Island. She is founder of Republicans for Integrity, which describes itself as a network of “Republican former Members of Congress who feel compelled to remind Republican voters about the fundamentals of our party and to provide the facts about incumbents’ voting records.”

October 22nd webinar with Claudine Schneider and Hazel

Sincerely,

Ed.

Edward Saltzberg, PhD

Executive Director

Security and Sustainability Forum

www.ssfonline.org

[email protected]

Sincerely,

Ed.

Edward Saltzberg, PhD

Executive Director

Security and Sustainability Forum

www.ssfonline.org

Source: https://www.ethicalmarkets.com/63564-2/

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The Briefing: RVShare raises over $100M, Google disputes charges, and more

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Here’s what you need to know today in startup and venture news, updated by the Crunchbase News staff throughout the day to keep you in the know.

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RVShare raises over $100M for RV rentals

RVShare, an online marketplace for RV rentals, reportedly raised over $100 million in a financing led by private equity firms KKR and Tritium Partners.

Akron, Ohio-based RVShare has seen sharp growth in demand amid the pandemic, as more would-be travelers seek socially distanced options for hitting the road. Founded in 2013, the company matches RV owners with prospective renters, filtering by location, price and vehicle types.

Previously, RVShare had raised $50 million in known funding, per Crunchbase data, from Tritium Partners. The company is one of several players in the RV rental space, and competes alongside Outdoorsy, a peer-to-peer RV marketplace that has raised $75 million in venture funding.

Funding news

  • BrightFarms closes on $100M: Indoor farming company BrightFarms said it secured more than $100 million in debt and new equity capital to support expansion plans. The Series E round of funding was led by Cox Enterprises, which now owns a majority stake in the company, and includes a follow-on investment from growth equity firm Catalyst Investors.
  • Anyscale inks $40MAnyscale, the Berkeley-based company behind the Ray open source project for building applications, announced $40 million in an oversubscribed Series B funding round. Existing investor NEA led the round and was joined by Andreessen Horowitz, Intel Capital and Foundation Capital. The new funding brings Anyscale’s total funding to more than $60 million.
  • Klar deposits $15M: Mexican fintech Klar closed on $15 million in Series A funding, led by Prosus Ventures, with participation from new investor International Finance Corporation and existing investors Quona Capital, Mouro Capital and Acrew. The round brings total funding raised to approximately $72 million since the company was founded in 2019. The funds are intended to grow Klar’s engineering capabilities in both its Berlin and Mexico hubs.
  • O(1) Labs rakes in $10.9M: O(1) Labs, the team behind the cryptocurrency Mina, announced $10.9 million in a strategic investment round. Co-leading the round are Bixin Ventures and Three Arrows Capital with participation from SNZ, HashKey Capital, Signum Capital, NGC Ventures, Fenbushi Capital and IOSG Ventures.
  • Blustream bags $3M: After-sale customer engagement company Blustream said it raised $3 million in seed funding for product usage data and digital transformation efforts for physical goods companies via the Blustream Product Experience Platform. York IE led the round of funding for the Worcester, Massachusetts-based company with additional support from existing investors.Pillar secures another $1.5M: Pillar, a startup that helps families protect and care for their loved ones, raised $1.5 million in a seed extension to close at $7 million, The round was led by Kleiner Perkins.

Other news

  • Google rejects DOJ antitrust arguments: In the wake of a widely anticipated U.S. Justice Department antitrust suit against Google, the search giant disputed the charges in a statement, maintaining that: “People use Google because they choose to, not because they’re forced to, or because they can’t find alternatives.”
  • Facebook said to test Nextdoor rival: Facebook is reportedly testing a service similar to popular neighborhood-focused social Nextdoor. Called Neighborhoods, the feature reportedly suggests local neighborhood groups to join on Facebook.

Illustration: Dom Guzman

Venture investors and leaders in the fintech space can visualize a future where such startups will move toward again rebundling services.

Root Inc., the parent company of Root Insurance, launched its initial public offering and is looking at a valuation of as much as $6.34 billion.

Clover Health posted rising revenues and a narrower loss in its most recent financial results, published in advance of a planned public market debut.

Crunchbase News’ top picks of the news to stay current in the VC and startup world.

Source: https://news.crunchbase.com/news/briefing-10-21-20/

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Syte Sees $30M Series C For Product Discovery

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Online shopping has become the norm for most people in 2020, even coaxing traditional retail brands to up their presence to stay competitive. However, now that shoppers can’t see and touch products like they used to, e-commerce discovery has become a crucial element for customer acquisition and retention.

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Enter Syte, an Israel-based company that touts creating the world’s first product discovery platform that utilizes the senses, such as visual, text and voice, and then leverages visual artificial intelligence and next-generation personalization to create individualized and memorable customer experiences, Syte co-founder and CEO Ofer Fryman told Crunchbase News.

To execute on this, the company raised $30 million in Series C funding and an additional $10 million in debt. Viola Ventures led the round and was joined by LG Technology Ventures, La Maison, MizMaa Ventures and Kreos Capital, as well as existing investors Magma, Naver Corporation, Commerce Ventures, Storm Ventures, Axess Ventures, Remagine Media Ventures and KDS Media Fund.

This brings the company’s total fundraising to $71 million since its inception in 2015. That includes a $21.5 million Series B, also led by Viola, in 2019, according to Crunchbase data.

Fryman intends for the new funding to be put to work on product enhancements and geographic expansion. Syte already has an established customer base in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and will now focus expansion in the U.S. and Asia-Pacific.

Meanwhile, Syte has grown 22 percent quarter over quarter, as well as experienced a 38 percent expansion of its customer base since the beginning of 2020.

“Since we crossed $1 million annual recurring revenue, we have been tripling revenue while also becoming more efficient,” Fryman said. “We can accelerate growth as well as build an amazing technology and solution for a business that needs it right now. We plan to grow further, and even though our SaaS metrics are excellent right now, our goal is to improve them.”

Anshul Agarwal, managing director at LG Technology Ventures, said Syte was an attractive investment due in part to its unique technology.

“They have a deep-learning system and have created a new category, product discovery that will enable online shopping in a way we never had the ability to do before,” Agarwal said. “The product market fit was also unique. We believe in the strong execution by the team and the rapid growth in SaaS. We looked at many different companies, and the SaaS metrics that Syte showed are the strongest we’ve seen in a while.”

Illustration: Li-Anne Dias

Venture investors and leaders in the fintech space can visualize a future where such startups will move toward again rebundling services.

Root Inc., the parent company of Root Insurance, launched its initial public offering and is looking at a valuation of as much as $6.34 billion.

Clover Health posted rising revenues and a narrower loss in its most recent financial results, published in advance of a planned public market debut.

Crunchbase News’ top picks of the news to stay current in the VC and startup world.

Source: https://news.crunchbase.com/news/syte-sees-30m-series-c-for-product-discovery/

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