You call yourself a distribution geek…
My personal competitive advantage was my access to distribution. I had letters of support from 12 Anheuser-Busch distributors. Those letters are what landed funding for the project. And that was the key to Golden Road's early success and future success.
That is the least sexy part of the industry and without a doubt the most fascinating to me — what I “nerd out” to. There's this phonebook that the National Beer Wholesalers Association produces, and — start to finish, in every city, town and county — I can name the principal of that AB or MillerCoors distributor, their first and last name and email address. I am obsessed with the distribution side of the industry. It is the hardest part to learn and get to know and uncover, and it's definitely been a great challenge to us.
Those distributors have helped me understand their businesses, their margins, their bottom line. I understand what they are willing to invest in the market and what their retailers are, so that opened the door to helping me understand the retail side of business.
Do you get a lot of attention as a woman in this world?
The big beers target and market to men — all the ads and everything. Craft beer is non-gender specific, and the craft brewing industry welcomed me with open arms. It was the big beer distributors and the big beer retailers that [said]: “Who is this girl, and what is she trying to sell me?”
I armed myself with so much knowledge in beer [so I could] have this ability to win them over. [Now] it helps being a young female because they are like, “Wow, she wasn't given this 12-million-case Budweiser distributor from Daddy. She's earned it.”
What advice would you give to other women in male-dominated industries?
Arm yourself with ammo, aim and fire!
What’s ahead for Golden Road?
When we first started, I was calling on every chain and every account — literally in the field selling beer every day — and then staying up at night working on the finance operation side. The first two years, we spent no money on sales and marketing, but now we have a pretty sizable marketing budget for 2014.
It's pretty remarkable. It's going to put me into a position to do much bigger partnerships instead of bar calls and being at a Pint Night every night of the week. I'm going to get to focus … on those really corporate, high-dollar, high-visibility accounts, [which is] where I should be spending my sales efforts.