DrinkPhilly.com: Mixing Entrepreneurship and Alcohol in Philadelphia

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Rohan Deuskar, WG’11

 

We recently sat down for a conversation about entrepreneurship and beer with Adam Schmidt, the founder of DrinkPhilly.com, the Philadelphia-based drink specials website that won the People’s Choice Award at the 2011 Wharton Entrepreneurship Conference. DrinkPhilly.com has been adding thousands of new readers every month, so we wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Here are some excerpts from the interview.

On DrinkPhilly:

DrinkPhilly.com is the number one source for drink specials and happy hours in your area. We also offer original content like event videos, bar reviews, drink recipes, and lifestyle articles.

On getting a foothold as a young startup:

When you’re starting out, you’re a faceless startup. Nobody cares about you. Victory Brewing Co. was the only one who took us seriously at first. Bill, the President and Founder, invited us in and took us on a personal tour of the brewery. That’s when we shot the first video we ever did. That really helped us become real. When we launched the video, they showed it to everybody, their fans and distributors. Suddenly we went from just being a no-name website to other people wanting to work with us.

On building a consumer base:

When we first found this office space, it was probably wrong for us in every way. It was too expensive for us and needed a lot of work. But I liked the space and I liked Old City. It’s a great location as a billboard. Our sign is out there in front of thousands. And Old City has this monthly art gallery crawl called First Friday where galleries serve drinks and cheese. So we thought, what if we took that a step further and offered really high-quality beer and wine and got top restaurants to cater. So we gutted the cubicles and turned it into an art gallery. Now we have one of the nicest spots for First Friday. Now people come to us, instead of us trying to go to where people are. And everyone that comes in signs our e-mail list. It’s been a great way of getting our name and our sponsors’ names out there, and also helping local artists.

Every person helps when you’re getting your start. Any users that love our stuff, we try to reward them to say “Thank you so much!” We try not to take it for granted that we have that user. Every user counts. If one user complains, that could easily be sixty with that complaint. We try to make them happy again.

Victory is phenomenal at marketing. They’re now in 48 states, which is huge for a microbrew. I asked Bill, “What’s the most successful marketing thing you guys have done?” He said the most successful thing he ever did was just going out and shaking hands. Going out to his clients and customers and getting to really know them. Who they are, what they like. And then telling them why they should care about Victory.

On taking the plunge into entrepreneurship:

It’s nerve-wracking! Believe it or not, I still sometimes have a fear of failing. I think it helps keep me on my toes…I don’t get full of myself. It teaches you if this is really something for you. If you’re really afraid about where your next paycheck will come from and you can’t get over that, maybe it’s not for you.

On fundraising & cash flows:

We started with the three Fs – family, friends, and fools! From there, we were going on a month to month basis, and a lot of money was probably squandered because at first we really didn’t know what we were doing. As we learnt from our mistakes, we got more efficient. If we raised that money today, we probably wouldn’t have needed as much money as we did. Whatever you think you’re going to need, you probably need double that. And you probably only really need about half of that! But you don’t realize that until later because there are so many mistakes you’re going to make. Nobody can really coach you through that, it’s just something you have to do.

On the year ahead:

We’d like to expand to 4-5 other cities. I’d like to see people in Philadelphia who go on vacation or on a business trip use our website in another city. We’d like to be the authority on all things drinking.

As told over a Victory Headwaters Pale Ale to Rohan Deuskar, WG’11 , former  Wharton Entrepreneurship Club Co-President and the co-founder of Stylitics.com.

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