Amber: Hi I’m Amber Ambrose and this is BusinessMakers USA brought to you by Insperity, inspiring business performance. And we’re here in Nashville today with my guest Sherman Mohr of Shared Spirits and welcome to the show.
Sherman: Thank you Amber, it’s great to be here.
Amber: I also forgot to mention – kind of a big deal – that you’re CEO and Co-founder of Shared Spirits, but also what is Shared Spirits?
Sherman: Shared Spirits is a mobile app that allows people to buy, share and redeem cocktails, wine and beer from individual venues as they come into the system, all over the world, all on mobile.
Amber: Wow, so if I am in Houston and thinking it’s Sherman’s birthday, I want to buy him a drink I just go to my app and connect all the dots and send you a drink?
Sherman: Yeah. Search Nashville, which is where I happen to be, and if you see a venue that you think I might like and a drink I might like you pick it, you send it to me via the app’s ability to do so. The next time I take my phone in I click a button and the bar staff know my drink is paid for.
Amber: What problem are you solving exactly?
Sherman: The primary problem we’re solving surrounds the problem that brands have – when I say brands I mean spirits, wine and beer brands. Their first line of relationship is with venues – that’s restaurants, bars and retailers.
Amber: On premise.
Sherman: On premise and then retail so they don’t really know you or I. They think they do, their agencies are trying to convince them that they know them, but they don’t really know you or I. And the reason they don’t is because they have no data on you or I. So what our app allows us to do is compliantly convert marketing dollars into drink credits that we load up into the account of influencers that we’ve associated with venues. So if we knew you had a favorite brewery in Houston for instance, we would associate drink credits – if that brewery were in our system – to you, you’d be able to keep one, maybe convey 9 to other friends that have to redeem at that brewery.
Amber: So you have to get them in the door.
Sherman: They have to get in the door.
Amber: And they’re going to be experiencing that product.
Sherman: The relationship with the venue or the retailer is reinforced with our app and that’s what the brand is really trying to do is reinforce relationship with their first line of customer, which is the venues. And as a result of us solving that problem we solve a problem for them that they don’t know they have which is building relationship with you and I. So that’s a very exciting part. Now we will have a lot of fun with user engagement and the ability to send each other drinks, that’s a given.
Amber: That’s very appealing to me just on the surface level.
Sherman: Exactly. And that’s the fun consumer to consumer aspect of what we do. It’s literally a platform and you’ve probably had other guests on the show that are building platforms of some type.
Amber: I would say yes, that’s a good guess.
Sherman: It’s always a chicken and egg problem because we have to onboard venues while we’re on-boarding users while we’re on-boarding suppliers and brands.
Amber: That makes sense. I guess it’s sort of a triumvirate of things going on and all working in harmony.
Sherman: It’s a great challenge. Every marketing muscle that I could hope to have ever developed is about to be tested and will be. Every technical challenge that one could face is being faced. And pretty much every narrative challenge around marketing, what happens in spirits, wine and beer is something we get to deal with every day. And content strategy has always been a big function of what I do and enjoy it greatly. A lot of the connection you and I have is around the content we’re provided.
Amber: Content is king, especially now. And speaking of, I know there’s some stuff that you’ve gone through content wise that you’ve been bootstrapping for a while and one of your plans now is you’ve talked a lot about people – influencers as you say – in the market. What does that program look like and who are some interesting people that you’ve gotten to meet through that?
Sherman: I’m doing a lot of work a lot in that area and I feel – and I’ve talked about this in other work – I think the influencer buzz word that’s out there right now has already too long been associated with big Instagram followings and big social media followings when in fact the real work to be done is around what’s becoming known as a micro-influencer. The individual has tremendous impact in their community but might not have a social following that is even recognizable. A good example; I gave a presentation to 20 probate attorneys. They have no social presence whatsoever online.
Amber: I can see that.
Sherman: But they have more impact with respect to the communities that they serve and will make fabulous ambassadors and influencers for the Shared Spirits program because they are out constantly, they are consumers, they have tremendous affect on the people that they bear influence over. There are two things we really feel strongly about influencers; the first principle is that influencers are always looking for something to make them more influential. And then the second thing we feel very confident about, there’s a term called homophily in social science – birds of a feather flock together – and it’s almost impossible if I were to send you something to share with someone else that you will not share what it is I sent you with somebody that’s not very, very much like you. It’s just natural, it’s the way it’s going to be.
Sherman: So the people that I’m featuring in our blog, in our content management, all happen to be influencers in the spirits, wine and beer space.
Amber: Well what a coincidence Sherman.
Sherman: Yeah, I know. All it takes is a little strategy in today’s world.
Amber: It’s like you’ve thought about this.
Sherman: What we’re doing and really have done for 2 years now is the old Chinese proverb of drilling the well before we need water. Putting ourselves on the radar of people that we know will end up being extremely influential for us in markets where they work. And do they have big followings? It’s not about that. They have influence over the market they’re in.
Amber: Absolutely. You said drilling the well before you need the water; you’re a startup. And you’ve been a startup for a little while but just because of some life things and fate I guess you could say, what is kind of the story of how you got to where you are; from the idea to today?
Sherman: A great story. I have a significant co-founder partner who is in the spirits and wine space. So he knew there was a tremendous opportunity, because he saw the tremendous waste that was taking place in the marketing spend for brands. To give you a specific number 28.6% of all marketing dollars spent by brands goes to what’s considered point of sale merchandise. That’s koozies and shirts and end caps and furniture and hats and massive amounts of this stuff is loaded into dumpsters outside of the dock of every distributor in the country and taken to the dump once every 6 months.
Now do you think that the agencies that instructed the brands to buy that stuff is actually reporting the waste back to the brand? Of course not, to them it was just a spend. For us it’s an opportunity. So my co-founding partner came to me when we first thought of this concept and he said hey, I want to repurpose those marketing dollars and this is how I want to do it and being a marketing and software guy I said I can make that happen for you. We started really plotting out what that would look like and after – the technology has basically caught up with our concept so now we can actually build.
Amber: You’re to a point where it’s actually going to work.
Sherman: Right. So if you really want to dive into a great idea that you have do it, because just because you don’t know that it exists there’s a chance that it does and you can help modify it, you can make it better. And that’s what we did; we’ve cobbled together a series of technologies, re-invented them – repurposed them. And there aren’t a lot of comparisons out there to what we do because most of the app competitors where you can find some functionality in what it is Shared Spirits is doing are actually trying to solve a problem for venues or for a consumer or somebody that’s in a different place in the supply chain than the brand that we’re trying to solve a problem for.
Amber: So Sherman you’re talking about suppliers, we know quite a few, in fact we’ve interviewed some recently in Seattle, Ian MacNeil with Glass Vodka would probably be a really good person to talk to.
Sherman: That’s a perfect example of the kind of individual we need to be in contact with. Because imagine the power of a great brand, a great vodka needing shelf space – which is premium at a beautiful restaurant. They want to be on the shelf.
Amber: In a highly visible spot.
Sherman: In a very highly visible spot; the shelf is not enough, they also want to be on the cocktail menu. So if you can get the magic of shelf placement and cocktail menu and what we do is we work with the brand, compliantly go into that venue with their distributor and say hey, we’ve got a couple hundred drinks we’re going to share and it’s not going to cost you anything Mr. Venue except we need this great Glass Vodka on the shelf and we need it on a cocktail menu.
Amber: So it’s a bargaining chip.
Sherman: Indeed. And if I send you a great cocktail what are you going to do? You’re going to go in, you’re going to experience your freebie, but you’re going to get some appetizers, you may have some dinner.
Amber: You’re going to spend money in their restaurant.
Sherman: And you’re going to spend money and you’re going to take a colleague or a friend; like a free hockey ticket, you’re going to spend $100 that night. So there’s really a great synergy between marrying what the brand is trying to do with the venue experience. And interestingly enough 12 hours later you won’t be surprised when you get a text that says hey you can buy this vodka you experienced at your local retailer, here’s the link and this company will even deliver it to you.
Amber: Legally how do you plan to do this globally?
Sherman: That’s a great question and I’m not going to give away all of the secret sauce but I can tell you that our compliance attorney, who is an expert in the alcohol space, puts it this way; he says alcohol laws are written to say no and you have to find a way to get them to say yes. Because no is the default and anytime you enter an environment where no is the default – and almost every platform type of software enters a space where no is the default; Lyft, Uber, all of them, and we’re no exception – so we’re navigating the space differently. And in all 50 states it’s illegal for anyone in the three tiered tax system of the alcohol space, whether it’s the supplier, the venue, the distributor, to give people a drink. It’s prohibited by law.
Amber: Gotcha. There’s no such thing as a free beer.
Sherman: There’s no such thing as a free beer. It’s supposed to be rung up somewhere so there’s a tax record associated with that.
Amber: So that it’s accounted for.
Sherman: Right, exactly. So we had to find a way to navigate the landscape such that brands that pay us massive marketing dollars – to give you an example Diageo, big brand aggregator, has spent $2.5 billion a year for the last 5 years on marketing. So that gives you some scope as to the size of the market. That’s one brand aggregator. We have to find a way to compliantly convert marketing dollars into drink credits that our influencers can then share with other people.
Amber: Sure, legally.
Sherman: All I’m really allowed to tell you is that we have done it. We have found a way to do so.
Amber: You’ve got some good lawyers.
Sherman: We’ve got some good lawyers; yes indeed.
Amber: Well you know what lawyers, you’re getting a freebie today. You’re getting some good PR to hear it of Sherman Mohr of Shared Spirits. And on that note we appreciate you watching. I’m Amber Ambrose, this is BusinessMakers USA; thanks Nashville, we love you.
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