Here is a lengthy update as I have been traveling non-stop and running like crazy. I am currently back in Southern Oregon and taking a breather (well, not outside as it is SMOKEY). I am hitting the road again on Saturday and will continue volunteering with Levy Restaurants at stadiums in California and Vegas. Aligning my time with their teams has proven highly beneficial for the future or our spirits.
OK – here we go
I became wholly frustrated by the delay in our COLA (certificate of label approval) and unsure if the issue is with the TTB (government) or our distillery, as they have been consumed with their own IPO (initial public offering) application (which was rejected, by the way). Communication has been less than urgent on their behalf so I made the decision to launch our rum with a new distillery. I found a fantastic team in Atascadero, California and they have already finalized our formulation. I have told both distilleries that whichever gets us in distribution first, wins all of our labels/brands. Gonna be interesting…
The Central Coast Distillery is owned by Eric and Ann Olsen and they knocked our watermelon rum out of the park. I opted to not name it Big Fun so we could stay with our “winning” themed brands. Our new yummy rum is called…. (drum roll)… Windfall Rum. It is a silver Puerto Rican rum infused with watermelon puree. We did add a little color to make it a tad more vibrant. I love it! We will do a small batch to start.
I selected a tall slim bottle and I feel it partners beautifully with our heavy bottom whiskey bottle.
The formula has been submitted to the TTB for approval. Now we need to create the brand/logo and label for approval. Any suggestions, ideas, thoughts – send ’em my way. Let’s have some fun with this!
I will be in Vegas for the Las Vegas Grand Prix and the Super Bowl. MGM is continuing to support our efforts and is being patient with our ongoing delays. We will have a Big Win Zone (VIP bar area) at their after parties for both events. Obviously, the mission is to have our whiskey flowing. Please put some good energy on this and envision us making it on time. I am hustling to get us into big events but desperately need to get our product off the pallets and in consumer’s hands. Fingers crossed that creating competing distillieries, may be just the thing but I am learning that there is so much in this industry that is simply not in my control.
I am continuing to look for an operations manager that is well-versed in the liquor world, that can help expedite things. I am really strong at the creating, marketing, planning and implementing but desperately need assistance with the compliance, distribution and staying on top of the TTB/distillery situations. Should any of you meet or know someone that is either a distiller, distributor or works in the industry, mention it to them please.
I am creating a dropbox to put our quarterly financials and annual LLC reports so you have access to them at any time. Eventually, I intend to have a private login for each team member to receive all updates, etc. via the website but that is outside of my web building skills. Fortunately, we have two amazing team members that are web/IT gurus and have volunteered to take over the website for me. Thank you Charlie and Jon!
On a personal note, I want to thank you all for your support and patience. I know that when you aren’t in it daily that it can appear to be stagnant. I assure you that this project is my everything. There isn’t a moment that I am not working on it in some way, shape or form. I hear rumblings of grievances and again want to welcome anyone to reach out anytime. I am always here for you and am 100% confident that we are going to be extremely successful. Hiccups happen and I do my best to pivot and rebound. We got this!
Any ideas for collaborations, events, products, flavors, brand names – send them on over.
Team work makes the dream work.
If you are in Southern Oregon and want to grab a drink or coffee before I head back out, holler. I miss you guys!!
Spark Events is up and ready to go. I have been trying for over a year to find a way to free up more of my time to focus on Spark Spirits and get us into full distribution (with one distillery or two). I do still work full time and am tied to a computer for a significant part of the day so made the decision to create an avenue that is still the work that I do all day (events/trade shows) but on my time. I am happy to say that I will soon be fully pulling myself from the daytime grind to work solely for us.
The even better part is that I am producing events where Spark Spirits can be the presenting sponsors and exhibit. I am launching with a local expo in Ashland to work out the kinks then will produce in regions up and down the coast. Why pay to exhibit/sponsor when we can do it for free via these new shows?
The show is called, The Lifting Spirits Expo and is marketed as products that inspire the enjoyment of life. Imagine a trade show full of travel, spas, sports, spirits (duh), adventures, entertainment, etc. We can have a full area dedicated to all things Spark Spirits!
I had a thought regarding our label issue for Big Win and feel I may know what the issue (our formula approval was under Jackpot initially and am waiting for word from the distillery of whether they changed that or not). If that is the case, it could be an easy fix and we can get back on track.
I have two distilleries working on initial formulations for a watermelon rum. I am stopping by both on the tour (in 12 days) to try and then contract for the launch of (hopefully) BIG FUN. I have paid the IP attorney to initiate the trademark search. Fingers crossed.
I will be spending the following months meeting with Levy Restaurants teams as well as collecting content and contacts from additional venues, casinos and raceways. The tour will roll out in phases 1) research and development 2) content creation and marketing 3) hosting/sponsoring tastings and events
I know this has taken longer than anticipated and fully accept that my novice knowledge of the spirits industry has played a role. I am working as swiftly as I can while also ensuring that I fully understand the steps and legalities, so that the future spirits will be quicker. I cannot express how grateful I am to have you all on this team. Please always know I am right here if you have questions, concerns or ideas.
This journey is exciting! The future still looks bright.
CHEERS, guys and gals.
Til next time…
I hope this finds you all well and enjoying the nicer weather. It is certainly positively affecting my mojo.
33 days until I head out on a lengthy promotional tour, that as we are all keenly aware was produced as an avenue to get our BIG WIN Whiskey in front of spectators. As it became increasingly clear that the product would not be in full distribution in time, I made the decision to pivot. I was NOT going to reschedule all of the meetings that I had lined up with various stadiums and raceways nor let Levy Restaurants down. I had to put my thinking cap on and come up with something that would enable me to maintain these vital relationships while also providing an experience for their staff, teams and guests.
We are all set to distribute “lucky” poker chips with a QR code directing everyone to our website. They will be prompted to opt-in for first access to our spirits, discount on our retail products and VIP invitations to future events/after parties. It is hardly my dream scenario but nonetheless has ample potential to build our social media and database.
If you have friends or colleagues with a business, product or service that would benefit from advertising to all of these people, there are options available. Hit me up for the particulars.
I will personally be spending time volunteering for each stadium/raceway’s non-profit organization as well as shooting exclusive footage of “behind the scenes” of how Levy Restaurants prepares for their BIG events.
NFL releases their schedules on May 11. I will be able to plug those in to the tour calendar and then will post the finalized lineup on here so you can follow along or join me, when or if you desire.
The Big Win label delay has annoyed me to no end. Unclear if the delays are solely due to TTB or a combination of our current distiller being overwhelmed. Therefore, I have taken steps to launch a rum at a new distillery in the Central Coast California. I have contemplated forming relationships with additional distillers anyway, to expedite distribution, so why not start now? Once the contract is firm, I will share more specific info.
I will seek a trademark risibility report for BIG FUN RUM, unless any of you have a better idea. I would LOVE to hear, if you do. Bring ’em on! As for the flavor profile, I am debating over the spiced cranberry or watermelon. Again – bring on your creative ideas.
While waiting (and waiting, waiting) for our green light, I am seeking outside the box revenue streams to keep us going and growing.
I have confirmed the two affiliate products that I was seeking: bourbon barrel watches and coasters. Once I receive our custom link, I will post on the site. Oh! Speaking of the site, have you taken a peek at it?
I have met with several digital marketing agencies to begin creating content for targeted ads, once Big Win launches. Not cheap but I feel it is essential. It is one thing for me to get all of these venues to agree to purchase and serve Big Win but if no one knows they have it, they obviously won’t order it. It is a lot to learn but I am enjoying the process. If any of you have insight or contacts that could help facilitate, please reach out.
The retail store on the site is functional. I have a third party apparel company currently but am building the e-com site to include the cigars, glassware and accessories. With retail and affiliates, we will begin generating revenue to assist with the operational costs.
My goal is to hire an operations manager, in the not so far off future. They will need to be either a distiller or distributor, well versed in TTB and state liquor compliance and brand ambassador programs. I will be a much stronger asset to our company when I am focusing more on the growth, marketing and team building. If anyone comes across your path, let your girl know!
So – know that I am working daily to get us to goal: WIN BIG. I know it is frustrating to keep pushing launches back. Boy, I know but I am determined to get our products out into the world one way or another.
Any and all ideas, concerns, high fives – are welcome.
Updates to the new website offer additional revenue streams for us. As we wait (extremely impatiently, at this point), I have launched the sponsorship opportunities for the SPARK REVELRY TOUR as well as the SPARK STORE and CLUB REVELRY memberships. If you have any friends, family or colleagues that would benefit from some marketing during the tour or would like to support our efforts, the links are below:
Spread the good word, Team!
It’s almost Spring and that means TOUR TIME!!
I am joining Derek Deboer, The Racers Group and Adobe Road Wines March 31-April 2 at Sonoma Raceway. We will explore avenues to support and promote each others efforts. They are offering their 40′ mobile bar trailer for our use, meanwhile I will assist them in marketing efforts for their wines at regional speedways. It will be my first opportunity to witness firsthand how other spirit brands are marketing at a big race event. No doubt, it will help shape our unique approach. I’m excited!
The tour will be broken into two phases: Research & Development + Brand Marketing & Tastings
- I will spend the next few months touring stadiums in Seattle, Portland, Sacramento, Bay Area, SoCal, Las Vegas and Phoenix. Meetings are being finalized with the Levy Restaurant teams at each stadium to begin the planning process for the Big Win launch.
- In each region, I will make stops at raceways, casinos, PGA venues and to large event producers to drop marketing materials and collect points of contact.
- An official launch event is in the works for Big Win locally (Oregon) and then a follow up tour will commence to revisit each venue/client.
- I am working closely with my prior company in Las Vegas to partner on VIP and after parties for both the Las Vegas Grad Prix and The 2024 Super Bowl.
- The touring of regions and their venues will be spread out over the next several months. I will return home regularly to process the information collected and make adjustments to plan as necessary.
*** In order to display a brand in any MGM Resorts International property (they own both stadiums and most properties in Vegas), you must be granted permission. It took months but I had finally reached the proper department head and was able to get a meeting with her, several Food and Beverage executives as well as the MGM marketing department this past Thursday. I requested that Dain from the distillery also participate in the call, should any manufacturing questions arise.
The meeting was lonnngggg but ultimately, MGM Resorts is thrilled to have Big Win Whiskey sponsor and/or participate at any of their events or on their properties.
I have not heard back from their F&B execs to discuss whether or not they have an interest in the minis. If I do not hear back in the next week, I will follow up. Fingers crossed!
The call motivated the distillery to create a more expedient way to manufacture Big Win. Currently, we receive the sourced whiskey from a wholesaler and they utilize extracts to create the flavor profile. After our conversation with MGM – and recognizing the massive scope – the distillery make the recommendation that we begin now to create large drums of simple syrups of the flavorings (orange, cardamom and clove) so that they can be dumped in the whiskey barrels upon arrival and bottled soon thereafter. This process requires more storage space but we agreed it is in both of our best interest. Fun stuff!
I have been chatting with two separate companies that create products that I feel our customers/spectators would embrace. If negotiations go well, we will promote the products on tour and on our website and receive a percentage of the sales via affiliate marketing links. One makes amazing watches out of reclaimed whiskey barrels and the other creates 3D stadium replicas in drink coasters. I am seeking passive income streams for us, in addition to spirits/accessories sales.
- Do you have a suggestion for a unique product that would fit our branding and marketing? Shoot any ideas my way and I will look into it.
- Should you meet any distillers or distributors in your adventures, maybe keep their contact info. I intend to bring on an Operations Manager soon so that we can grow faster and I can get to what I am most proficient at: marketing and events.
- If you have any influencers in your back pocket (athletes, musicians, bloggers, etc.) that may want to align with our brand, shoot ’em my way please.
- As you can see, the new website is coming along. It was a bummer to have lost the old one but am happy to be nearly complete with the revamp.
Hope you are all dandy. I look forward to seeing each of you soon, along the tour route. Inching our way…
CHEERS! – Tonya
Another year gone, gone, gone!
This has been a swift and educational year, to say the least. 2022 zoomed by and, on the surface, appears that little has moved forward. Nonetheless, it was a year that taught me more than many previous ones. Taking on a venture in a brand new industry is daunting at times and exhilarating at others. Zero complaints from me as it continues to be extremely promising.
For those of us that have been on this journey since inception, it has been bumpy. I want to assure you all that no day has gone by without focused effort, dedication and passion for a prosperous outcome. So much is out of my control and I am becoming a steward in patience.
So what did we do in 2022 and what is next?
2022 started with the immense flop campaign with BCSlots. That took months to work out with legal to dissolve our agreement. I took down all of the campaigns on social media, removed press releases and started from scratch.
We changed the name from Jackpot to Big Win, to better market to niche audiences outside of just casino. Big Win has now been embraced by sporting groups, speedways and horse tracks.
We lost our distillery in Bend, due to Covid, so researched a new manufacturing partner, shipped our product and restricted our NDA and contract twice, to best suit the interest forthcoming from sporting stadiums.
We partnered with Hard Rock on a slot tournament, where I had to continually pivot our participation and graphics due to slow moving manufacturing (supply chain and our government). Hard Rock will collaborate on an additional campaign once we are in full national distribution.
I retained an intellectual property attorney, Leah Herbert, and began the process to effectively research our trademark and risk factors that we may come across with a name like Big Win. The report listed on potential risk with a coffee but she feels we are safe enough to move forward as we are in a different article class. Onward!
I partnered with a branding company in Washington, Snack Plate Creative, to begin branding for our follow up gin, Good Fortune.
I have successfully received intent to purchase agreements from Levy Restaurants – concessions for stadiums/arenas – for five major markets: Seattle/Portland, Bay Area, SoCal, Las Vegas and Phoenix. Hard Rock has also submitted a request to purchase.
Our bottling, label design and packaging is ready and waiting for final government approval (heavy sigh). The TTB has openly admitted that approvals are lagging due to the implementation of new automated systems, in addition to the rapid growth of COLA (certificate of label approval) due to the sergeance of ready to serve cocktails and seltzers. Our label was kicked back once due to using the phrasing, “craft whiskey’. It was recommended to appeal and outline the sourcing as indeed craft, so we can get more prominent placement. However, should they send it back again for same issue, I am removing craft and moving forward.
The Big Win Tailgate/Stadium Tour will finally commence in the Spring. I kept pushing it back due to no distribution but have created a way to still go and promote, even if God forbid, the government is still an issue.
Our original cork tops were on long term backorder so I made a switch and carried on. I expanded our product quantities, to ensure we don’t run out too soon – as that could be a fatal move. We now have three batches and our distillery has found a better source for our wholesale whiskey blend so they can manufacture much quicker, in the future. Not knowing how well our brand will be received has proven challenging to be confident on how much inventory to carry, while also making sure that we can fulfill rapid orders, should they come in. It is a learning curve but we’ll get there.
Our distillery, Heritage, is taking their business public mid-2023. They have an interest in partnering with Spark! and ensuring we have the necessary capital to effectively market in those huge markets and venues. We are in the early stages of negotiating what that fully entails but is extremely exciting, as it would allow us to grow and bring on staff that are far more experienced in this industry.
Obviously, this is a new website. I was monitoring the company budget and decided to transfer our web hosting from GoDaddy to Site Ground. It was significantly less money per year. While doing the transfer, I failed at mitigating our existing site properly. I was spending hours trying to fix it and then realized that I built that site in less time than it was taking to transfer, so opted to start fresh and rebuild. As time permits, I will get it all done.
I just handed our year end data to our CPA and will begin tax prep and PNL distribution. I will mail all of your K1’s this year and will give you the heads up when they are on their way. I was told to expect them in February.
As always, I am here if you ever have suggestions, questions or concerns.
Wishing you all a healthy and joy-filled new year. Grateful to be on this adventure with you.