Beverage School Educates, Inspires Entrepreneurs at Chicago Gathering

Darrell Jursa, photo by Matthew Kennedy

Hoping to avoid the snares that often bedevil entrepreneurs in the beverage industry, prospective drink makers and recent startups assembled Wednesday at the Greenhouse Loft in Chicago for BevNET’s Beverage School. The event was sponsored exclusively by Flavorman.

The recurring event serves as a way to help newcomers immerse themselves in the constantly evolving beverage industry, to hear helpful tips and mistakes from industry veterans and to network with relevant, influential professionals.

Following an introduction from BevNET founder John Craven, Wednesday’s Beverage School began with Eric Schnell, founder of Metabrand, who spoke about the inspiration that can come from entrepreneurship and his excitement about the business. Schnell helped attendees ponder if their brand is unique to the marketplace and trademark-approved, among other preparatory steps.

Justin Prochnow, partner at Greenberg Traurig, explained the legal requirements for labeling, and advised against making questionable claims. Prochnow’s advice was intended to help brands avoid costly lawsuits from other brands and hindrances from the FDA and the FTC.

Analyzing the plethora of social media platforms, Darrell Jursa, the senior V.P. of emerging media for Fleishman-Hillard, said that every brand should establish a distinctive online style. He advises against turning social media into an obvious tool for profits and instead recommends treating the interactions with a human voice.

“You’re not starting the conversation,” Jursa said. “The conversation is already happening.”

Brad Barnhorn, president of Barnhorn Growth Advisors, shared several routes to raising capital for a brand, and suggested that before approaching investors, brands should prepare an executive summary, a company presentation, investment documents, a business plan and a financial model.

“The financial model is how you live the business,” Barnhorn said.

Other speakers included Kate Ratliff, technical director of Flavorman, who explained the process of turning a beverage idea into a manufacturable product, Bill Sipper, managing partner of Cascadia Managing Brands, who shared various distribution methods, Debbie Wildrick, founder of Growing Innovative Brands, who broke down different channel strategies, Neil Kimberley, founder of Foods, Fluids and Beyond, who discussed company infrastructure, and a panel featuring Leo Novosel of West Loop Beverages, Scott Lerner of Solixir, and Katia Chiporukha of R.U.N. Enterprise, which focused on marketing strategies in Chicago and the Midwest.

Join us for the next edition of Beverage School on June 3 at the Metropolitan Pavilion in New York City, as part of the upcoming BevNET Live Summer 2013.