Pivoting. Feet on the Street. How a Start-Up Distillery Brought in $180k in Sales in Just over Two Months

Kozuba Distillery

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LibDib Maker:  Kozuba & Sons Distillery

Location:  Florida

LibDib Markets: California, Florida, Illinois

LibDib Brand Page: LibDib.com/brands/kozubaandsonsdistilleryinc

A family-owned distillery found success in wholesale distribution, sold $180,000 in products and secured almost 80 new accounts using LibDib.

Kozuba & Sons Distillery in St Petersburg, FL, started selling their revamped product line of vodka, whiskey and cordials to buyers in California and Florida on June 6, 2020. In just a little over two months, this family-owned distillery has sold $180,000 in products and secured almost 80 new accounts. They are now in the process of presenting to major chain stores and have goals to reach the $400,000 sales mark. In most times, this type of expansive growth is unheard of in the craft spirits world–but during COVID, it’s almost impossible. Or is it? 

James Williams of Edge Beverage Consulting says that the secret sauce to Kozuba’s success is “a combination of Kozuba’s willingness to take honest and open feedback about pricing, product development, and sales strategies–as well as the ease of working with LibDib.”

In other words, it was all about how well they pivot and how well they get products to market. 

The Kozubas (father Papa Kozuba and his two sons, Matthias and Jacob) came to the U.S. in 2014, with the dream of opening a distillery that produces high-quality European-type spirits. They were not new to the spirits business–their family owned the first privately-owned craft distillery in Poland that has been around since WWI.  However, they were new to the U.S. distribution process. 

They struggled to find the right distributor. They approached the top four distributors in the U.S. and got denied because the distributor wasn’t bringing on any new products or because Kozuba wasn’t yet selling 20k cases per year. Eventually they found a distributor in Florida and got into 200 accounts locally, but they couldn’t expand beyond the local market. Why? Their distributor was heavily incentivized to promote and sell other brands. 

“Our distributor incentives were dropped into a big pool and we quickly realized we couldn’t afford to continue like this,” said Matthias Kozuba. “We had the pricing wrong and the strategy wrong and we had to go back to the drawing board.”

That was the first time the Kozubas learned to pivot. It saved their business. 

They took a step back and discontinued the products. They partnered with two local businessmen, Jesse Javens and Steve Riordan, to help them with their business planning and execution. They also hired Edge Beverage Consulting to help with their approach to the market. 

“We had the pricing and brand story all wrong,” said Matthias Kozuba. “We were used to the more expensive European product. We took a step back and decided to focus on our family and Polish heritage and we developed pricing that worked great for buyers and our target customers.”

“We’re very creative in our product lines,” says Jacob Kozuba. “We’re constantly watching the market trends and identifying  what comes next.” 

The company introduced B Square Vodka, Coast Vodka and Camo Box Vodka–all vodkas in a box. This was an innovation that the brothers say Papa Kozuba was always pushing for. It gave them a eco-sensitive product that was also shatter proof and light weight. They also developed a line of high-quality Cordials and Whiskies. 

Edge took the products and developed a sales strategy that included 1-2 sales reps in each of the key markets. This would give them the right amount of ‘feet on the street.’ 

They also introduced the Kozubas to wholesale distributor LibDib. The flexible LibDib distribution model fits their brand’s needs. Edge Beverage would be the ‘feet on the street’ and work on presenting the new Kozuba products to chains and retailers, and LibDib would handle the three-tier distribution efforts when it comes to compliance, taxes, billing and collections. 

From there, the team hit the streets, selling into accounts. Edge says that Kozuba’s  products are best presented in person. The packaging was clever and the pricing was competitive. In addition, LibDib’s pricing model was incredibly attractive and the extra margin allowed the distillery to have their own sales team for hire. 

“Distributors these days really just do logistics and LibDib does logistics really well,” says James of Edge Beverage. “We usually are head-butting with our distributors because the supplier and the distributor have their own ideas of what needs to happen in the account and it doesn’t line up. With LibDib, we control the field, as well as our relationships with accounts.”

Kozuba took their rebranding a step further, by offering retailers the ability to replace products through LibDib. “We made mistakes but we actually fixed our mistakes with our buyers,” said Jacob Kozuba.

The Edge Beverage team has built a sales team around the brand. Associates have been trained in both California and Florida and soon they are going into Illinois, as well as additional states. Quality, price point and the Kozuba story are driving sales. 

Edge Beverage points out that any brand starting out should know that your brand story is what ties people to your brand. Once you have that you need feet on the street. No matter which distributor you’re with sales comes down to YOUR sales people. They are the ones making the relationships. 

James adds, “You can’t create this beautiful car and put it on autopilot. someone needs to drive it.”

By working with LibDib, Kozuba and Edge have been able to sell and build buyer relationships quickly. Associates are walking into at least 15 accounts per day (sometimes 32 accounts). They say it’s about numbers and getting in front of buyers.

“My preferred mode is LibDib,” says James. “When I was a sales guy, I dedicated a day and a half per week to follow up with our distributors. I don’t have to do that here. We sell it, we submit the order, it gets delivered. There’s no intermediary between us.”

The entire Kozuba team is pleased with the path they are on right now. The rebranding of the products is completed. The relationship with Edge has been very successful in placing salespeople in key, targeted markets. And, LibDib has provided a great platform that is a new alternative to a traditional distributor model.

Looking to change your wholesale distribution strategy? Learn more or sign-up for LibDib today.