Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Alex Lindsey, Founder of West Bottoms Whiskey Co., located in Kansas City, MO, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
West Bottoms Whiskey Co. is a whiskey-exclusive craft distillery located in the historic West Bottoms district of Kansas City, Missouri. We are on a mission to create the ever more-perfect American whiskey. We constantly try different grains, distilling techniques, blending, and finishing to create new small-batch whiskeys. We hope to impress both the whiskey snob and novice and create a new generation of whiskey drinkers.
Tell us about yourself
I started experimenting with distilling about 12 years ago after an unsuccessful run as a home-brewer. Luckily, I had much better luck turning grain into whiskey than I did into beer. When I started sharing my whiskey with friends and family, I repeatedly heard the same comment: "I don't like whiskey, but I could totally drink this." For a non-whiskey drinker, there is no higher compliment, and it inspires me every day to try new things, excel at distilling, and attract new people to the whiskey community.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
We opened the distillery and cocktail parlor in January of 2021, which was obviously a difficult time for a lot of people - especially business owners. It probably wasn't as much of a challenge for a distillery, considering how long people had been stuck at home, but it was a challenge nonetheless. Thanks to our team of managing partners, a true partner in Veritas Selections as a distributor, and an incredible network of friends and family, we were able to make a big splash in the local market and grow faster than we could have dreamed. That growth led us to expand our distillery production space in less than a year, giving me the ability to work on new whiskeys faster.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Especially in a regulated industry like alcohol, usually, the hardest thing about being a business owner is keeping up with federal, state, and local laws and regulations. There are so many layers of reporting, taxing, and compliance that distilleries are subject to that it can take away from the creative process of creating new spirits. Luckily we have a strong finance and operations person on our managing partner team that has shouldered most of this responsibility, so I've been able to focus on the product.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
The first thing I'd recommend is making sure you know exactly who you are and what you're offering the market. We have learned that no amount of marketing or sales can beat authenticity, and it's why we, as partners, still take primary responsibility for running the parlor, hosting private events, and leading distillery tours.
Along the same lines, be authentic to who you are. I think the market is so full of marketing and advertising that consumers are learning instinctively to read past false hype and messaging. We have tried to stay very authentic to who we are as people, as a business, and what our product is. That means we might not be attractive to everyone, but it also means that the people we do attract aren't just customers - they're fans.
The third thing I'd say is to trust the people around you. No one person can be expected to run the entire business; you can't be an expert at your product while also being an expert content marketer, digital advertising, accountant, and auditor. Pick your partners wisely and trust them to get the job done.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
There has never been a better time to start a local/small business. Communities have a greater sense of the importance around supporting local entrepreneurs and businesses than I have ever seen before. They understand they have to pay a little extra but know they'll have an elevated product and experience. Lean into that, trust your passion and trust your product.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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