Distillery Business Plan Template
Written by Dave Lavinsky
Distillery Business Plan
Over the past 20+ years, we have helped over 1,000 entrepreneurs and business owners create business plans to start and grow their distilleries. On this page, we will first give you some background information with regards to the importance of business planning. We will then go through a distillery business plan step-by-step so you can create your plan today.
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What Is a Business Plan?
A business plan provides a snapshot of your distillery as it stands today, and lays out your growth plan for the next five years. It explains your business goals and your strategy for reaching them. It also includes market and industry research to support your plans.
Why You Need a Business Plan
If you’re looking to start a distillery, or grow your existing distillery, you need a business plan. It will help you raise funding, if needed, and plan out the growth of your distillery in order to improve your chances of success. Your plan is a living document that should be updated on a regular basis as your company grows and changes.
Sources of Funding for Distilleries
With regards to funding, the main sources of funding for a distillery are personal savings, credit cards, bank loans and angel investors. With regards to bank loans, banks will want to review your business plan and gain confidence that you will be able to repay your loan and interest. To acquire this confidence, the loan officer will not only want to confirm that your financials are reasonable, but they will also want to see a professional plan. Such a plan will give them the confidence that you can successfully and professionally operate a business.
Personal savings is the other most common form of funding for a distillery. Venture capitalists will usually not fund a distillery. They might consider funding a distillery with a national presence, but never an individual location. This is because most venture capitalists are looking for millions of dollars in return when they make an investment, and an individual location could never achieve such results. With that said, savings and bank loans are the most common funding paths for distilleries.
How to Write a Business Plan for a Distillery
If you want to start a distillery or expand your current operation, you need a business plan. Below we detail each of the key components to writing a great business plan:
This section provides an introduction to your business plan, but it is normally the last section you write because it provides a summary of each key section of your plan.
The goal is to quickly engage the reader. Explain to them the type of distillery you are operating and its financial position. For example, are you a startup, do you have a distillery that you would like to grow, or are you operating a chain of distilleries?
In your company analysis, you will detail the type of distillery you are operating.
For example, you might operate one of the following types of distilleries:
- Micro distillery : this type of distillery is a small operation that produces beverage grade spirit alcohol in small quantities
- Craft distillery: a craft distillery places the highest importance on transparency regarding their ingredients, distilling location and process, bottling location and process, and aging process
- Gin distillery: this type of distillery makes gin from juniper berries.
- Vodka distillery: this type of distillery creates vodka from fermented potatoes or cereal grains.
- Whiskey distillery: this type of distillery uses fermented grains to manufacture different forms of whiskey, such as bourbon, rye, blends, etc.
- Tequila distillery: this type of distillery uses the blue agave plant to manufacture this popular spirit
In addition to explaining the type of distillery you will operate, the Company Analysis section needs to provide background on the business.
Include answers to question such as:
- When and why did you start the business?
- What milestones have you achieved to date? Milestones could include the number of customers served, number of products sold, etc.
- Your legal structure. Are you incorporated as an S-Corp? An LLC? A sole proprietorship? Explain your legal structure here.
In your industry analysis, you need to provide an overview of the distillery industry.
While this may seem unnecessary, it serves multiple purposes.
First, researching the distillery industry educates you. It helps you understand the market in which you are operating.
Secondly, market research can improve your strategy, particularly if your research identifies market trends.
The third reason for market research is to prove to readers that you are an expert in your industry. By conducting the research and presenting it in your plan, you achieve just that.
The following questions should be answered in the industry analysis section:
- How big is the distillery industry (in dollars)?
- Is the market declining or increasing?
- Who are the key competitors in the market?
- Who are the key suppliers in the market?
- What trends are affecting the industry?
- What is the industry’s growth forecast over the next 5 – 10 years?
- What is the relevant market size? That is, how big is the potential market for your distillery business? You can extrapolate such a figure by assessing the size of the market in the entire country and then applying that figure to your local population.
The customer analysis section must detail the customers you serve and/or expect to serve.
The following are examples of customer segments: wholesale / retail, food-service establishments, and end consumers.
As you can imagine, the customer segment(s) you choose will have a great impact on the type of distillery you operate. Clearly, end consumers would respond to different marketing promotions than wholesalers, for example.
Try to break out your target market in terms of their demographic and psychographic profiles. With regards to demographics, include a discussion of the ages, genders, locations and income levels of the potential customers you seek to serve. Because most distilleries primarily serve customers living in their same city or town, such demographic information is easy to find on government websites.
Psychographic profiles explain the wants and needs of your target market. The more you can understand and define these needs, the better you will do in attracting and retaining your customers.
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Your competitive analysis should identify the indirect and direct competitors your business faces and then focus on the latter.
Direct competitors are other distillery businesses.
Indirect competitors are other options that customers have to purchase from that aren’t direct competitors. This includes beer and wine, as well as soft drinks. You need to mention such competition as well.
With regards to direct competition, you want to describe the other distillery businesses with which you compete. Most likely, your direct competitors will be house flippers located very close to your location.
For each such competitor, provide an overview of their businesses and document their strengths and weaknesses. Unless you once worked at your competitors’ businesses, it will be impossible to know everything about them. But you should be able to find out key things about them such as:
- What types of distilled spirits do they create?
- Do they use specific distillery techniques?
- Who are their target customers?
- What is their pricing (premium, low, etc.)?
- What are they good at?
- What are their weaknesses?
With regards to the last two questions, think about your answers from the customers’ perspective. And don’t be afraid to ask your competitors’ customers what they like most and least about them.
The final part of your competitive analysis section is to document your areas of competitive advantage. For example:
- Will you produce higher quality distilled spirits?
- Will you provide products that your competitors don’t offer?
- Will you provide better customer service?
- Will you offer better pricing?
Traditionally, a marketing plan includes the four P’s: Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. For a distillery, your marketing plan should include the following:
Product : In the product section, you should reiterate the type of distillery company that you documented in your Company Analysis. Then, detail the specific products you will be offering. For example, in addition to producing whiskey, will you produce gin, or ready-to-drink cocktails?
Price : Document the prices you will offer and how they compare to your competitors. Essentially in the product and price sub-sections of your marketing plan, you are presenting the services you offer and their prices.
Place : Place refers to the location of your distillery company. Document your location and mention how the location will impact your success. For example, is your distillery located in a busy retail district, near restaurants, near downtown, etc. Discuss how your location might be the ideal location for your customers.
Promotions : The final part of your distillery marketing plan is the promotions section. Here you will document how you will drive customers to your location(s). The following are some promotional methods you might consider:
- Advertising in local papers and magazines
- Reaching out to local websites
- Social media marketing
- Local radio advertising
While the earlier sections of your business plan explained your goals, your operations plan describes how you will meet them. Your operations plan should have two distinct sections as follows.
Everyday short-term processes include all of the tasks involved in running your distillery business, including sourcing inputs, creating mash, bottling, customer service, etc.
Long-term goals are the milestones you hope to achieve. These could include the dates when you expect to sell your 500th bottle, or when you hope to reach $X in revenue. It could also be when you expect to expand your distillery to a new city or product.
To demonstrate your distillery business’ ability to succeed, a strong management team is essential. Highlight your key players’ backgrounds, emphasizing those skills and experiences that prove their ability to grow a company.
Ideally you and/or your team members have direct experience in managing distillery businesses. If so, highlight this experience and expertise. But also highlight any experience that you think will help your business succeed.
If your team is lacking, consider assembling an advisory board. An advisory board would include 2 to 8 individuals who would act like mentors to your business. They would help answer questions and provide strategic guidance. If needed, look for advisory board members with experience in beverage production or successfully running small businesses.
Your financial plan should include your 5-year financial statement broken out both monthly or quarterly for the first year and then annually. Your financial statements include your income statement, balance sheet and cash flow statements.
Income Statement : an income statement is more commonly called a Profit and Loss statement or P&L. It shows your revenues and then subtracts your costs to show whether you turned a profit or not.
In developing your profit and loss statement, you need to devise assumptions. For example, will you produce 1,000 barrels per month or per quarter? And will sales grow by 2% or 10% per year? As you can imagine, your choice of assumptions will greatly impact the financial forecasts for your business. As much as possible, conduct research to try to root your assumptions in reality.
Balance Sheets : Balance sheets show your assets and liabilities. While balance sheets can include much detailed information, try to simplify them to the key items you need to know about. For instance, if you spend $50,000 on building out your distillery business, this will not give you immediate profits. Rather it is an asset that will hopefully help you generate profits for years to come. Likewise, if a bank writes you a check for $50,000, you don’t need to pay it back immediately. Rather, that is a liability you will pay back over time.
Cash Flow Statement : Your cash flow statement will help determine how much money you need to start or grow your business, and make sure you never run out of money. What most entrepreneurs and business owners don’t realize is that you can turn a profit but run out of money and go bankrupt.
In developing your Income Statement and Balance Sheets be sure to include several of the key costs needed in starting a distillery or growing an existing operation:
- Location build-out including design fees, construction, etc.
- Cost of equipment and supplies
- Payroll or salaries paid to staff
- Business insurance
- Taxes and permits
- Legal expenses
Attach your full financial projections in the appendix of your plan along with any supporting documents that make your plan more compelling. For example, you might include your facility location lease or architectural renderings of your still.
Putting together a business plan for your distillery is a worthwhile endeavor. If you follow the template above, by the time you are done, you will truly be an expert. You will really understand the distillery industry, your competition, and your customers. You will have developed a marketing plan and will really understand what it takes to launch and grow a successful distillery business.
Distillery Business Plan FAQs
What is the easiest way to complete my distillery business plan.
Growthink's Ultimate Business Plan Template allows you to quickly and easily complete your Distillery Business Plan.
What is the Goal of a Business Plan's Executive Summary?
The goal of your Executive Summary is to quickly engage the reader. Explain to them the type of distillery business you are operating and the status; for example, are you a startup, do you have a distillery business that you would like to grow, or are you operating a chain of distillery businesses?
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How to Create Your Distillery Business Plan
Written by George Rinderspacher , Financial Advisor, Raymond James .
Like many of you, I’m a Moonshine University alum and proud Stave & Thief Society Executive Bourbon Steward – meaning my thirst for knowledge runs deep.
As you’re probably aware, it takes more than “a love of the art” to run a successful distillery. But more often than not, as our passion drives us to continue to learn and develop our skill sets, our primary focus tends to fall on perfecting the craft; by consequence, we tend to neglect the equally important responsibility of refining the business. Luckily, there’s a solution for that.
One clear-cut way distillery owners and operators can stay on track with their business is by creating a strong business plan. As a financial advisor with Raymond James , it has been my experience that many craft distillers have never written a business plan, and may not know where to start. To make it a little easier for you, I’ve created this quick guide.
What’s a Business Plan?
Simply put, a business plan is a written description of your business’s future: what you plan to do and how you plan to do it. You might also think of it as a roadmap with benchmarks or metrics you set for yourself to meet as you begin scaling up.
As your distillery continues to develop as a business, the targets you outline in your plan should thoughtfully reflect your growth strategy, as well as projected abilities and resources. There are lots of different ways you will show this in your plan, but we’ll lightly touch upon those core elements a little later.
Why is Having a Business Plan Important?
Planning is the key to any viable business. Essentially, a business plan helps you more concretely envision the direction of your business and then take action to get there by reaching smaller, attainable goals.
It can be extremely rewarding to achieve or even exceed your plan’s forecasts but falling short of your projections is just as valuable: it provides a learning experience and motivator for the future. So while your business plan can be as barebones or specific as you like, creating a plan that’s as clear and concise as possible will be more beneficial to you.
It’s likely that you’ll also find it imperative to successfully launching and sustaining your business – and your distillery – because in addition to serving as a guide internally, your business plan will act as a first impression to potential investors and future partners.
Drafting Your Distillery Business Plan
Alright, now we’re ready to begin drafting. Writing a business plan can feel like a daunting task, but I find that breaking it down into five core elements can make it more manageable:
1. Presentation Deck
This component tells the story of your business, typically through an Executive Summary, Product Descriptions, and a section on the Total Addressable Market (TAM). A quick Google search can more concretely define what each of these terms mean, but generally, this part of the document serves the purpose of providing context and introducing your business to potential investors.
Usually, that means this section is also full of graphics, pictures, and branding meant to endear the reader and spark investor interest. A distillery business plan might include your brand story with pictures of the grains you plan to use, your property – tasting rooms, gift shops, production and storage facilities – and other visuals related to your anticipated Cost of Goods Sold (COGS).
2. Profit & Loss Statement
This is where we begin to delve into the numbers. Your profit and loss statement should show your projected revenues and expenses for the first five years of operation. For a distillery owner, cash flow will be determined by any type of profit you receive from your distillery – anything from the distilled spirt itself to tour tickets and merchandise. A distillery loss statement would include any costs associated with spoilage of your products, damage to your facilities, etc.
Typically, this involves establishing a sales projection, setting up a production schedule, calculating any additional expenses, and determining your expected profit. Using your sales projection as a starting point, you’d reference your production schedule to calculate the Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) for your products – in this case, that will likely be your distilled spirit. For services, like tours or guided tastings, then you’ll need to place a value on your service and then substitute that value for COGS. Other expenses that you subtract from sales might include general and administrative expenses, taxes, dividends, and/or interest expenses.
Whatever this might look like for your distillery, your profit and loss statement is how investors will determine if you have a viable business.
3. Cash Flow Statement
This statement will disclose the inflows and outflows of cash for the purposes of determining the capital required for your distillery business. Again, this is going to be closely tied to the previous statement, in that it outlines any profits and losses of your distillery.
Think of it this way: cash is coming in from customers buying products and services at your distillery – including the distilled spirit itself and any merchandise, tastings or tour tickets, etc. At the same time, cash will be flowing out of your business through payments for expenses like raw materials for products, as well as administrative and logistics costs, like rent/mortgage, monthly loan payments, and taxes.
Your cash flow statement allows you and your investors to quickly look at the cash flow from different business operations-related activities, including increases or decreases in other areas of the business balance sheet.
4. Balance Sheet
A balance sheet is a statement of the financial position of your business. It should list your assets and liabilities, and illustrate the net worth of your operation. Generally, it will serve as a summary of your previous line items, including your profits/loss and cash flow statements, but with a focus on balancing your distillery’s assets with liabilities.
Simply put, assets can be classified as liquid or non-liquid, depending on whether they can be converted into cash relatively fast. For example, your distillery property, facilities, and equipment would be considered non-liquid since they cannot be quickly converted into cash. Meanwhile, liabilities are defined as any funds owed by the business, including wages, supplier invoices, debt, etc.
If this is your first-time running a business, it might be a good idea to hire an accountant or financial advisor to assist you with drafting your initial balance sheet. This can prevent you from running into any potential problems.
5. Sales Forecast
This section should outline the annual and monthly sales projected for your first five years of operation. In other words, you’re forecasting out the quantity of products and services from your distillery that you believe you can realistically sell over a period of time with consideration to your Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) and projected profits.
It helps to start by listing your products and services and estimating your sales quantities. Next, you should multiply your unit price by the estimated number of products/services you’re planning to sell, then determine the cost of each. Finally, you can multiply the cost of each product/service by the estimated amount you plan to sell, and subtract the total cost from your total sales.
While this may sound like an easy equation, economics can complicate things. You should consider the challenges of the distilled spirits industry: know who your competitors are, think about how regulatory changes can impact your business, and reflect on how you plan to market your brand. All these factors and more can have an impact on your sales forecast.
Overall, it might be a good idea to speak with someone with a comparable distillery operation and see what benchmarks from their business that you might be able to apply to yours.
There are additional metrics and analyses that will help support your projections by addressing specific areas of interest to investors. These will typically consist of numbers and graphs that address a variety of areas – Capital Investment/Pay-back Schedule, Fundraising, Gross & Net Margin Projections, Variance Analysis, Revenue Ramp, and more.
You can really get lost in the weeds, and while Google is helpful for deconstructing some of the terminology, it may be a worthwhile investment to go into your first business plan with the guidance and expertise of an accountant or financial advisor.
Before You Go… Don’t Forget to be Realistic!
It is important to know that adhering to a realistic and well written plan is one of your best chances for success. It’s also key to recognize that passion, expertise, and a great product don’t guarantee retail success.
It may sound like a cliché, but the phrase, “Numbers don’t lie,” is relevant here: you should understand that your business plan is all about making educated numerical projections and working toward meeting and exceeding those projections. Many a talented distiller have failed to execute their business plan without seeing the success they dreamed of – you don’t have to be one of them.
You can have the best of both worlds – crafting a delicious spirit and managing a business. But understand that on the business side, you need to be prepared with a well-written, realistic plan; and then appropriately and effectively execute that plan in order to be successful.
There are free online services that can steer you through the basics of constructing a Business Plan. The Balance Small Business , US Small Business Administration , and Entrepreneur each provide excellent guides for this endeavor, while PlanBuildr offers an easy-to-use template. And if you’re still feeling overwhelmed, you can contact George Rinderspacher , Financial Advisor, to learn more about how Raymond James can help.
Written by George Rinderspacher , Financial Advisor, Raymond James . **Any opinions expressed herein are those of George Rinderspacher and not necessarily those of Raymond James.
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How To Start A Craft Distillery
When starting a craft distillery, it is important to plan out as much as possible in the beginning. Distilling usually requires a large investment upfront, and it can sometimes be difficult to even know where to begin.
By thinking through some key questions and points, however, you can be well on your way to building a business development plan that lays everything out. Here are several areas you may want to consider as you lay the foundation for opening your own craft distillery.
STEPS TO START A DISTILLERY
As with any business, you will need to begin with a detailed plan to help you evaluate the benefits, risks and requirements needed to start your distillery.
You will want to think through the following areas when developing your plan.
A. Business Objectives and Budget
The first part of your plan is to determine your capital and assets and compare them with your projected costs. This will help you develop a realistic timeframe for when you can start and how long it will be before you make a profit.
Start with the basics and answer some of these questions:
- What's the state of the market now and how can you be successful?
- What's your financial plan and break-even analysis?
- How much capital do you need to start your own craft distillery?
- What will your prices look like? Your costs?
- Why are you starting your distillery?
- What's your mission, vision and goals?
- What's your executive summary?
- What are your strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats (SWOT analysis)?
- Will you outsource the spirits or will you distill yourself?
- What type of physical location will you need?
B. Target Market
As part of your distillery business plan, you'll also want to identify your target market and product viability. This will help you define your brand and evaluate your financial potential before making a huge investment.
Some market questions to consider might be:
- Who is your target audience?
- What is the size of the overall market?
- Who are your main competitors and what's behind their success?
C. Startup Steps
Become familiar with the formal processes of starting a business. This will help ensure your business is a real entity and that you have a smooth a start.
Some startup questions to consider include:
- What type of business will it be (LLC, S-Corp, etc.)?
- Check the USPTO trademark office
- See if the domain url is available
- If you have a name, have you registered it with your state agency?
- Do you have a federal tax ID number and possibly a state tax ID number?
You will want to open a new business bank account for your distillery. This will not only help if you're audited, but it will also show customers and suppliers that you're a professional business.
You'll also want to research an accounting plan that works for you. You might start off with free resources, but you will likely upgrade as you grow and your finances become more complicated.
You might also consider hiring an accountant early on to help you track expenses and evaluate whether you're doing everything as efficiently as possible.
E. Permits and Insurance
You'll want to be aware of any needed permits and licenses. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau site is a great resource to find a lot of what you need. Not having the proper paperwork could result in fines or even being shut down.
You'll also want to be aware of the types of insurances that are available for distilleries.
Branding and marketing are the way a consumer initially engages with your company and product. Do it well and your growth can be explosive. Do it poorly and your spirit will fall into obscurity.
Some branding questions to consider might be:
- What is your brand's story?
- What do individuals within your target market value? How can you resonate with your potential customers?
- What makes your brand different from everyone else? What makes you unique?
- What's your key message? What might a tagline look like?
- What's the tone, voice and personality of your brand?
At this point, you've thought through the business and can start considering elements like logo and bottle design.
Some design questions to consider might be:
- What do you want your logo to look like? How does it convey your brand?
- What kind of bottle conveys your brand and your story?
- Could you use an existing bottle design to save money?
- What does your label and packaging look like?
- If you want to have a store front, what will that look like?
You can have the best product in the world, but if no one knows, it will never be successful. Marketing will help you get the word out and build interest in your product.
Some marketing questions to consider might be:
- What is your marketing strategy?
- Where is your audience and how can you get in front of them? What is their preferred social media platform?
- What tools are available for you to spread your message and brand (either free or paid)?
- What's your marketing budget?
- What will your website look like? How will you drive your audience to your website so they can learn more about you?
- What "keywords" are people searching to find you?
- Where will you build and host your website? Will you do it yourself or hire someone?
QUICKEST WAY TO MARKET
There are essential elements that you will need successfully launch a legally operated still, but a lot depends on the products and processes that you want in your distillery.
The quickest way get started is to forgo distilling yourself altogether and have it made by a third party instead. Some distillers just own the brand and others make every drop of alcohol.
An optional third step is to apply to become a Distillery Retail Outlet Agent. This is required if you want to sell your products by the bottle to consumers at your distillery or licensed tasting room.
For Oregon distillers, here is a downloadable PDF from the Oregon Liquor Control Commissions that breaks down the steps for manufacturing and wholesaling distilled liquor in Oregon. Other states have similar agencies and resources specific to your area.
UPSIDE OF GIN
One possible exception to the long startup time is gin. Neutral alcohol is easy to come by, and, as a new distiller, you can dial in any flavor you want. Gin, by definition, must contain juniper, but there is plenty of flexibility beyond that.
Also, you don't have to hold huge inventories when making gin. In theory, you can make gin in the morning and drink it in the afternoon, meaning you could get a product to market relatively quickly.
CRAFT A STAPLE PRODUCT
No matter what you want to produce, make a staple product that is going to satisfy your target audience and your cash flow requirements. Once that's established, you can experiment and make the products that you perhaps really want to make and build your business in a sustainable way.
STATE DISTILLERS GUILD
Your state distillers guild will be a great resource for networking and learning more about what other people are doing to be successful.
The American Crafts Spirits Association (ACSA) has a helpful page that lists all of the distillery guilds for each state .
Note: The information provided in this blog post is purely for personal use and is not meant to replace the professional business and legal advice you will need to start a distillery.
If you would like personalized one-on-one coaching and instruction on how to open your own distillery and avoid common mistakes, you can read more about Oregon State University's Distillery Startup Workshop.
In the expert-led five-day workshop, you will:
- Learn essential information on relevant practical aspects of making a new spirit and finishing the product.
- Interact with practical demonstrations of distillation.
- Address the challenge of adjusting alcohol content to legal requirements.
If you'd like to dive deep into the business side of starting and running a distillery, you can learn more about our new Foundations of Distilled Spirits Business and Essential Training course.
Whether you want to start a distilling business with gin, whiskey/whisky, and anything else, this two-day workshop will help you avoid costly mistakes and shorten the time from idea to execution.
Related Distillery Posts You Might Be Interested In
- How To Start a Craft Distillery.
- How Much Capital Do You Need to Start a Craft Distillery?
- Why Target Market Research Is So Important for a New Craft Distillery.
- What Are the Legal Requirements For Starting a Distillery?
- 6 Common Distilling Myths and the Facts Behind Them
- What's the Difference Between Whiskey and Bourbon and Bourbon and Scotch?
- Fast Aging Vs Slow Aging Spirits
- Why Breweries Might Want to Add Distilled Spirits .
About Paul Hughes, OSU Fermentation Science Instructor
He has co-authored two textbooks (one on beer, one on whisky), more than 60 peer-reviewed and conference papers and has been granted four patents.
Paul teaches the five-day Distillery Startup Workshop where attendees can l earn practical tools and techniques to successfully begin and maintain their own craft distillery.
If your publication would like to feature an Oregon State University PACE program, student or instructor, please contact Greg Aronoff .
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We'd love to hear about it. Help us highlight the work of PACE students and Oregon State faculty and staff. Send an email with story suggestions or any questions.
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Distillery Business Plan Template
Do you want to start distillery business?
Are you planning to open a distillery ? Well, the total alcoholic beverage sales in the United States amounted to more than $200 billion in 2016, out of which one third was contributed by the sales of distilled beverages or liquors. Moreover, the average per capita consumption of spirits in the United States amounts to around 1.6 gallons, as of 2015. It is evident from these facts that distilled beverages industry has undoubtedly a lot of potential and such business, even on a smaller scale, can prove to be extremely profitable provided that you plan it efficiently. Although this business will give you an extremely high return on investment yet its startup is associated with a couple of problems. You may either face difficulty in acquiring a license from your state or its planning at the initial stage. Both of these problems can be addressed only after developing a comprehensive business plan for your business. This business has got more constraints as compared to all other businesses, that is why you will need a well-structured business plan before starting this business or applying for its license from the state. To help you avoid all the trouble of making a plan yourself, we are providing a business plan for a distilled beverages startup ‘DisTills’ which is soon going to be launched.
2.1 the business.
Distills will be a licensed and insured distilled beverages manufacturer , located in the main commercial district of the Manhattan borough of the New York City. The company will be set up in an existing facility, previously used as a distillery, in the main industrial zone of the New York City. The company will also open a retail store in Manhattan.
DisTills will be solely owned and operated by Hank Michael who has been associated with the liquor industry for more than 30 years. He has served in many leading liquor industries of the world and had been associated with ‘DIAGEO’ as the regional manager of the New York City for the last 7 years. Being an experienced person in this industry, Michael knows everything about how to open a distillery and has the right resources to start a distillery .
Initially, our target market will the residential community and the corporate sector residing in the Manhattan borough of the New York City. The community consists of financially established people. We will provide high-quality and natural distilled beverages to our customers such as whisky, vodka, gin, brandy, rum, tequila, and mezcal. All of our products and spirits will be manufactured by natural fermentation of grains, vegetables, and fruits, followed by careful distillation.
2.4 Target of the Company
Our primary target is to become the best spirits manufacturer in the New York City within next 5 years of our launch and to recover the initial investment within next 2 years of launch. Our secondary target is to achieve the net profit margin of $10k per month by the end of the first year, $15k per month by the end of the second year, and $25k per month by the end of the third year. The company’s three-year performance, as forecasted by the experts, is given in the chart below:
3.1 company owner.
DisTills will be solely owned and operated by Hank Michael who has been associated with the liquor industry for more than 30 years. He has served in many leading liquor industries of the world and had been associated with ‘DIAGEO’ as the regional manager of the New York City for the last 7 years.
3.2 Why the Business is being started
Throughout his career, Michael did not feel happy about the currently used distillation processes of preparing liquor or distilled beverages. Current distillation methods result in the loss of the natural characteristics of the alcohols which are being distilled. He had always thought to bring back the traditional method of preparing liquor using as little machinery as possible, so as to produce healthy and natural liquor. That’s why he started this venture.
3.3 How the Business will be started
If you want to start your own distillery then we would recommend you to buy an existing distillation plant rather than installing a new plant by yourself. Procuring new distillation machines is the biggest expense while installing a new distillery so it will be better for you to acquire an existing distillery and use the surplus amount for covering other costs or expenses. Considering the reason mentioned above, the company will procure a small distillery, named ‘GluCyn Distillery,’ which stopped operating three years ago and is located in the main industrial zone of the New York City. The company will also open a retail store in the main commercial district of the Manhattan borough of the New York City. Michael has forecasted following costs for expenses, assets, investment group for business plan , and loans for the Start-up.
The detailed start-up requirements, start-up funding, start-up expenses, total assets, total funding required, total liabilities, total planned investment, total capital and liabilities as forecasted by company’s analysts, is given below:
Services for customers
Before opening a distillery you must be clear about your products. It is an extremely important stage because all subsequent things depend on the types of products or services you will provide to your customers. That’s why it is advisable to work on it before you move on to start a distillery business . DisTills will be a high-end spirit manufacturer which will involve itself in the commercial production of high-quality and natural distilled beverages. All of our products and spirits will be manufactured by natural fermentation of grains, vegetables, and fruits, followed by careful distillation. Initially, we will produce the following primary products:
- Brandy – Our caramel colored brandies, 60% alcohol by volume and aged in wooden casks, will be produced by following high-quality measures of distillation of wine. We will produce Cognac as well as Armagnac brandy, both of which will be made special by our natural touch.
- Vodka – We will produce various brands of vodka, all of which will be 40% alcohol by volume. Our vodka will be distilled from any sugar- or starch-rich plant matter and grains such as rye sorghum, corn, or wheat. We will also manufacture vodka from rice, sugar beets, potatoes, grapes, molasses, and soybeans.
- Gin – We will commercially produce pot distilled gin, 70% alcohol by volume, by fermenting grain mash (malt wine) from barley or other grains, then redistilling it with flavoring botanicals to extract the aromatic compounds.
- Rum – Our high-quality rum will be prepared by naturally fermenting and distilling sugarcane byproducts (molasses) or honey, or directly from sugarcane juice, followed by aging the distillate in oak barrels. We will produce light as well as dark rums.
- Whisky – Our whisky will be naturally fermented from grain mesh (malted) including corn, barley, wheat, and rye, followed by aging in charred white oak wooden casks. We will produce various types of whiskies such as American, English, Finnish, German, Scotch, Canadian, and Welsh.
- Tequila & Mezcal – Tequila will be manufactured from the blue agave plant, found primarily in the area surrounding the city of Tequila; while Mezcal will be made from any type of agave plant native to Mexico. Both of the products will be manufactured by natural processes while ensuring highest-quality.
Customers (residing in Manhattan only) can also make an online order for any of our beverages and get it delivered to his/her doorstep totally free of charge.
Marketing Analysis of distillery business
The most important component of an effective distillery business plan is its accurate marketing analysis that’s why Michael acquired the services of marketing experts to help him through this phase. It is only after this stage that a good business plan, distillery company’s business plan could have been developed. After analyzing the cost to start a distillery and identifying the trends of this business in the New York City, the marketing experts and analysts also helped him to select the best site for starting a distillery . The success or failure of a business totally depends upon its marketing strategy which can only be developed on the basis of accurate marketing analysis. There are four main steps to carry out an accurate marketing analysis which are to identify the current market trends, identify your target audience and potential customers, set out the business targets to achieve, and finally set the prices of your products and services. Marketing analysis is extremely important because the planning of many subsequent components depends on it. Therefore, it must be considered before developing the craft distillery business plan . It must be carried out even if you are working on a smaller scale and developing a small distillery business plan .
5.1 Market Trends
Over the years, one of the most recent trends which have been recorded repeatedly is that large-scale distillers now prefer to create their own micro-distillery within their current operation for taking their business closer to locals in the target communities and for boosting their sales. Secondly, most distilleries keep trying out different flavors and distillery techniques which is the main reason behind the dynamicity of this industry. Lastly, distillers have now started to produce expensive distilled beverages for their high-end clients while also producing normal beverages for ordinary people, as a result of which the sales pattern of this industry is constantly increasing. In the United States, the total sales from alcoholic beverages amounted to more than $200 billion in 2016, out of which nearly one third were contributed by distilled beverages or spirits. The total sales volume of distilled spirits amounted to more than 215 million 9-liter cases in 2015. Thereof, 169.8 million 9-liter cases were made in the off-premise sector and about 46.2 million 9-liter cases were generated on-premise. Within the sales of distilled beverages, vodka took the greatest share of volume sales, followed by whisky and rum, respectively. After identifying these market trends, it is clearly evident that this industry has a lot of potential and can be immensely profitable provided that you plan your business successfully.
5.2 Marketing Segmentation
Initially, our target market will the residential community and the corporate sector residing in the Manhattan borough of the New York City. The community consists of all types of people from varying backgrounds. As per the financial position, nearly half of the community has a monthly income ranging from $40k to $50k while nearly 10% people have incomes even around $100,000. There are currently more than 738,000 households in Manhattan out of which 17.1% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 25.2% are married couples living together and 12.6% have a female householder with no husband present. 59.1% are non-families, out of which 48.0% of all households are made up of individuals and 10.9% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. Our marketing experts have identified the following type of target audience which can become the potential customers of our products.
The detailed marketing segmentation comprising of the company’s target audience is as follows:
5.1.1 Individual Buyers:
DisTills will open a small retail location in its initial phase, in the first year of its startup. The retail store will be located in the main commercial district of Manhattan. Through this retail location, we hope to target the individual buyers residing in the nearby areas. Nearly all of the community is financially established and can easily spend their money for buying our distilled beverages on a regular basis throughout the year.
5.1.2 Departmental Stores:
We will also supply our beverages to various other departmental stores and malls. These departmental stores will make up the bulk of company’s customers and more than half of our products will be sold to them. These stores will be needing our products on a regular basis throughout the year.
5.1.3 Restaurants and Hotels:
DisTills will also supply its products to various restaurants and hotels on a regular basis throughout the year. These restaurants will become our biggest consumer after the departmental stores.
5.1.4 Companies and Businesses:
Manhattan houses hundreds of thousands of businesses, including local, national and multinational businesses. These companies and businesses need distilled beverages for their company’s events, gatherings, and parties.
5.1.5 Clubs & Bars:
We will also supply our products to thousands of clubs and bars scattered throughout Manhattan. The detailed market analysis of our potential customers is given in the following table:
5.2 Business Target
We aim to become the best distilled beverages manufacture in the New York City within next five years of our startup. Our main business targets to be achieved as milestones over the course of next three years are as follows:
- To achieve the net profit margin of $10k per month by the end of the first year, $15k per month by the end of the second year, and $25k per month by the end of the third year
- To balance the initial cost of the startup with earned profits by the end of the first year
- To open up a second retail store by the end of three years in San Francisco, and a third store by the end of five years in Los Angeles
5.3 Product Pricing
Product and service pricing is one of the most important factors in deciding the strategy plan for any business . After considering the market demands, we have priced all our products in the similar ranges as of our competitors except for vodka whose price has been set 20% less so as to encourage sales. The reason behind our pricing policy is to achieve the minimum attractive rate of return which would not be possible in case of offering our services at lower or higher prices.
After marketing analysis, sales strategy is the second most important component of the business plan so make sure to pay attention to it before making your own distillery business plan. Once you have identified the market trends, the market demand, and the potential customers of the startup, you must move on to developing an ingenious strategy for attracting your target customers toward yourself. Considering its importance, you must develop your sales strategy before you think about how to start a distillery .
6.1 Competitive Analysis
DisTills will have various competitors ranging from small distillers to multinational spirits manufacturers. Our competitors may have established businesses and low product prices but no one will surpass us when it comes to the quality of products. Our main competitive edge will be the ‘naturality’ of our products which is somewhat lacked by many liquor manufacturers. Secondly, we will provide a top-notch customer service where our every employee and salesperson will treat our customers with utmost respect so as to build a long-lasting relationship with them.
6.2 Sales Strategy
After carrying out a detailed analysis, our experts came up with the following brilliant ideas to advertise and sell ourselves.
- We will ensure at least a 20% increase in website traffic each month and will ensure at least an 80% conversion rate, i.e. to turn 80% of our website visitors into our customers.
- We will get featured in the local news or on a certain website by a popular blogger to increase our brand awareness in people.
- We will advertise ourselves in magazines, newspapers, TV stations, and social media.
- We will also offer discounts and gifts on our beverages present in several retail stores.
6.3 Sales Monthly
6.4 Sales Yearly
6.5 Sales Forecast
We believe that if people try our products, they will then use them for the rest of their lives thus the sales pattern will always increase with years. Our customers will be needing our products throughout the year. By analyzing our market segmentation strategy, our experts have forecasted the following sales on a yearly basis which are summarized in the column charts.
The detailed information about sales forecast, total unit sales, total sales is given in the following table:
The success of a company heavily depends on its staff, the number, and type of which should be determined in the initial stages. That’s why a detailed personnel plan is needed before you think about how to start your own distillery . The personnel plan of DisTills is as follows:
7.1 Company Staff
Michael will act as the Chief Executive Officer of the company. The company will initially hire following people:
- 1 General Manager to manage the overall operations of the distillery
- 2 Administrators / Accountants to maintain financial records
- 2 Engineers responsible for operating and maintaining distillery
- 4 Sales and Marketing Executives responsible for creating brand image and discovering new ventures
- 20 Field Employees for operating distillery
- 4 Drivers to transport products to various retail locations, hotels, and restaurants
- 1 Store Manager to manage, operate and maintain the retail store
To ensure the best quality service, all employees will be selected through vigorous testing and will be trained for a month before starting their jobs.
7.2 Average Salary of Employees
The following table shows the forecasted data about employees and their salaries for next three years.
Michael has developed the following financial plan with the help of financial experts, which outlines the financial development of DisTills over the next three years. The finance experts also helped him to figure out how much does it cost to start a distillery . Michael will solely finance the company and no equity funding or outside loan will be required unless the company expands faster than forecasted.
8.1 Important Assumptions
The company’s financial projections are forecasted on the basis of following assumptions. These assumptions are quite conservative and are also expected to show deviation but to a limited level such that the company’s major financial strategy will not be affected.
8.2 Brake-even Analysis
The following graph shows the company’s Brake-even Analysis.
The following table shows the company’s Brake-even Analysis.
8.3 Projected Profit and Loss
The following charts show the company’s expected Profit and Loss situation on the monthly and yearly basis.
8.3.1 Profit Monthly
8.3.2 Profit Yearly
8.3.3 Gross Margin Monthly
8.3.4 Gross Margin Yearly
8.4 Projected Cash Flow
The following column diagram shows the projected cash flow.
The following table shows detailed data about pro forma cash flow, subtotal cash from operations, subtotal cash received, sub-total spent on operations, subtotal cash spent.
8.5 Projected Balance Sheet
The following projected balance sheet shows data about total current assets, total long-term assets, total assets, subtotal current liabilities, total liabilities, total capital, total liabilities and capital.
8.6 Business Ratios
The following table shows data about business ratios, ratio analysis, total assets, net worth.
Download Distillery Business Plan Sample in pdf
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8 Steps to Create an Awesome Business Plan for Your Distillery
06/21/2021 • Shawn Patrick
So, you are looking to open your own craft distillery and need a business plan. The business plan is of the utmost importance in the process of beginning any business; this goes double for opening a craft distillery.
The reason for having a stable business plan is that there are additional challenges that distillers face that are not present in other industries. It’s a unique market and one that investors will be intrigued by with the right story. That’s basically your business plan - the story of how your business will go from 0 to Awesome. Even if you’re not planning on searching for investors, working through the steps of the business plan development will help you identify your brand, mission, goals, and all of the tangible assets you’ll need to get started.
Let’s dive into the top eight pieces of a killer distillery business plan.
1. Define Your Mission
Every business plan starts with a section called the "Mission Statement" or "Executive Summary." This section explains your creed and sums up the essence of your business. The Mission Statement is often written last, although it comes first in the plan.
Writing out a mission statement forces you to take a strategic look at your brand concept, your products, and your ideas and align them into one sentence that sums it all up. It’s the hook for both your investors and your consumers and should emphasize what differentiates your brand from the guy down the street. Because your mission statement is a summation of your brand-building experience, it’s typically written last - after you’ve narrowed down what you’re all about.
2. Highlight Your Goals and Vision
The "Objectives" section should encompass the goals and visions of your company's brand. Here, you’ll also focus on your company’s crafting philosophy.
These objectives are the results that you’re looking for from your business venture. Things like profit, productivity, employee retention, customer service, and growth, are some of the most common objectives in a business plan.
Having this comprehensive list laid out will give your investors a clear picture of their return and help you develop your brand identity now and as your business grows. It can become your tick-board as you reach each goal and need to write out new ones. What a great feeling that would be!
3. Know Your Demographic
Who is your distillery designed to serve? This is a vital question to answer in your plan. This helps with the "Need Statement" and identifies your target consumer base. There are a few questions to answer to determine who your demographic is. What age group, gender, income class, etc., does your ideal customer fit in?
When you’re formulating this concept, think about the feelings you want to equate with your brand. Do you want your tasting room to have a young crowd passionate about climate change gabbing at hightops or are you looking for well-versed bourbon aficionados to unwind with a dram? Identifying the mood you want to create will inform who your audience is and what you should serve.
4. Know Your Market
How does your brand match up to other distilleries in your area or region? What are your competitor’s strengths and weaknesses? How can your brand fill a gap that your local or regional competitors have missed?
Make sure you do some market research in the area you’re planning on opening in. Grab some stats on your demographic in the area, how many distilleries are already in your region, and how much of that market share is up for grabs.
5. Know the Regulations
The legalities involved in the craft distillery industry range from federal to local. Making sure the licensing and permit requirements are met is a vital aspect of starting a new distillery. Include the federal , state, and local requirements in your business plan to highlight the all-important factors that the authorities have set in place.
Having this information readily available will show your investors that you’ve done the research, you know what’s needed, and all of the associated costs are presented on the front end. It’s a good idea to hire a consultant to help you navigate your local building codes & permits. They can also help with your TTB paperwork and any other regulatory requirements.
6. How to Reach Your Market
How will you reach the marketplace? Where will you find your demographic? Your marketing plan is one of the essential parts of the business plan. You must clearly identify the nuances of your marketing strategy.
Not only that, but here you can identify your plan for taking your product to market. How will you market to distributors to get your product in bars and restaurants? Or will your distillery be a destination itself to drive sales with tours and a large tasting room? Once you identify your primary means of distribution, walk through what marketing strategies you see working.
7. Define Your Sales Process
This goes hand-in-hand with your marketing strategy. How will your team generate sales? How will you create an environment that is indicative of converting visitors into customers? Your sales culture is crucial to the success of your distillery.
Don’t forget that this piece isn’t just about figures and numbers, it’s also about the culture you’re cultivating within your staff. Will you have servers pushing cocktails on a patio or just a bartender? What sales team will you need to work with distributors and how will that relationship work?
8. Know Your Budget
The final part of your business plan is your Financial Summary or Budget Plan. Carefully itemize everything it will take to open your distillery for business and the cost associated with each item. The objective here is to calculate how much your entire project will cost to open for business.
Include your marketing costs, production and equipment costs including materials and software , building costs for both initial and recurring items like rent and utilities, and staffing costs.
As a distillery owner, your passion for your craft comes first. As a business owner, you must make sure you have all of your ducks in a row. These tips will help you formulate a winning business plan that will provide a clear roadmap for running your distillery operation and an impressive plan for any potential investors.
Written by Shawn Patrick
Tags: Craft Distilleries , distillery operations , Craft Beverage Startup
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Distillery Business Plan Template [Updated 2023]
Distillery business plan template.
If you want to start a Distillery or expand your current Distillery, you need a business plan.
The following Distillery business plan template gives you the key elements to include in a winning Distillery business plan.
You can download our business plan template (including a full, customizable financial model) to your computer here.
Below are links to each of the key sections of your Distillery business plan:
Distillery Business Plan Home I. Executive Summary II. Company Overview III. Industry Analysis IV. Customer Analysis V. Competitive Analysis VI. Marketing Plan VII. Operations Plan VIII. Management Team IX. Financial Plan
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How to Start a Distillery
Most people in this business sell the liquor created from their distillery through various vendors. Additionally, some people sell their liquor directly to customers via an attached store or restaurant. Certain distilleries also offer features such as tours or tastings in order to build community engagement and brand awareness.
Ready to form your LLC? Check out the Top LLC Formation Services .
Learn how to start your own Distillery and whether it is the right fit for you.
Start a distillery by following these 10 steps:
- Plan your Distillery
- Form your Distillery into a Legal Entity
- Register your Distillery for Taxes
- Open a Business Bank Account & Credit Card
- Set up Accounting for your Distillery
- Get the Necessary Permits & Licenses for your Distillery
- Get Distillery Insurance
- Define your Distillery Brand
- Create your Distillery Website
- Set up your Business Phone System
There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple guide to starting your distillery. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
Exploring your options? Check out other small business ideas .
STEP 1: Plan your business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
How much can you charge customers?
What will you name your business.
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What are the costs involved in opening a distillery?
The exact cost of opening a distillery depends on the size of the distillery and where it will be located. It is possible to start a small distillery for around $30,000. This includes spending about $5,000 on the initial lease and relevant licensing and $5,000 on equipment such as stills and fermenters and mash tuns. Larger expenditures include $9,000 or so for insurance and about $6,000 to obtain a vehicle large enough to help with transporting supplies and helping with distribution (if possible in your state). Finally, you should budget $4,000 o $5,000 to help pay a small team of employees.
What are the ongoing expenses for a distillery?
Your ongoing expenses will vary due to factors like area, number of employees, amount of monthly production, and so on. Using the figures from earlier, you may be paying $2,500 a month for your lease, $4,000 a month for your worker's salaries. You will also be paying for more supplies each month and gasoline for transporting those supplies, but these amounts may vary from month to month.
Who is the target market?
Because of the three-tier system (which will be explained later), your most direct customers are actually the liquor distributors who will then distribute to retailers. Your best distributor is usually a small- or mid-range distributor because they are likely to specialize in (or simply take a chance on) liquor created by a smaller distillery.
How does a distillery make money?
On the most basic level, a distillery makes money from the sale of liquors the distiller has created. This process is a little abstract in most states, though, as they follow a three-tier system. In this system, the distiller is the producer who sells their products to distributors who then sell to retailers.
As mentioned before, you are most likely selling to distributors who, in turn, will sell to retailers. Prices can vary based on what spirits you are selling and what the size of the bottle is. A general rule of thumb is that you will receive 40-50% of the eventual retail price of something, so if your spirit is eventually sold for $40, you are likely to get $18-$20.
How much profit can a distillery make?
There is great potential for profit. As an industry, small (“craft”) distilleries have now become a $450 million market, and the amount of craft distilleries has increased by 300% from 2011 to 2014. It is a growing industry with a good profit margin built into every bottle, though your overall amount of profit obviously depends on how many bottles you sell.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Never stop promoting your business, as the retailers and distributors will not do much (if any) marketing for you. Make sure you have SEO-enhanced online marketing of your spirits, and try to fill your social media with genuinely funny, engaging, and/or moving content. Don't forget to pound the pavement and try to physically talk to various distributors and retailers as well in order to build a relationship and advertise your product. Finally, never forget that this is a long game: it may take a while to build a reputation and grow your profits in a crowded market, but a truly unique product and marketing campaign can set you apart and firmly establish your brand.
Choosing the right name is important and challenging. If you don’t already have a name in mind, visit our How to Name a Business guide or get help brainstorming a name with our Distillery Name Generator
If you operate a sole proprietorship , you might want to operate under a business name other than your own name. Visit our DBA guide to learn more.
When registering a business name , we recommend researching your business name by checking:
- Your state's business records
- Federal and state trademark records
- Social media platforms
- Web domain availability .
It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.
Find a Domain Now
Powered by godaddy.com, step 2: form a legal entity.
The most common business structure types are the sole proprietorship , partnership , limited liability company (LLC) , and corporation .
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your distillery is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
Have a Professional Service Form your LLC for You
Two such reliable services:
You can form an LLC yourself and pay only the minimal state LLC costs or hire one of the Best LLC Services for a small, additional fee.
Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services . You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.
Learn how to get an EIN in our What is an EIN guide or find your existing EIN using our EIN lookup guide.
Small Business Taxes
Depending on which business structure you choose, you might have different options for how your business will be taxed. For example, some LLCs could benefit from being taxed as an S corporation (S corp).
You can learn more about small business taxes in these guides:
- Sole Proprietorship vs LLC
- LLC vs Corporation
- LLC vs S Corp
- How to Start an S Corp
- S Corp vs C Corp
There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil .
Additionally, learning how to build business credit can help you get credit cards and other financing in your business's name (instead of yours), better interest rates, higher lines of credit, and more.
Open a business bank account
Besides being a requirement when applying for business loans, opening a business bank account:
- Separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- Makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank or credit union.
Open net 30 accounts
Net 30 accounts are used to establish and build business credit as well as increase business cash flow. With a net 30 account, businesses buy goods and repay the full balance within a 30-day term.
NetMany net 30 credit vendors report to the major business credit bureaus (Dun & Bradstreet, Experian Business, and Equifax Business Credit). This is how businesses build business credit so they can qualify for credit cards and other lines of credit.
Recommended : Read our best net 30 vendors , guide and start building business credit.
Get a business credit card
Getting a business credit card helps you:
- Separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- Build your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money later on.
Recommended: Apply for an easy approval business credit card from Divvy and build your business credit quickly.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
Make LLC accounting easy with our LLC Expenses Cheat Sheet.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate an alcohol distillery. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits .
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses .
For more information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources .
Certificate of Occupancy
An alcohol distillery is generally run out of a large indoor space. Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.
- If you plan to lease a location :
- It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to an alcohol distillery.
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
- If you plan to purchase or build a location :
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your alcohol distillery will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
Businesses involved in the sale of alcoholic beverages are required to obtain a liquor license from the appropriate state or local agency. A comprehensive list of laws by state (including necessary licenses, zoning laws, etc), curated by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, is included here .
Distilleries and breweries are subject to additional regulations. For more advice on permits, labeling, proofing, importing/exporting, etc., look here .
STEP 7: Get business insurance
Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance . This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.
Learn more about General Liability Insurance .
Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance . If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.
Recommended: Learn what business insurance for your Distillery will cost.
Business Insurance for Distillery
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners , we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.
Recommended : Get a logo using Truic's free logo Generator no email or sign up required, or use a Premium Logo Maker .
If you already have a logo, you can also add it to a QR code with our Free QR Code Generator . Choose from 13 QR code types to create a code for your business cards and publications, or to help spread awareness for your new website.
How to promote & market a distillery
As mentioned above, it's good to emphasize this product as locally owned and brewed in your marketing. Some smaller distillers have created unconventional marketing tricks such as signing every bottle they sell or creating spirits using locally-harvested ingredients, making such drinks feel like hometown labors of love. Considering your biggest audience for specialty craft spirits will be Millennials, you should consider a lot of online marketing via Youtube, social media, and a custom website. This lets you put videos online explaining your company's history and your creative vision (both of which are important to making this feel like an experience for consumers rather than just a business transaction) as well as building community engagement via online interaction. You may consider newspaper marketing as well based on your region and the exact demographic in the area.
How to keep customers coming back
In addition to the marketing above (and in accordance with relevant state laws), try offering experiences like distillery tours and product tastings to your local area. Try to develop an ongoing relationship with local bars and liquor stores and participate in promotional events with them. A quality product at a competitive price will naturally lead to customer retention, and making sure that you offer different spirits over the years will keep them coming back for more.
Still unsure about what kind of business you want to start? Check out the latest Small Business Trends to help inspire you.
STEP 9: Create your business website
After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business .
While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.
Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:
- All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
- Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
- Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.
Using our website building guides , the process will be simple and painless and shouldn’t take you any longer than 2-3 hours to complete.
Recommended : Get started today using our recommended website builder or check out our review of the Best Website Builders .
Other popular website builders are: WordPress , WIX , Weebly , Squarespace , and Shopify .
STEP 10: Set up your business phone system
Getting a phone set up for your business is one of the best ways to help keep your personal life and business life separate and private. That’s not the only benefit; it also helps you make your business more automated, gives your business legitimacy, and makes it easier for potential customers to find and contact you.
There are many services available to entrepreneurs who want to set up a business phone system. We’ve reviewed the top companies and rated them based on price, features, and ease of use. Check out our review of the Best Business Phone Systems 2023 to find the best phone service for your small business.
Recommended Business Phone Service: Phone.com
Phone.com is our top choice for small business phone numbers because of all the features it offers for small businesses and it's fair pricing.
Start a Distillery in your State
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
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Is this Business Right For You?
Obviously, this business is great for those who love alcohol. It is also good for those who are patient, as the process of making liquor can be lengthy. It is also good for those who like to work alone or in small groups, as most small distilleries start with the owner as one of the handful of workers.
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What happens during a typical day at a distillery?
There are many daily activities at a distillery. Some time may be spent planning, designing, and testing new spirits that will be sold. A fair amount of time is spent actually distilling spirits (from malting and fermentation all the way to bottling). Time will also be spent researching the liquor industry, researching liquor history, and researching what your competition is doing. Finally, a good amount of time may be spent promoting your products, and in most states, having conversations with the retailers who will sell your liquor.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful distillery?
If you have the time and money, there are online and offline educational programs that offers degrees or certifications in distilling and brewing, which can be a big help. Any previous experience working at a distillery is also beneficial. Ultimately, the best skill is research: it is important to simultaneously learn about the distilling industry and its methods as well as the history of alcohol promotion and sales.
What is the growth potential for a distillery?
The growth potential for this business is very steady. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows employment among breweries, wineries, and distilleries increasing from a little over 132,000 in May of 2016 to nearly 146,000 in May of 2017.
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Take the Next Step
Find a business mentor.
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
Learn from other business owners
Want to learn more about starting a business from entrepreneurs themselves? Visit Startup Savant’s startup founder series to gain entrepreneurial insights, lessons, and advice from founders themselves.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a distillery?
Be sure to do your homework on other brands so that you can truly create unique flavors that will be a big hit with your customers. Be sure that your promotional material plays up the idea of this as a local alcohol brand, as this can engage community interest. Finally, start by focusing on white spirits that do not have to be aged while you let your other spirits age (a process that may take years).
How and when to build a team
Even for a small distillery, you will likely need a team right away, as there are many moving parts to the process of distilling spirits, storing spirits, transporting spirits, and so on. Plus, the process may involve a fair share of late nights, and it's good to have others to share that burden with.
Get more ideas with our Business Ideas Generator .
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- The Distillery Franchise opportunity
- American Distilling Institute
- American Craft Spirits Association
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Have a question leave a comment.
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