July 15, 2019
Bad Dog Distillery
Author: Jen Amundson, Deluxe Director of Social Media and Communications
In our “Small Business Stories” series, we hit the road to interview small business owners about their unique journeys. Each story provides inspiration and insights, while shining a spotlight on the passionate small business owners who are so critical to our economies and our communities.
Dave McGlothern has one major piece of advice for anyone starting a small business involving retail sales: make sure you have enough product ready before you open your doors.
Dave and Shelly McGlothern own Bad Dog Distillery in Arlington, Washington. They make custom-crafted whiskey, bourbon, vodka and moonshine using traditional methods and a beautiful copper still.
“We had just three bottles on the shelf when we opened and it was a rough road,” Dave explains, “Having bottles ready to go—it would just be much more of a streamline experience and you probably won’t lose all your hair.” Good tip, Dave.
They got started because Dave’s work shoeing horses was starting to wear on his body. They were looking for a job that could bring Dave to retirement, and Shelly thought his distilling skills were just the ticket. But, starting up production doesn’t happen overnight, and they were anxious to open their doors. They quickly learned that they needed more than good whiskey to keep the business going.
“I think some of the tips and tricks is to have a good business plan, which I thought I had a good business plan, but sometimes you have little misses,” said Shelly. “I thought my husband Dave could be a good salesperson because he can sell. But, sometimes, you have to have all the skills, like follow-up skills, so that was a miss.”
Dave laughed but didn’t deny they needed help in the sales department. They also got a hand in marketing their business from Deluxe. One of their customers announced she had a new job they might be interested in, as a representative at Deluxe. When she and her supervisor brought in a variety of promotional products that the McGlotherns could customize, the couple had one reaction: “This is cool.” Now, they sell branded products on their website and in the tasting room, donating a portion of the proceeds to community charities.
The couple also sought support from other distillers in the area, who they consider colleagues not competitors. The McGlotherns welcomed the mentoring from small business owners who were in similar fields, and also the coordination their guild was able to provide when they needed to work together to change a law about their products.
In addition, Shelly recommends new owners add to their business skills by seeking out classes at the local community college and free or low-cost seminars. You can also find a wealth of business knowledge, free of charge, in the Deluxe Small Business Resource Center.
“This is a business, it’s not just a distillery,” she concludes, “so you have to learn your business skills.”
Looking for more support? You can find resources in the Deluxe Small Business Resource Center.