Before beer gets to a bar or liquor store, there’s a whole process that takes place between a distributor and brewery with lots of little details to figure out.
Elizabeth Hanfman is well aware of these. Having started as a server in DuClaw Brewing Company’s brewpubs and worked up to running day-to-day operations and sales as the Rosedale brewery’s VP, she learned the ins and outs along the way. She also learned that it’s a pretty chaotic process, shifting between phone calls, texts and emails, and between different team members.
Looking at the problem with Jay Grieves, who she worked with on software when he formerly ran IT for DuClaw’s brewpubs, it appeared to be a place where tech could bring some more efficiency.
“We just thought there would be a better way to streamline all of that information in one place where everyone would access,” Hanfman said.
BrewOptix is designed to be that single place. The platform is launching this month after a period of beta testing.
The web-based software tracks orders, sales and inventory. It offers a self-service portal where both the distributors or retailers a brewery works with can place orders. There are tools to manage all of the orders. It’s based around, “How do we make things a little bit simpler in getting that information out to the distributors and getting the information of what the distributor needs back to the brewery,” Hanfman said.
One key feature, per Hanfman, is that the types of packages that distributors can choose from aren’t hard-coded, so there is flexibility for breweries in how they want to set up the size of the options and branding based on one’s business model. It also helps to organize orders that are all on different cycles and once the orders are placed by a distributor, emails are sent to everyone who needs to know.
This can be helpful in the brewing industry, where lots of folks are on the go. Oftentimes brewery employees are wearing a number of different hats as they keep the place running. Meantime, salespeople are also constantly moving around.
After using the software in DuClaw’s network, Hanfman and Grieves built it out for the industry as a whole and tested with others; Hanfman adds that it can also serve craft beverage industries like distilleries, kombucha and wine, though the business model is based around selling to the breweries. A monthly fee is based on the number of distributors a brewery is working with, as the fee begins to increase after more than five distributors are on the platform.
BrewOptix is remaining an independent company, and DuClaw was an early adopter. It turned out to be a good place to test technology. Hanfman said folks who work at a brewery are typically giving constant feedback about taste of a new beer, or label design. So trying out software and making recommendations felt pretty natural, and made for a “very rewarding instant feedback loop,” Hanfman said.
It shows that new tech products can spin up anywhere — the key ingredients are the recognition of the problem and the entrepreneur’s willingness to build it. Still, the below tweet from Monday could indicate DuClaw may now be committing more fully to lean startup principles:
Okay, here we go… PIVOT… P•I•V•O•T!!!! pic.twitter.com/sNemYVbsoj
— DuClaw Brewing Co. (@DuClawBrewing) August 10, 2020