“Bringing Scotch to the people starts with a kick”
Yay or nay on drinking Scotch? Is it too strong or too smokey for our nays? Or maybe you think it’s just something old men drink?
Carin, thanks so much for joining us today!
Thank you for having me.
Carin, when you founded Sia Scotch Whisky, I think it’s safe to say you were looking to challenge conventions. Can you tell us what drove you to leave behind a highly successful career in television marketing to become the first American woman to found a Scotch Whisky company?
Sure! My previous life was that of a Creative Director for media companies and tech startups, helping to build and grow brands. But my true passion for much of that time was, and continues to be Scotch whisky. I love the moment when you sit down with a friend and share a glass of Scotch. It’s a reminder to slow down and connect in real life. I tried to convince many friends through the years to drink Scotch, but they all thought “Scotch is my grandfather’s drink.”
So in an interesting twist of fate, I was going through a breakup, and found myself drinking more whisky than usual 😉 and with a little extra money every week that I no longer needed for couples counseling. So I started using my couples counseling money and instead spent it on building out a really beautiful Scotch whisky collection.
After a year, I had almost 300 bottles in my collection, I started reading about whisky blenders and tried my hand at blending, and started hosting scotch tasting events to learn what brands people like, what they don’t like and why, and learned that people were ready for a new brand of Scotch, this is how SIA was born.
When one thinks of the typical Scotch drinker, they might be thinking about an older, male demographic. But that’s clearly not who you were looking to reach with Sia – what made you so passionate about the fact that there’s a Scotch for everyone (and not just their grandfather)?
I heard someone say once: “you don’t ‘not’ like Scotch…you just haven’t found your brand yet”
I do think there’s still a lot of stereotypes around Scotch. I’ve heard them all: Scotch is my grandfather’s drink, it burns my nostrils, it tastes like gasoline, etc
Even blends (versus) single malts are sometimes regarded as less desirable.
And I’m working on changing these perceptions, not just with SIA, but with all brands. I love the idea that SIA can change someone’s perspective about Scotch and open their experience to many other brands of Scotch.
Not surprisingly then, you took a pretty unconventional path in how you funded Sia…opting for a Kickstarter campaign rather than a traditional investment model. A few questions here: first, was part of your goal in using the Kickstarter platform to reach your future fans? And second, (aside from the capital) what do you think you gained from your crowdfunding experience that you may not have by going another route?
Great questions Seth! Kickstarter was an amazing experience all around. I was nervous at first to do it this way for a few reasons.
It was 2012 and the notion of crowdfunding was still relatively new, and also, it was the first time I was going public in a big way with what I had been working on behind the scenes for so long, really putting myself and my dreams out there for the world to see. I was nervous for how it would be received.
One of the awesome things about crowdfunding is that it can help to validate an idea before it becomes real. It was so cool to have people all around the world writing and asking “Where can I buy a bottle of SIA?”
Also, launching a crowdfunding campaign is a full-time marketing event. It is a product launch before you actually launch your product, so it’s great practice before the real thing happens. I highly recommend it to anyone launching a product. I can’t think of another, better way to achieve this other than a crowdfunding platform.
Even as a highly-talented marketer, you set out on a pretty difficult journey to edify and convert your future drinkers. And not surprisingly, you’re succeeding. What have been/are your top 3 objectives in sharing your story, finding your fans, and winning over a new generation of Scotch drinker?
Thank you! Yes! It’s working!I think the three things that have been the most successful are in reaching various audiences in different ways.
First, industry recognition for a new brand is very important to help secure placements in key accounts, including stores, bars and restaurants. SIA has received some impressive awards since we launched: The one I’m most proud of is a 96 Points from the Ultimate Spirits Challenge, beating out some pretty amazing brands. The second is a Double Gold Medal in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, meaning every judge in the Whisky category gave SIA a gold. And third is from Whisky Advocate Magazines 2015 Whisky Awards, SIA was rated the highest blend.
Second is consumer and trade press. The story of SIA has been written about over 300 times in the media, all organically, meaning without an ad spend. You’ve got a Hispanic woman founder of a Scotch Whisky brand who has used crowdfunding to fund the business, so it’s a fun story that wants to be shared. And the brand is being well received.
Third, we have teamed up with some incredible retail partners who believe in the brand and have really gotten behind it.
We couldn’t be more excited for what has been accomplished in such a short time.
Finally…Your passion for what’s in the bottle is extremely clear. Can you tell us a little more about Sia Scotch Whisky, and how you were able to create a product that appeals so broadly (from those who are trying their first dram, to a seasoned whisky drinker)
Absolutely, SIA is a delicious blend of Speyside, Highland and Islay malt and grain Whiskies. You get a lot of vanilla, caramel, citrus and a gentle hint of smoke on the finish. It’s very smooth due to the high malt content, and is easy to drink neat, on the rocks or in a cocktail.
I think what makes SIA so approachable is the nose. You get a lot of vanilla and caramel notes on the nose, so it appeals to first time whisky drinkers, who may be turned off if there is too much smoke on the nose. What’s unique about SIA is that you do get a little bit of smoke, but it’s only on the finish, which appeals to experienced whisky drinkers as well. Great for everyone!
Carin, thank you so much for sharing your story and we wish you continued success on your journey to bring Scotch to the people!
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