This one’s for the folks behind the bar.
There’s a new way to find booze in Colorado. No more quarterly directories full of typos, wrong numbers, and outdated brands. No more wondering where to get that one bottle your regular requested. No more building your shopping lists from 15 different lists of suppliers. CoBev is a new website that helps buyers locate their products across the latest distributor inventories. New products, new distributors, all are added frequently. And for you, dear booze buyer, this tool is free.
We sat down with CoBev founder Justin Anthony, owner of the Matchbox and winner of Denver Business Journal’s 2013 40 under 40, and learned a bit more about CoBev.com.
Denver off the Wagon: So what is CoBev anyway?
Justin Anthony: CoBev is a free online resource that delivers buyers the most efficient and accurate way to find the booze they are looking for. We launched back in September with the following goals:
For buyers – create the most efficient and accurate way to find the products they are looking for
For distributors – provide an easy and effective way to get your portfolio in front of buyers
For brands/brand reps – provide an elegant way to showcase their product
Our ultimate goal is to be the go-to resource for Colorado professionals.
DotW: Where did the idea come from?
JA: Like most good (and many more bad) ideas, it came from a drink fueled discussion. As a first time owner, one of the biggest challenges I faced when starting Matchbox was trying to determine who carried what product. These days brands are constantly moving distributors and it’s almost impossible to keep up. Distributors weren’t exactly knocking down our door and the resources that were available were often out of date, inaccurate, and definitely not available online. So, originally, CoBev was built to scratch my own itch.
After talking to other owners and bar managers, I found I wasn’t the only one experiencing this and started talking to other people in the industry about how to take it to the next level. Sean Kenyon (Williams & Graham) was (and is) an invaluable resource to lean on because of his network and intimate understanding of how the industry works. He continues to play a role in the evolution of the product.
DotW: Who cares? Or, less rudely, who should care about CoBev?
JA: Really anyone in the beverage industry here in Colorado. Our main focus is on the buyers and making sure we’re providing something of real value to them, but that value doesn’t exist without the distributor and supplier network.
DotW: What challenges have you faced along the way?
JA: One of the biggest challenges was convincing an almost technophobic industry that something like this could actually work. It’s an industry that has traditionally been slow to adopt change and our approach definitely ruffled some feathers. The other major challenge was trying to convince the distributors that this wasn’t competition for their reps, but actually a compliment to their existing efforts. The reality is that buyers are busy as hell and don’t have the time to hit 20+ sites or sift through paper catalogs that may or may not be up to date. They appreciate the convenience of the one-stop-shop approach and while searching for one product are inevitably going to be exposed to other products from other distributors.
We realized early on that the distributors were every bit as busy and made sure that we made the onboarding process as easy as possible to reduce the pain. The positive feedback and great exposure has gone a long way to cementing those relationships and helping us expand.
DotW: Sounds like a good solution. What’s next?
JA: We just added a totally new way to search for beer and will continue to refine that a bit. We’re also going to use some of that same technology for improving search on liquor and wine. In 2014, we’ll begin to roll out some new communication tests that will focus on highlighting new products for that month as well as upcoming industry related events. I know one of the biggest things I continue to struggle with is how to stay up on new products that hit the market. Lastly, we’re going to be pretty heads down the next few months focusing on how to grow our audience. We are 100% Colorado based right now, but are starting to get more and more pressure to expand to other markets. We won’t take those steps till we’ve hit our local goals though.