Welcome to WhiskeyWare!
In 2007, Rob Baker opened the doors of A&E Trophy on Downtown Clayton’s Main Street. The business became a Main Street staple and Rob quickly became the town’s go-to “Trophy Guy.” Soon, every Little League trophy, swim medal, corporate plaque and custom engraving in the town was coming from A&E Trophy. Rob hired a full staff and for twelve solid years, Rob’s business was trending skyward, keeping pace with the rapidly growing town. Things could not have been going any better for Rob and his family. He worked alongside his wife, in the town he grew up in, and was a prominent figure in the community. What could go wrong?
In March 2020, the COVID19 virus paralyzed the United States and just like thousands of other small businesses, A&E Trophy took a massive hit. With sports events and corporate ceremonies being cancelled, the need for medals, trophies and plaques simply disappeared overnight. For the first time in twelve years, Rob was forced to start laying people off, starting with his wife. Laying off employees is never an easy decision, but he knew that in this situation, it was what was best for the business as well as the employees. Rob still went to work every day and took care of the few orders he received and looked for new revenue streams to try to keep the business afloat. In a time where other businesses gave up and just succumbed to the circumstances around them, Rob used the pandemic as an opportunity and a new idea was born.
Rob had been working with Eric Tansey, another young entrepreneur in Clayton, who owns Instill Distilling Company. Eric’s business was not struggling from COVID19 and was actually still growing. Eric began to order custom hats from Rob and custom glassware for his distillery. One day Eric came into his shop and complained about the lack of high quality, personalized, “real whiskey glasses” on the market. Everything on the internet had a high minimum order and the glassware was cheap, as were the laser engravings that barely scratched the surface of the glasses. As a Certified Specialist of Wine and a Sommelier, Eric was a bit picky when it came to glassware and fine beverages. Rob quickly saw an opportunity and the seed for Whiskeyware.com was planted. Rob went home and immediately started to work on a business plan with his wife. He thought this might just be the thing to fill the gap left in his business by the pandemic.
Rob and Eric began discussing ideal premium glassware and what a custom premium whiskey glass would entail. The etchings needed to be detailed and deep with obvious texture that could be noticed even when empty sitting on the shelf. There also needed to be a way to order just one or a hundred with reasonable pricing options. Rob got to work and found the perfect glassware with the highest standards and ratings. The only thing left to sort out was the deep engraving. Rob already had a laser engraver but he knew that the laser engraving barely scratched the glass’s surface and was hard to see unless the glass was full of a dark liquid. He also had a sandblaster that he already used for etching awards and other glassware. However, he knew that sandblasting the custom glass by hand would be difficult with more detailed designs. Rob is a tenacious entrepreneur who is always thinking of how to versus settling for what has always been done. He had an idea that he’d laser engrave the glass for maximum detail and then he could sandblast over the laser engraving to gain depth and texture in the etching. He gave it a shot and his plan worked. Rob had in his hand an affordable, premium, custom whiskey glass that could be sold to consumers with no minimum order! But how was he going to get this out to the public?
Rob contacted local website designer and photographer, Jamaal Porter, to build a website that was as premium as the whiskey glasses sold on it. Rob was almost there. He had the glass and he had the ability to sell it. He was just missing one small piece of the puzzle, a way to market it. He reached back out to Eric and explained that he had a business opportunity for him – head of sales and marketing for Whiskeyware.com. Rob had been impressed by Eric’s social media marketing and the growth it generated for Instill. While Eric had little experience in sales, Rob knew he had the enthusiasm, competitive spirit, and relentless attitude to be a successful salesman. Eric didn’t hesitate to join the team and in less than a week he had already sold over a hundred custom glasses and has several large corporate orders pending approval. Rob’s tenacity, creativity, innovation, and audacity carried him over the pandemic sized obstacle and set the example for younger entrepreneurs to follow. “These are trying times and I wouldn’t want to be partnered up with anyone else than Rob Baker.” –Eric Tansey CSW, President/owner, Instill Distilling Company.