I take notes throughout the day on a word doc I keep open. It’s so basic, but makes such a big difference in staying organized.
Samantha Spector is the founder of SaloonBox, a company that delivers craft cocktail kits to their subscribers monthly. Before that, she ran Milk & Honey Special Events and was in the event planning industry for over a decade. She worked in non-profit development managing events that raised several million dollars, including Susan G. Komen’s Race for the Cure.
Where did the idea for SaloonBox come from?
My husband, Joe, and I were trying to decide on a cocktail to make for the family over the 2014 holidays to celebrate. We realized that every time we make cocktails on our own we ended up spending far too much time and money buying full bottles and tracking down missing ingredients. We looked for a cocktail kit service similar to the affordable meal services we like (Blue Apron, Plated, etc) and when we didn’t see anything, we decided to go for it and create something ourselves.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I start by making a to-do list and prioritizing my tasks and setting a rough schedule of when I’ll work on each item and for how long. I almost always have calls, usually with brands, bartenders and vendors we’re working on creating partnerships with. I also try to include time each day to reach out to reporters, bloggers and anyone else I see that might be interested in writing about SaloonBox. I stop working to pick up my kids and spend time with them, then pick up working again after they go to bed.
How do you bring ideas to life?
We’re committed to being doers. We, as in my co-founder and husband, Joe, and me. We talk about our business throughout the day, every day, and think of new ideas constantly. When we have an idea for the business, we usually start looking into making it happen immediately. In fact, the day we came up with the idea for SaloonBox we started trying to find a name for the business that same day so we could apply for our business license, trademark our name, etc. It took us a lot longer than we wanted it too, since every name we came up with had a domain that was taken.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Changing the liquor industry. Some companies are doing this by focusing on delivery. We’re focusing on tackling the intimidation factor, the inconvenience, and the bringing down the cost to make cocktails more accessible to people in their homes.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I take notes throughout the day on a word doc I keep open. It’s so basic but makes such a big difference in staying organized. I’ve tried various note apps, but I found a plain word doc works best for me.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
Nothing jumps out at me as the worst job ever. I definitely started out with very entry-level jobs after college. It was tough to be in a position where you answer the phone and deal with complaints, but I think that was one of my most valuable experiences. I learned that most situations can be resolved in a positive way if you take the time to listen, then do what’s possible to rectify the situation.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
We ran a Kickstarter campaign before our full launch so we had a lot of learnings early on. We started off doing a weekly kit with 2 servings of cocktails. That proved to be too expensive and difficult logistically. The demand side too was more interested in getting a kit once a month with more servings. We listened and made our kit come once a month with 4 servings in each kit.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Read articles written by founders and interviews of other entrepreneurs and VCs. I enjoy doing this and have learned so much from others. I listen to podcasts like Talkingtech, Startup, The Pitch and others. I read Tech Crunch every day. I watch SharkTank. Not sure how much I learn from SharkTank, but it’s fun to watch.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
We focused on making our box viral. There are a number of callouts for the consumer to post photos using #SALOONBOX . We print it on our box, in our newsletters and on social media, which helps to spread the word organically.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
We applied to a couple of early incubator programs and didn’t get in. It was disappointing, but it’s made us realize that venture funding may not be the right path for us. Our business continues to grow organically and venture dollars can have the ability for us to create an unsustainable business model by spending money that’s not ours.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Since I love listening to podcasts, I have been frustrated by the lack of a decent platform to search, discover, create playlists and listen. There are some that exist, but they aren’t good. I want to be able to browse podcasts and save a number of them to listen to later. It seems so simple.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
The best money I’ve spent recently has been on meal and grocery deliveries. I live in San Francisco, where I can take advantage of Instacart, Munchery and many great food options just a few blocks from my place. I have kids and would much rather spend time hanging out with them at the end of the day than cooking or running errands.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
Hootsuite, MailChimp, SurveyMonkey, HARO – they make my life easier and achieve results.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I love Ben Horowitz’s The Hard Thing About Hard Things. He speaks a lot of truth in there about startup organizations and provides excellent advice to first-time CEOs.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
In our world of craft cocktails, it’s always great to read stories by and about David Wondrich. He has so much interesting historical knowledge on this topic. Instagram is always a source of inspiration, especially anything with #cocktailporn.
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Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.