An Urban Cidery Startup: Vol. 2

Posted by Chad Kimmel / No comments

October 23, 2017

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This is Chad Kimmel, co-owner of Grand Illusion Hard Cider. This is volume 2 of our multi-part series on starting a cider company in Pennsylvania. Part 1 can be found here.

We learned early into the process that everyone we talked with about our cider business idea wanted to know our business name–the brand. This, it seemed, was the first thing we needed to pin down. Cider recipes could wait, as could the property search, the money hunt, and the hike up “legal mountain.” We read a lot on business branding best practices and did some soul searching. What image did we want to express? What emotional, experiential impact did we want to have? I loved old magic posters–their style, colors, imagery, mystery, showmanship. Andrea loved art-deco and old Hollywood–the architecture, the fonts, the music, dress and entertainment of the 1930s. And so was born, Grand Illusion, but not before spending many dollars on logo development and copyright and trademark assurances. We wanted to do everything right the first time. There was so much we didn’t know.

Now with a name and image to pass around, we began to dig for money and hunt for properties. (Interestingly, we found that the more we talked about Grand Illusion–telling people about our brand, our goals, our ideas–the more real it became. People’s questions began to get more specific. We were past the starting line and we, unknowingly, pulled many people along with us). Property searching was really fun–seriously. We both are good at looking past walls and drop ceilings, or buildings in disrepair, and seeing what they can become. We seriously considered two others before making our decision. The others lacked things that were important to us: ease of access, the emotional impact, room to grow, and location. We were Grand Illusion and we needed a Grand Property. We found everything we were looking for at 26 West High Street.

Ahhhh…..$$$. We had to make a hard decision. One might say we embraced the “go big or go home” model, although everything is relative. We believed in the “proof of concept” approach, but wanted to incorporate some built-in assurances (to the extent you can) that we would have a successful business. We didn’t want to start with a kiosk and jump to a department store, if you know what I mean. We did our homework. I spent the better part of four months writing a 75-page business plan; it painfully reminded me of my doctoral dissertation, but I would do it again. Completing that plan gave us great confidence and illuminated much of what we didn’t, but should, know. Given the data, all signs pointed to the need for a cider and wine bar. At this point, given projected expenses, the question turns to scale. A kiosk wouldn’t pay the bills! But something a bit bigger would. Layer on top of that great music, awesome decor, a well trained and educated staff, and more ciders than you could “shake a stick at,” and we were confident we could convince enough people to spend time with us and to fully experience Grand Illusion. And if we did a great job, they would come back and bring their friends. That’s the plan we created and are still working on. We have just three months left before we put that plan into action.

Sadly, our glass is empty. Time to make more cider. To Be Continued ………………