Lego Crowd

Ever since Four Roses Master Distiller Jim Rutledge “retired” in September of 2015 after almost 50 years in the bourbon business the question has been, “What will Jim do next?” That question was answered on May 2, 2016 when Jim officially launched his crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to help raise nearly $2 Million to start the J.W. Rutledge Distillery LLC.

JW Rutledge Distillery logo
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Unfortunately, after only 5 days on the crowdfunding site, Jim and his partners Stephen Camisa and Jon Mowry, decided to pull the plug based on some negative feedback on social media and lackluster results. By the week’s end, they had only raised $11,000. According to Jim’s letter that he posted on the J.W. Rutledge Distillery site and their Indiegogo page everyone that contributed will receive a full refund and will be granted a lifetime membership to the JWRD Whiskey Alliance. In addition, when the distillery opens they will be invited to the grand opening ceremonies and a party to be held on the distillery grounds.

Fortunately, when you have the industry stature of someone like Jim Rutledge, you know this isn’t the end, it was simply a bump in the road, a public bump in the road but, it’s still just the beginning of a long journey. Now that word has gotten out about the new distillery, several investor groups have come forward and expressed an interest in participating in the project. According to his interview with Mark Gillespie on WhiskeyCast one group has verbally offered up to $20 Million.

We rushed in too much. We didn’t have everything put together and then sit back and look at everything and say ‘how could we improve on this before we jump in.’ We got everything together boom, boom, boom, boom and then let it go and that was a mistake. ~ Jim Rutledge via WhiskeyCast

The fundraising on the Indiegogo site may have been a flop but, it was likely the start of something much larger.

What Went Wrong with the Crowdfunding Campaign?

  1. No Real Plan – There was the start of a plan but there were not enough details to really get people jazzed about the new distillery. No pictures of  the land, no rendering of the new distillery, no list of vendors, and no mention of who was going to build the shiny new copper still. As Jim said in his interview he wrote the crowdfunding letter the night before it went live. They were not quite ready when they jumped on the big stage.
  2. Weak Incentives – I’m not an expert on crowdfunding but many of what I would call the basic crowdfunding distillery items were missing. Where was the first bottle, the first batch and what I thought would be obvious the $10k Single Barrel offering? I’ve included some details below on what another distillery offered along with their incentives that helped to exceed their crowdfunding goals. Granted, their goals were not as lofty but, they had a plan and they offered some great incentives.
  3. Tell a Better Story – If you have ever talked to or listened to Jim speak at many of the Four Roses events, he’ll tell you he used to get so nervous when speaking in front of a group that he would sweat. That nervousness ended long, long ago and Jim is a wonderful public speaker and brand ambassador for the bourbon industry. His “Better” story will come as they continue to develop their plan, tell it over and over to each other, let others hear it, vet to others and then officially release the Story.

Related Stories
Legendary Master Distiller Jim Rutledge Officially Out of Retirement – Starting New Distillery
Former 4 Roses Master Distiller Starts $2 Million Crowdfunding Campaign for JW Rutledge Distillery
Women Owned D.C. Startup Republic Restoratives Distillery Raises $75k in Just 7 Days
How 2 Women Crowdsourced $75k in 7 Days for their Urban, Small Batch, Distillery

Rutledge Distillery Crowdfunding Levels and Perks

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Republic Restoratives Distillery Crowdfunding Levels and Perks

The Republic Restorative Distillery crowdfunding campaign was smaller but, they had a plan, they explained their detailed plan in a video on their site and on Indiegogo and they offered contextually relevant incentives. They hit their initial goal of $75,000 in seven days and exceeded their stretch goal of $100,000 for a total of $119,643. Watch their video here and you will see that they were well along the way with their project before they ever started a crowdfunding campaign. They had already invested a lot of time, money and resources. They have a great understanding of creating community in a social media world.

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