How to Start a Hard Cider Business the Right Way
There aren’t as many cidery startups as there are new breweries in America, but the number is growing. According to a 2018 article by Forbes, there were over 800 cideries in the U.S. While big national cider brands have seen declines in sales, regional and local cideries have experienced significant growth in off-premise sales in recent years — 41% in 2016 and 30% in 2017 according to a report by Nielsen.
All of this is to say, there’s still room in the market for craft cideries to disrupt the big national brands and make cider a major player in the world of alcoholic beverages. If cideries can find a way to tap into the success craft breweries have seen in both on- and off-premise sales, the future of the cider industry looks very bright indeed.
So, does all this talk about market potential have you itching to start up your own hard cidery business? We salute you! If you’re new to entrepreneurship, learning about everything that goes into it can be a tough pill to swallow — but if you put some thought into it on the front end and run your business the right way, you can avoid major headaches down the line.
In this post, we’ll cover the four major areas of a cidery business (inventory, production, sales, and accounting) and considerations for each as well as a crucial aspect your hard cider business plan might be missing and why you should include it.
As a cidery, your inventory is the foundation of your business. You must have the right quantity of batch ingredients, packaging materials, and finished product on hand at all times to fulfill future needs and avoid spending too much money when there’s no demand. Get these processes set up before you hit the ground running:
Once you have the inventory you need, you can focus on creating recipes and making your first batches. Here are some things to consider before you get started:
Like with all areas of your business, it’s ideal to have someone (or several people, eventually) on staff as a full-time salesperson. But realistically, in the beginning you’ll likely have a small group of people wearing many hats. That means you’ll have to work extra hard to create business partnerships and make those initial sales, but it’s certainly not impossible.
When it comes to sales, you should think through these things:
Remember everything from your Accounting 101 class in college? No? Never even took Accounting 101? You’re not the only one — but unfortunately you will need to know the basics in order to keep an eye on how your business is doing and make sure you’re reporting accurate information to tax authorities.
It’s smart to use some type of accounting software, like QuickBooks or Xero, to keep track of everything — and also to have someone (whether it’s a part-time bookkeeper, a contracted CPA, or a full-time CFO) dedicated to managing your cidery’s finances. As the owner, you’ll have your hand in a little bit of everything, and it can be tough to find time to crunch numbers (and ensure they are accurate). Plus, it’s always best to have someone who actually knows a thing or two about accounting in charge of, well, accounting.
Before you start producing and selling, make sure you know how to handle these items:
Everything mentioned above is a basic part of any inventory-based business, so you should be somewhat familiar with each of them before reading this post. But there is something many first-time cidery owners fail to consider: what tools will you use to manage all that information? How will you stay sane when there are ingredients to order, batches to make, invoices to check on, sales to fulfill, and tax reports to file?
First, take a deep breath. Then explore the world of cidery management software. Designed to help you optimize every aspect of your business from inventory and production to sales and accounting, cider software will help you keep track of ingredients and packaging items, create a batch schedule viewable by your entire team, manage sales orders and invoices, and sync (or import) your financial data into your chosen accounting software. Plus, the best systems also help you compile the data you need to stay compliant with tax authorities — easily one of the biggest headaches as a hard cidery owner.
While the options for cider software aren’t as vast as other related industries, there are still a handful of contenders in the market. It can be confusing for owners to sift through software websites and try to figure out what’s best.
To help you save time on the research process, here’s a list of things that your chosen cidery management software should be able to do (if it’s any good):
Additionally, the company that makes the cider software should allow your team to provide direct feedback to their product specialists that is then considered for new feature releases. That way, you know the company is constantly working to improve the software for their users.
That part is easy — choose Ekos Cidermaker. At Ekos, we are committed to helping craft cider makers in the U.S. and around the world make more cider with intuitive business management tools. Our proprietary cidery management software, Ekos Cidermaker, offers everything we mentioned above in one easy-to-use system that is tailored to the needs of cider makers. Each registered user on your team gets their own custom dashboard based on their specific role in your cidery, from management to sales, inventory, production, and beyond. We work with you directly to get your team set up and ensure you feel comfortable using Ekos as part of your daily routine. Plus, with unlimited customer support and an expansive Knowledge Base filled with helpful instructional resources, we’re always here to help.
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