Last Updated on September 28, 2023 by nicole
Meet Martin Cody, a seasoned executive with over 35 years of experience in sales, strategic partnerships, and market development in the healthcare industry. As the CEO, President, and Co-Founder of Cellar Angels, he embarked on a remarkable journey to revolutionize the wine industry. In 2010, Martin co-founded a fine wine company that not only provides access to the finest wines from Napa and Sonoma but also channels its proceeds towards charitable causes. Cellar Angels stands as a beacon of luxury wine curation, delivering the best of Napa and Sonoma directly to wine enthusiasts, all while making a positive impact on the world.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
- Martin shares the story of how Cellar Angels came into existence and discusses the challenges of transitioning from a traditional wine retail model to a digital platform
- Find out how Cellar Angels navigated obstacles in the early days of their digital marketplace venture
- Martin discusses the art of working with family-owned wineries to create compelling narratives and offers valuable advice for wineries looking to craft their own stories
- Dive into the intricacies of Cellar Angels’ partnerships with wineries and how they source their wines
- Martin shares the story behind Cellar Angels’ interaction with California Alcohol Beverage Control and the challenges they overcame
- Explore the strategies employed by Cellar Angels to grow their audience and presence in the digital space
- Get an inside look at the Cellar Angels Wine Club
- Martin explains why Cellar Angels’ services are invaluable for small wineries looking to expand their reach
- Discover the philanthropic aspect of Cellar Angels
- Martin shares invaluable entrepreneurial advice based on his experience founding multiple companies
In this episode with Martin Cody
Martin Cody of Cellar Angels shares the challenges and triumphs of revolutionizing the wine industry by providing a platform for limited-production wineries that often go unnoticed in the three-tier system. Discover how Cellar Angels leverages the power of the internet to connect wine enthusiasts to these hidden gems, and why crafting compelling wine stories is the heart of their mission.
In today’s episode of the Legends Behind the Craft podcast, Drew Thomas Hendricks is joined by Martin Cody, the CEO, President, and Co-Founder of Cellar Angels. Learn about their unique approach to partnerships with wineries, their charitable initiatives, and gain valuable entrepreneurial advice from a seasoned business leader. Whether you’re a wine lover, an aspiring entrepreneur, or simply curious about the world of wine, this podcast offers a taste of innovation, passion, and success in the digital age.
Resources Mentioned in this episode
- Drew Thomas Hendricks on LinkedIn
- Barrels Ahead
- Martin Cody on LinkedIn
- Cellar Angels
- Denise Smith Cody on LinkedIn
- California Alcohol Beverage Control
- Cellar Angels Wine Clubs
Sponsor for this episode…
This episode is brought to you by Barrels Ahead.
At Barrels Ahead, we know that your business is unique. That’s why we work with you to create a one-of-a-kind marketing strategy that highlights your authenticity, tells your story, and makes your business stand out from your competitors.
Our team at Barrels Ahead helps you leverage your knowledge so you can enjoy the results and revenue your business deserves.
So, what are you waiting for? Unlock your results today!
[00:00:00] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Drew Thomas Hendricks here. I’m the host of the Legends Behind the Craft podcast. On the show, I talk with leaders in the wine and craft beverage industry. Today’s episode is sponsored by Barrels Ahead. At Barrels Ahead, we help the wine and craft industry build stronger bonds between their customers and brands through authentic content, go to barrelsahead.com today to learn more today. I’m talking with Martin Cody. Martin is the co-founder and CEO of Cellar Angels. Welcome to the show, Martin.
[00:00:26] Martin Cody: Hey, Drew. Thanks so much for having me.
[00:00:28] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yes. Thank you so much for being on. So Martin, tell us a little bit about Cellar Angels.
I’m really curious how you made that transition from brick and mortar into a digital marketplace.
[00:00:38] Martin Cody: Absolutely. It’s the brick and mortar industry, as you know, is fraught with challenges and peril, and frustration. And 1 of the things that the 3-tier system does not do well is honor and provide a platform for the limited production wineries.
And what most people don’t recognize or know is that it take Napa and Sonoma, for example, there’s 1500 commercially licensed wineries, but probably 1100 to 1200 of them don’t have national distribution. They’re also the ones that we believe are making some of the best wine in the, in the country slash world.
So in 2010, we transitioned out of per se or started the wheels to transition out of the bricks and mortar to focus more on the digital space and really revolutionize and pioneer the direct to consumer market.
[00:01:26] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, that’s amazing. When did you, like, let’s go, let’s start a little further back too. So I want, we’re going to definitely get into the digital part, but the brick and mortar store, how long did you operate that?
[00:01:36] Martin Cody: We own that in Chicago from 2007 to 2013. So seven, seven or so years.
[00:01:44] Drew Thomas Hendricks: It’s a, that’s a tough business. I got my start at, in 93 at San Francisco Wine Trading, being the wine buyer and sold wines there up until about 2002. So I know how challenging it is to compete with the chain stores and just, it was just a slog.
How, towards the end in 2008, 2007, as you’re moving towards the digital marketplace, what challenges did you face?
[00:02:10] Martin Cody: The it was interesting because when we opened up the bricks and mortar wine store it was 2007 and then if you go back to that period of time 2008 was a global economic collapse.
[00:02:20] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yes.
[00:02:20] Martin Cody: And you, you know, all of that fun. Remember, you know memories of the auto industry collapsing the investment industry collapsing the housing industry collapsing so fortunately what we learned is that people drinking bad times and good, sometimes more and bad. And we decided that we’re going to make a go the bricks and mortar wine store, but what we didn’t recognize and you talk about it being a sloth with regards to the big box stores and where we were in Chicago, we were a half a mile from to juggernauts and we had no parking.
So everything we did had to be basically hand sold. And at the end of the day, then and now we’re romantics and we’re storytellers and we just think the stories of the limited production wineries are just so much more passionate and so much more resonate with consumers than someone that makes 85, 000 cases of mass-produced wine.
There’s a marketplace for that. I get it. We just think these stories are a little bit more approachable. They resonate with people. They’re usually families. They’re usually agricultural related and people getting back to roots and it’s something that has stuck with us. So in 2010, when the, we were coming out of the collapse, we recognize, and you probably remember this, you know, many of those small limited production wineries got gobbled up for pennies on the dollar because people had stopped going out to restaurants.
So the off-premise and on-premise wine sales plummeted. We felt at that point in time that that was quite unfair to the small limited production wineries through no fault of their own, they were going bankrupt. And, and again, we’re, we’re romantics, they’re the fabric of the industry. So we wanted to do something to figure out a way to help them scale, help them gain exposure, help them move product, help them gain awareness.
And this was in Chicago, and that’s where I was born and raised. And at that point in time, there was a small little mom and pop operation called Groupon. That was growing out of Chicago and, and we kind of took a little bit of their model and said, but what if we could use the Internet to help small limited production wineries gain larger audiences.
And we pitched the idea to several key individuals, many of them, vignerons and owners and winemakers in Napa and Sonoma. Every single person came back and said, “That’s a brilliant idea.” So the idea for cellar angels was born.
[00:04:41] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, man, that’s great. So, so the idea, so talk to me about the idea. So you’ve got a limited amount of SKUs that you can actually really craft a story around and really promote like a couple SKUs at a time. Is that what we’re looking at here?
[00:04:56] Martin Cody: Pretty much. It’s the story is critical because there’s so many analogies to where with, especially in the food side of the industry, you know, you can go to a chain restaurant and you know exactly what you’re going to get every single time. Most people don’t come back from a dining experience waxing poetic about the exchange and experience that they had, but they come back from experiences where they find that isolated restaurant, you know, down a road. And the husband-wife team are the ones working the restaurant.
She may be the chef, he may be the maitre d and they sit at your table and talk to you and you have a dining experience similar with the lodging industry. People remember that bed and breakfast that they went to on a lake that no one comes back from MGM going, we had the best one of the 5, 000 rooms at MGM and that was what we wanted to do for wine.
Let’s tell these stories. And we wanted to figure out a way to tell them where the consumer, the wine-loving enthusiast didn’t have to work very hard for the story. So every single one of the SKUs that we have on the website, we custom produce a video of an interview, usually at a vineyard property like the one behind me.
And we go deep into the story. Why is it important? Why is the wine so spectacular? Who is the winemaker? What’s the elevation? What’s the AVA? And kind of geek out on this romantic story of why they may only have 500 cases of wine and then share that with the national audience.
[00:06:25] Drew Thomas Hendricks: That’s amazing. So as part of doing business with you, these wineries get all that exposure through this video.
And now is that the SIP series that you have?
[00:06:33] Martin Cody: No, this is, that’s a great question. The SIP series was a by-product of the pandemic. We started the videos 10 years ago because, in my flat or 13 years ago, I apologize. And my philosophy, if a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a million. And we are instant gratification beings as a result of the internet.
So we just felt that no one is going to sit down and read seven pages about a winery when they can watch a four-minute video and be immersed right in wine country with the individual, either on a lanai at their patio or in their tasting room or in their barrel room. And it just takes you right to Napa and Sonoma.
So. That was an easy thing for us to do philosophically, it’s a very challenging thing to do logistically because we have a film crew and the videos are professional grade, but they really are a way to help the winery elevate their brand and awareness and video lives forever. So it’s a nice thing that is constantly promoting them 24 7 and that was basically in our DNA to help them grow.
[00:07:35] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, that’s fantastic. So full video crew, what sort of challenges did you face bringing that to market? Especially with small, I mean, we work with small family-owned wineries and even helping them craft their story can be challenging at times.
[00:07:51] Martin Cody: It is, and you recognize more than most, I’m sure, that these folks, they, they don’t do SEO.
They aren’t big into IT. They’re farmers for all intents and purposes. You know, they are at home in the vineyards. They can tell you more about budding over varietals and rootstock and pruning and canopy management. You talk to them about what to say on, on camera and they freeze oftentimes. So, it’s, it is a little bit of a challenge, but I have a little bit of a gift and a knack for it.
So it’s, it’s fun to get them talking. Wine also helps a little bit. It’s a nice lubricant from that capacity, but it. All of us that have been to wine country, we matriculate through wine country, almost uniformly the exact same on our first three trips.
And I’ve said this to people for 20 years, the first trip you’re going, especially in Napa and Sonoma. So that’s my reference point there. Your first trip to Napa, you’re going up and down Route 29, and you’re hitting all the big boys because all of these are the, all the ones commercially produced that you recognize that line, the store shelves that you’ve probably had.
So you’ll hit some of the more famed producers. Your second trip, you venture over to Silverado Trail and you realize, wow, there’s a whole bunch of wineries here I’ve never even heard of. Your third trip, you’re up in the hills and someone, an owner is thieving wine out of a barrel in his or her garage and you’re sitting on their couch on their patio by the pool learning their story and you are absolutely hooked and you’ve never heard of them.
They make 75 cases of Pritchard Hill Cabernet and you are, you’re done. That’s, that’s all you want to do for the rest of your life and that’s kind of how we got involved.
[00:09:28] Drew Thomas Hendricks: That’s amazing. Let’s talk to me about some of these stories. What’s some of the more memorable ones that you’ve kind of been part of?
[00:09:35] Martin Cody: I think there’s, there’s a great question. The two stories that resonate to me are the, the second generation proprietors. Especially folks that, that might’ve come to the country in the 80s, and we’re working vineyards and the seasonal worker, the agricultural worker, they’re amazing that you know, they, they keep the produce industry alive and they work harvest because produce in the Central Valley that harvest is different than September in Napa.
And there’s a lot of them that stay on at the request of the winery owners. And then those folks after 30 and 40 years, they go on to have their own wineries. And these wines are amazing because keep in mind, these individuals have been working the vineyards for 40 years, so they know where the esteemed vineyard locks for Cabernet Sauvignon on this rootstock are growing.
They produce wines that are so ethereal and magical and spiritual that they don’t make 20, 000, 20, 000 cases of them, you know, they might make 200, but the wines are the ones that move you. They’re the ones that move the winemakers. So those stories I really, really like.
I also like the pioneering stories of individuals that decided to, they got bit by the wine bug in some way, shape or form. They decided to go work a harvest and that, that further immersed them into, okay, I need to drop everything. And, and I need to come out to Sonoma or Napa and I need to make wine. Those pioneering spirits are incredible.
And we know many of them, you know, from a law enforcement officer, a woman in Virginia that, was chasing a perpetrator through the woods at night with gear on. And she said this is insane. What am I doing? Doing, you know, doing this to, to now she’s been, I think, 15, 16 vintages in Sonoma and hasn’t looked back. Those stories are the stuff that’s magical and romantic and things that resonate with our consumers.
[00:11:32] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, that’s, that’s fantastic. On those stories, talk about how they’re mostly these small winemakers, they’re farmers, they’re winemakers, they’re not storytellers. What advice do you have to a small winery who’s not yet working with you who may need to craft their own story?
[00:11:50] Martin Cody: Another terrific question.
I would say, nail your vision. And, you know, what you wanted to do, we set out to disrupt the direct to consumer wine industry and dent the universe with wine. And part of that dent the universe is people will recognize it, especially in your neck of the woods as Steve Jobs. And it literally is we, we borrowed that if you will, and just incorporated wine. So we wanted to change the way the direct to consumer wine industry moves and how people get known.
The small winery has to recognize what their vision is. If their vision is to make vineyard specific varietal designate wines and be the best possible producer, great, that’s your vision. You have to stick to that. Or if your vision is to become de facto restaurant wine or what have you, great, that’s your vision.
So we want to try to work with them and we’re not a marketing company per se, you know, we aren’t doing brand development and those sorts of things, but we can help them hone their messaging. And, and we provide our winery partners with copies of the video so that they can put it on their website and have it be marketing for them 24 seven.
And, and in it that message and their passion and their romance and their dedication to the land comes through, and it becomes really full circle because for us, wine brings people together, and we enjoy great food great wine great experiences. And oftentimes it just starts with putting a bottle down on the table and having a conversation.
It forces you to slow down. And that’s where great conversation begins. And these people are the producers of this product. So we want to honor them with the video and their story.
[00:13:26] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, that’s fantastic. It’s so great that you give them the video to use on their own, their own site. Now, with these relationships and partnerships with their wineries.
Do you purchase, do you purchase subsequent vintages or is it a one-off model where you source a particular lot?
[00:13:44] Martin Cody: It’s, we technically and legally by design, we don’t purchase wine. So we are, we are a third-party provider. And so we’re essentially a marketing agency and we are, we are, so we never take title.
We never take possession. The winery is always the seller of record and we set it up that way. So we want it to be kind of the messenger of the message. And the message happens to be pretty special because it’s wine. And these are pretty special wines. And we, we call them the best-limited production wines coming out of Napa and Sonoma right now.
So this is really undiscovered wine country. And, and it gets back to what people do when they go on multiple trips. They’ve been to the big boys. They’ve seen, you know, they stood seven deep at a tasting room, which gets old fast. Now they want a little bit, something different. And, and we cater to a fairly sophisticated wine clientele.
And they’re looking for those experiences and this is what we deliver. So it has nothing to do with kind of us taking possession of the goods and then selling anything like that. We, we recognize and welcome when a producer says, “Hey, you guys featured my 2015. You have to taste the 2017. I’d love to do another event with you on Cellar Angels.”
So that’s fine. We do that all the time.
[00:15:00] Drew Thomas Hendricks: That’s it. That’s brilliant. I mean, having worked, having managed a brick and mortar and you having run one last thing you want is a stockpile of inventory.
[00:15:08] Martin Cody: Correct.
[00:15:09] Drew Thomas Hendricks: So I’m going to dive into the technical aspect. You kind of mentioned it. There’s some part of your on your About Us section that just fascinated me because the whole three-tier system is such a Byzantine network.
And you’ve got this thing that says the harrowing maze of paperwork, countless hours spent with Illinois and California-based legal experts. And I want to know about this hysterically simple yet pivotal call with California Alcohol Beverage Control.
[00:15:34] Martin Cody: It’s, it’s very parallel, but it was, it predated Moneyball with Brad Pitt.
And it was, I had a very expensive law firm in Chicago representing us, and co council of their advice was very expensive law firm in Sacramento. And then also on the phone was California ABC. And so we were describing this is 2009. We were describing our direct-to-consumer model. And they ultimately indicated that they, they said, “Well, no, one’s ever approached us in advance of creating a digital storefront. You’re the 1st one to do that.”
And at that point in time, keep in mind, this is 2009. The dust has not yet settled from the global collapse. So there was a lot of flash sites out there that had not obtained permission per se from ABC. And so we were seeking it versus, we were asking for permission rather than begging for forgiveness.
So it has been great. So we, in asking for permission, we detailed the model and this is costing us well over 1, 000 a minute based upon the hourly rates of the number of people involved. And finally, finally, someone at California said ABC said, “Well, you know what that model actually doesn’t give us any heartache.”
Thank you very much for your time hung up the phone. So it was a little bit like Brad Pitt when he said, “Hey, when you get the answer you’re looking for hang up.”
[00:16:54] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah.
[00:16:55] Martin Cody: So that’s exactly what happened. And, and I think one of our attorneys said, “I’m not certain they were done.” I said, “We heard what we needed to hear.”
And, and he says, “That’s a good point.” And I think they were just wanting to run out the clock a little bit more, but I wasn’t having any of it.
[00:17:09] Drew Thomas Hendricks: That’s, that’s fantastic. So they was the issue that you were wanted to know if you could just promote the wines online since they were still being delivered by the wineries.
[00:17:20] Martin Cody: Yeah, there is, there is a bunch of issues and they, California ABC is a, what they’re doing, any of the regulatory agencies, what they’re doing is incredibly difficult because they said, “Martin, you have to understand we’ve got laws in the books that go back to the early 1900s that we’re still trying to get our arms around.”
I said, “Are these the types of laws that forbid you from walking your oxen down the middle of street between.” They go, “Yeah, that’s pretty much what we’re looking at on some of these things.” And then you juxtapose that with the internet, which in 2009 was still a little bit wild, wild west as it relates to wine, certainly, but as far as e-commerce and things like that. So they, they knew it was exploding, but I don’t think they had the framework as it relates to the movement of alcohol.
And to your point earlier about kind of the, the three-tier system being Byzantine and being archaic. And it worked fine post-prohibition when there was six wineries in the United States, you know, there’s 15, 000. So it’s just not set up for that. The three-tier system is not set up for that at all.
And an alcohol is the second most regulated item in the United States behind nuclear. So there’s a lot of laws and a lot of books that are really archaic that direct-to-consumer has to work around. And so if you’re selling and taking possession, it limits your opportunities and it limits your, your ability to get into markets.
And so we didn’t want to have anything to do with the sale of alcohol. And keep in mind, you talked about the background. We had already owned a bricks and mortar store. So we’d already had a liquor license. We already had that right. And we knew how hard it was in Chicago. So we didn’t want to do anything like that on a national scale.
[00:18:58] Drew Thomas Hendricks: That’s amazing. How did you go about growing your audience when you went moved to the digital platform?
[00:19:04] Martin Cody: That audience growth is always a challenge. And so we, you look at what some folks have done that have now filed for bankruptcy and they took down a tremendous amount of private equity and venture capital money.
You look at just this week, a famous wine store in Manhattan as it was shuttered earlier this spring and now there’s all sorts of improprieties. And it was the most famous wine store in Manhattan for 70 years. And the new owners have bamboozled some people and, you know, taking money or allegedly same thing with some of the digital platforms out there.
You know, Underground Cellar recently folded. Winc recently sold and Winc was the love child of every single media agency there was. The number 1 wine club in America. They could do no wrong. Apparently, they could do wrong because they filed Chapter 11 and lost well, over 100 million dollars.
But they bought a lot of customer acquisition. So we have grown organically since day one, not the fastest path to growth. And sometimes I’m quite envious of why I wish we had 10 million dollars to throw at customer acquisition like some of these other folks did. We don’t, we honestly grow old-fashioned. We grow by word of mouth, one wine lover telling another wine lover, “Hey, you need to check out Cellar Angels. They have amazing wines, amazing stories, amazing service.”
And that’s old school. So it’s not sexy. I don’t have an app for this type of stuff, right? It’s but genuinely people’s word of mouth is still the de facto gold bond of a referral. And that’s what we’re relying on. So I wish it would happen faster. I wish it was more scalable, but the people who come to us stay with us.
[00:20:46] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, that’s fantastic. And that kind of leads us right into my next question about your wine club. Talk to me about how that works being a DTC and having multiple brands within a release.
[00:20:57] Martin Cody: That was, that was a growing pain because we had a very successful wine club in the bricks and mortar and you probably know well, wine clubs are very difficult logistically.
And as you grow, the problems grow. So, you know, you might have a hundred members and then you get 10 credit card declines that month. Not a big deal. You have a thousand members and you have a hundred credit card declines that month. It could becomes a big deal. So every problem just ratchets up, right? So we didn’t have a wine club.
Drew, for like the first five years of Cellars Angels, first seven years or so, because we knew it was logistically hard and difficult and headache prone. So we kind of got, I tell people we’re the accidental wine club because our customer experience with the wines that we have on the website was so superb.
They asked us to start a wine club. Because we cater to, Nielsen calls them high net worth. I mean, these folks have been to the Valley. They know their way around AVAs. They like exclusivity. They like high-touch concierge customer service. And so a number of them were calling us and say, “Hey, listen, I just don’t have time to look at the website or, or read the emails. Can you just send me a case of wine a quarter? I love everything. I love everything I’ve gotten from you guys.”
So then we, we, you know, you don’t have to hit us too hard over the head for us to realize, hey, they’ve got an idea there. And it was, so we decided and Denise, my spouse and co-founder put together three wine clubs.
Then we did three derivatives of those. So you have a Flight Club, which is kind of an entry-level, perfectly designed for someone getting into wine. They know they, they don’t want a 7 bottle of Chardonnay. They’d like a little bit more sophistication, a little bit more education. So Flight Club is for them.
Then the Tasting Room Club is our most popular club. It’s, it’s intermediate, has a little bit more bottle selection from that standpoint. And then our high-end club is the Library Club. Those guys get a lot of perks, a lot of VIP things, and they, they get more wine as well. And then those three clubs each have a red-only version, or derivative.
So there’s a lot of folks that just want reds only, and we make that available to them. The neat thing about the clubs that I love. Two things. One, we pick the offering. So no winery is going to tell me or us, “Hey, I’m, I’m long on this vintage of Sauvignon Blanc. Could you guys take this type of stuff?” Nope.
We know what our customers like and love. We know particular styles because we study it. And then we will tell the winery. For you and the Reds only, you know, we want access to the 05s. We want access to the 12s and type of stuff. And we can pick and choose and curate stuff that we know is going to resonate.
The other thing that I love about our clubs, it’s a different producer each quarter. So that is unique.
[00:23:41] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Those 12 bottles from one producer.
[00:23:43] Martin Cody: Correct.
[00:23:44] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Okay. That makes it a little easier. I was thinking of logistically, you’ve got 12 different wines from 12 producers. How do you handle that from the fulfillment?
[00:23:50] Martin Cody: Yeah. No, exactly. So that’s kind of neat. So people, well, we did a lot of research as I’m sure you know, some of the data with regards to how long people are in a wine club. Why do people leave? Why do they join? And so we did a lot of that. And the number one reason why people leave, unfortunately, is they stopped feeling special.
And one of the ways that manifested was that they felt like the winery was dumping inventory on them and, and the personal phone calls stopped, the birthday card stopped, you know, that sort of stuff kind of tapered off. And so they said, you know what, I’m not into this any longer. And so we vowed to make certain that didn’t happen.
[00:24:29] Drew Thomas Hendricks: And what, what sort of steps have you taken to make sure that people feel special?
[00:24:35] Martin Cody: It’s again, I, I’m way old school. We still hand-write thank you notes.
[00:24:40] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah, it’s just the, the simple things.
[00:24:41] Martin Cody: Yeah, it really is. It’s, it’s not rocket science, you know, we’ll pick up the phone and call and say, “Hey, what’d you think about that Calluna Vineyards Cuvée?” What, you know, that sort of stuff. And give me some feedback on this. We do it a ton of stuff as it relates to cashier’s service for people that are going out to the valley, and
[00:24:59] Drew Thomas Hendricks: I would say that would be super valuable.
[00:25:01] Martin Cody: It is. And that’s another perk for our Library Club members for a standpoint.
It’s it’s corporate gifting. We have a very robust corporate gift program because let’s be honest, you know, you can’t eat a box of pears before they spoil, so stop sending fruit to recognize your customers. But they’ll appreciate unique wines that aren’t available in a retail setting in their town that you sent them to say, thank you for their business.
That’s, that’s something that resonates. And I mean, the wine clubs, the online marketplace that continually rotates. It’s just the personal touch. We do a lot of that. We’ve invited some of our customers on our filming trips with us out to Napa and Sonoma. So they’ve participated in the videos and they get to see the, the making of the sausage, if you will.
And that’s a, that’s an amazing experience for them.
[00:25:46] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh yeah. Now on the business-to-business side, since this is a business-to-business podcast primarily, I mean, paint the picture for some of these small wineries that may not have heard about you and why it’s such a value, why your services are so valuable and why they might consider Cellar Angels.
[00:26:05] Martin Cody: Sure. It’s, you know, pre-pandemic, we used to do a lot of, interestingly enough for a web company, in-person events at various country clubs around the United States. And the country club is no different than the restaurant, they have to buy from distributors. But most general managers at, at high, highly esteemed country clubs actually should be all country clubs.
They recognize that they’re in the business of giving their member and experience. What better experience to have a private wine company come in, give it to our guided tasting of five wines that the country club can’t get? So their member gets to taste and buy wine that evening, they get a tour of where these wines come from via Google Earth, and they, they literally get to buy wine, gets sent to their house.
We use proceeds from that evening to give to charity and they walk away with an unbelievable experience. And it’s, that’s why a small winery would want to participate because we’re getting their wines, in addition to the marketplace, so the wine is visible on the online website, they’re getting their wines in front of an esteemed clientele that they would want to get in front of anyways.
And they don’t have to fly. They don’t have to go in market. They don’t have to try
[00:27:17] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Hit the roadshow.
[00:27:19] Martin Cody: Exactly. And, and as we talked about earlier, this is often three, four, five people at these wineries. And they can’t be in 10 markets in a month because they’re tending the vines.
And so it’s a very elegant, sophisticated platform to get right to their target market.
[00:27:34] Drew Thomas Hendricks: You know, we do, we do a lot of websites for the, for small wineries. I got to tell you that the hardest thing to get them to do is to vote the time it takes to even just put the text on the, give us the copy, give us the video, let alone go on a roadshow.
So I would say the, I mean that selling more wines, great, you know, exposure is great, but helping them crystallize their story has to be one of the biggest value ads I can see.
[00:27:59] Martin Cody: There’s your, that is certainly a big value ad. I think the other thing we talked about earlier, You know, we give them the video.
The other neat thing that we do is anybody that buys their wine from the marketplace, we share with them that person’s demographic information, because our, in our DNA, is the ability or desire to help these wineries grow. And in doing that, we’ve got to help them reach them. You know, an affluent customer base.
So they will then get the email address because they have to ship the wine there. So they get the email address, the mailing address, a phone number. So they’re building their database without having to leave the winery and they’re getting in front of a well-heeled audience that knows wine. Nothing could be more beneficial for them as far as a growth thing.
And then you get the video on top of that. And the fun thing for us is some of the wineries are a little bit early on, you know, we charge for this service and we, the amount of wineries that come back to us when we send visitors there, and then those visitors join the wine club of that winery and they go, okay, I get it now.
Thank you. Cellar Angels. I’m sorry. I was so, so ignorant early on. This is a, this is a path and a process that continues to feed itself and benefits everybody involved. And we’re like, yep, that’s what we’re talking about.
[00:29:14] Drew Thomas Hendricks: No, that’s, that’s amazing. So to give the wineries an idea, what, what sort of ballpark are you in for charging for the video?
[00:29:22] Martin Cody: The video is included.
[00:29:25] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Okay. Oh, but the,
[00:29:27] Martin Cody: So it’s, we have, we have a marketing fee as a third party provider that we negotiate with the winery. And then part of that encompasses a bunch of things. And one of them is the video.
[00:29:37] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, okay. Well, that makes sense.
[00:29:40] Martin Cody: I mean, it’s a, you remember from your, your bricks and mortar days, we’ve taken out the middle step of the wholesaler, so you, you have the producer-consumer and all of those middle markups are gone.
So that’s, that’s wonderful for the producer, but there’s not a wholesaler in the United States that’s sharing purchase information with the winery. So they don’t know what happens to their wine after it goes to the wholesaler. I mean, the wholesaler could literally pour it down the drain. They don’t know.
It’s very challenging for them to have any transparency in that. And then that challenge gets exacerbated with trying to grow, trying to get into new markets. So this is a model that has worked and is starting to grow. So we’re excited about that.
[00:30:24] Drew Thomas Hendricks: That’s fantastic. You mentioned when you’re talking about the, the country clubs that you have a, that you would give back to charity.
And there’s a real important charitable nonprofit aspect to this. Can you talk to me about that?
[00:30:37] Martin Cody: Sure, it’s, it’s, I mean, the angel portion of our name is just that. We, we want to treat everybody in a manner that is consistent with some of our values and virtues, and giving back helping make the world a better place than when we found it is also in our DNA.
I mean, we. I still remember the day in 2009, when we embraced the concept of Cellar Angels. And part of it was the catalyst of it was the American poet and playwright, Margaret Mead’s famous quote that says and reads “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.”
Indeed. It is the only thing that ever has. So we want to be that conduit, that small group of thoughtful, committed citizens. So we use proceeds from these wine sales to designate towards various charities throughout the country and when you can give to a charity that treats pediatric cancer or give to some of the military organizations that help fallen soldiers surviving families get a high school education, get a college education. Just from buying wine?
That’s incredible. And, and we, I mean, I get choked up about it now that, that is the philanthropic mission of Cellar Angels. And it was really, like I said earlier, kind of changed the world with wine.
[00:31:57] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, that’s, that’s amazing. It’s so good that you to have that sort of philanthropic vision and your, your operating officer, she’s also a registered nurse.
So there’s a lot of health ties to your company.
[00:32:09] Martin Cody: Yes, there’s, she’s a registered nurse, not practicing because she runs the company.
[00:32:14] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh yeah.
[00:32:15] Martin Cody: But the nice thing is we are a great team in the capacity that I’m vision, she’s execution. I mean, she was an operating room nurse and people should recognize that, you know, if things go bad in the operating room, people die.
So she comes to the business with just an incredible meticulous set of skills for process orientation, for attention to detail that as a vision guy, you know, sometimes the vision guys just blow right past that. We need to get into this vertical. How are we going to do that? Doesn’t matter. We need to get into this vertical type of stuff.
So she’s brilliant at reigning me in and making certain that all the I’s are dotted, the T’s are crossed, and it’s a perfect duo in that capacity. And then we have a bunch of people behind the scenes that just do yeoman’s work on everything else and just trying to get great wine in people’s hands.
[00:33:07] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah. So, this is Denise Smith. We’re talking about it. I totally forgot.
[00:33:11] Martin Cody: Right. No, that’s fine.
[00:33:13] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Denise is your implementer. So I don’t know if you’re like the EOS, the entrepreneurial operating system. You’re the visionary. And Denise is the implementer. As an entrepreneur, as we’re kind of wrapping down, what advice do you have?
You’ve founded three, four different companies in the past. What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs that are trying to move onto the scene and maybe or steer them in the right direction may save them from a mistake?
[00:33:38] Martin Cody: It will likely sound trite, but I honestly believe that you have to find something you’re passionate about.
We were passionate, we were passionate about wine. Prior to opening up the bricks and mortar store and as a matter of fact, we had a wine problem, because I think I was in, I was in 10 or 12 wine clubs at a time. And so I, Denise said to me one day, she goes, we have a problem. I said, no, we have an opportunity.
We need this. We need to stop paying retail. Let’s open up a wine store so we can get it all, you know, at cost. And so that’s kind of how it was born. But the fact of the matter is we love wine. So I couldn’t do this level of commitment and dedication if it was something that I didn’t believe in. And if it was something, you know, I can’t have this level of dedication to monogrammed luggage.
Not that monogrammed luggage isn’t important. I could never devote 13 years of my life to it. But if you find something you love, it’s true. It won’t feel like work. And then speaking of work, the other thing I would tell them is the famous Thomas Edison quote, that “Success comes before work in only one place, the dictionary.”
So you need to work your tail off and If you love what you’re doing, it’s not going to feel like work.
[00:34:53] Drew Thomas Hendricks: That’s a great quote. That’s really good. So Martin, as we’re wrapping down, where can people learn more about you and Cellar Angels?
[00:35:01] Martin Cody: I would definitely invest some time and have some fun on the Cellar Angels website at cellarangels.com.
And when I say fun, there is, you can watch over 400 videos would be my guest. You can go to the Cellar Angels, YouTube channel and see all of our SIP episodes because every Friday night or virtually every Friday night, we do a Sip Educational and Learning episode where we feature a winemaker or a winery owner and we pick an educational topic.
We do get a little geeky sometimes. You know, we recently did budding and grafting, which not many people know much about. Recently we did capsules. What is the best closure? Is it cork? Is it glass? Is it synthetic? Is it screw cap? You know, so that was a lot of fun. But this is a great place for people to learn.
So I’d go to the Cellar Angel’s YouTube channel, and then when you’re on the Seller Eng Cellar Angel’s website. Go over to kind of the educational section. We’ve got all sorts of content in there and blogs on various topics. I mean, you could spend an hour learning varietals, learning regions, and stuff like that because it’s made by wine lovers for wine lovers.
So it really is a lot of fun in that capacity, but the website would be hands down the best place to go.
[00:36:09] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Sounds great. Well, Martin, thank you so much for talking with us today. It was a great chat.
[00:36:14] Martin Cody: Oh, Drew, thank you so much for the opportunity. We’re indebted and hopefully, we get to bend an elbow and raise a glass together soon.
[00:36:20] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Absolutely. Absolutely. Have a great day.
[00:36:22] Martin Cody: All right. Cheers.