Last Updated on January 26, 2023 by
Alex Andrawes is the Founder and Executive Chairman of Personal Wine. He founded this wine-based technology company to focus on mass customization of wine and liquor for gifting and branding. Aside from Personal Wine, Alex is also the Founder of Chem ID and Estate Wine Brokers and is the author of the book Investing In Fine Wine.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
- Alex Andrawes shares how he got into the wine industry
- How personalization in the wine industry grew over the years
- The biggest mistake Alex had to solve
- Alex talks about the departments an order goes through from entry to exit
- How Personal Wine decides which products to feature on their website
- The biggest misconception about the wine industry
- What motivates Alex: turning “nos” and “maybes” into “yeses”
In this episode with Alex Andrawes
What challenges do companies face when they start to offer personalized products? What steps do they take to solve these concerns?
From trademarks to engraving errors to other customization challenges, there are plenty of difficulties that companies may face when digging into personalized products. However, with some innovation, excellent customer service skills, and advice from this week’s guest, companies and beverage connoisseurs alike can successfully invest in personalized products.
In this episode of the Legends Behind the Craft podcast, Drew Thomas Hendricks sits down with Alex Andrawes, Founder and Executive Chairman of Personal Wine. Alex talks about the growth of personalization in the wine industry over the years, how Personal Wine develops product personalization, and how he solves the problems that come along with it.
Resources Mentioned in this episode
- Barrels Ahead
- Drew Thomas Hendricks on LinkedIn
- Alex Andrawes on LinkedIn
- Personal Wine
- Estate Wine Brokers
- Investing In Fine Wine: How to Buy, Sell, and Profit from the World’s Most Delicious Asset by Alex Andrawes
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!
Welcome to the Legends Behind the Craft podcast where we feature top leaders in the wine and craft beverage industry with your host Drew Hendricks. Now let’s get started with the show.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 0:19
Drew Thomas Hendricks here, host of the Legends Behind the Craft podcast where I talk with leaders in the wine and craft beverage industry. Today’s episode is sponsored by Barrels Ahead. At Barrels Ahead, we work with you to implement a one of a kind marketing strategy, but not highlights your authenticity tells your story and connects you with your ideal customers. In short, we help wineries and craft beverage producers unlock their story to unleash their revenue. Go to barrelsahead.com. today to learn more. Today, I’m super excited to talk with Alex Andrawes. Alex is the founder of Personal Wine. Welcome to the show, Alex.
Alex Andrawes 0:53
Thank you for me, Drew. Appreciate it.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 0:55
Oh, thank you for being on. So Alex, let’s let’s start right from the beginning. How? How did you get into the wine industry? And why personal wine?
Alex Andrawes 1:05
Well, I’ve been Wine Enthusiast since I was seven years old. My you know, I was raised at a table where my mom had wine, you know, shipped to our home. And while we lived in North Africa. Yeah, we lived in i My dad was an oil and gas business. And we lived in Tunisia. And they didn’t make really good wine. They didn’t I don’t even think they made wine in Tunisia at that time. Although at one point in time, Algeria and next door was had more grapes under vine for for making wine than entire Europe, combined in the 1800s. But in when we lived there in the 80s, there was no wine. So my mom had wine is illegal
Drew Thomas Hendricks 1:45
there. I mean, I was always under the impression that he kind of had to be in special places to drink wine.
Alex Andrawes 1:51
Oh, no, no, so that you’re thinking probably of like Saudi Arabia, or more of the UAE area where, you know, more tight Islamic control and prohibition of alcohol. But in in Tunisia in North Africa, it’s a very liberal Islamic country, and a lot of French people there a lot of Spaniards, Germans. And okay, there was a tight wine community, we had wine brought in as a kid, my mom would make great meals, and she would say, try this wine with this bill. And soon as a young man, I was very interested in that. And then we would go dig for ancient Roman artifacts, and Roman Byzantine Phoenician artifacts. And some of those artifacts were ancient Roman line vessels, you know, these are, you know, jobs, and I started to get on. So I really became fascinated with the history of wine from from that perspective. And then I went, you know, we left North Africa came to Houston, finished high school in Houston, went to the University of Texas at Austin. And I used to go to the hill country with one of my fraternity brothers, and we would stop at the vineyards in Fredericksburg. Oh, yeah. And we would just randomly go to wineries and it just kind of clicked it just we fell in love with wine again. And while all the other frat boys were out there, having keg parties, we were having wine parties, and cool vaguely became kind of popular for that, but and so I became really fascinated with wine. And then my senior year, I was torn between going into banking. And one of my, my same fraternity brother was like, let’s start a personalized wine company. And it was the beginning of.com And nobody was really doing it online. So we back in 2000. Yeah, it’s actually it’s actually 99. So 99, we started the company, but we didn’t get it licensed until 2000. And so that was one piece of it. And the other piece was I was working at while I was working at an investment banking company. One of the brokers came up to me and said, Hey, I want you to go to Costco and buy 10 cases of wine that we’re going to give as gifts. And I was like, and he said, and then he said, well, then you got to go to this store to go get the, you know, the cards and I was like, Well, why don’t we just remove the label off the ball wine and make the label the card and just give him the ball of wine. He was like, That’s brilliant, do it. So I started to like, put it all the pieces together. And other brokers asked me to do it, and then other people at other brokerage houses asked me to do it. And then, you know, I just It turned into a business from there and it was it just, I didn’t really want to be a banker. I want and, and so it just kind of it just took over and it became a business and then it just kept growing and growing and growing from there. So
Drew Thomas Hendricks 4:47
started started off with a personalized wine and gifts. Now at the time. I remember I ran a print company just shortly after that in the early 2000s. I mean, how does that was the personalization evolved over the last 20 years, I kind of have an idea, but increased digitalization increased, the ability to etch I know has gotten gotten a lot better.
Alex Andrawes 5:12
Yeah, and that’s, I mean, a lot of that has to do. So all the software we have, and running our back end is all custom, we made it all, oh, and it took a lot of iterations to get there. You know, there are some off the shelf things you could use, but we found them to be relatively inadequate for what we were doing. Because, you know, when people want something customized, you know, many times, they don’t finish the order right there online, they just get it to kind of a good point. And then they’ll call in and say, something’s not looking right. And then we basically go in and tweak it and make it look even better. And then we started, you know, we started using, like, machine learning and, and really understanding you know, what errors, what human errors, we should have kind of automating things to make them even easier for people to use and get to the end result. Because you really, you know, in the normal.com ECOM world, you have maybe maybe two or three minutes, because most people are there on mobile, right. So in the mass customization world, you’re lucky if you have seven to 10 minutes to get to an order. So our goal was always to build something that a less than tech savvy person could be able to use and get and make it just, you know, simple, stupid, easy to use. Keep it simple, stupid is kind of like the old saying, right? We want to make it so easy to use that, you know, somebody with almost no computer experience could be able to use it. So we just basically started looking at ways people were making mistakes, how people design stuff and just kept making iterative. And what’s the
Drew Thomas Hendricks 6:55
biggest mistake that you have to solve or find a solution for to streamline it,
Alex Andrawes 7:00
the biggest mistake that we can easily solve for is just people adding elements that they don’t really want to add. The other mistakes are going to be people making mistakes in spelling like Mary versus Mary. So like Mary Dami, our Y versus Mary Ma, our Y, like, will you marry me? And if you think about it, like what if the person’s name is Mary with an M, E, rr y, right? And so other things would be just like, you know, there’s obviously rules, you know, you can’t threaten somebody on a bottle, you can’t put nudity on a bottle. And there are certain things like that, that you have to be careful about unauthorized use of trademarks, you know, these are things that we’re that we vigilantly Watch out for your
Drew Thomas Hendricks 7:50
favorite football team on the bottle,
Alex Andrawes 7:52
no football, football logos are off limits, you know, there’s, you know, those are trademarked and licensed and what have you. So it’s, you know, for us, it’s just simply what mostly like spelling and positioning, you know, making things look beautiful, because the order, the easiest customer to sell to is the customer that’s already ordered from you before, in all cases, one time for them to go less than stellar, you know, and never buy from you again. So our goal is to is to take the existing customer and make them evangelists of our of our product.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 8:30
Talking about your existing customers, what’s your is your customer base, largely corporate clients for gifts? Or how would you? Who’s your target audience?
Alex Andrawes 8:39
Well, our target audience is everybody but the, you know, everybody over the age of 21. But we do have a core demographic, and the majority of our business is corporate business, which is, you know, we’re thankful for. But I mean, we have people ordered one bottle for a retirement party one bottle for you know, will you marry me one bottle for, and we believe that people that order one bottle or, you know, our, you know, we treat them the same way, as people that would buy, you know, 1000 bottles, we treat them? Well, because you never know what they’re gonna buy for next, right? So they all work somewhere. And we want them to take the product with them everywhere they go. And, you know, and talk about the experience the unique experience and bring it with them. So, you know, we win on speed and we went on service.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 9:29
Was it two very big ones? I mean, in the one off bottle, most of the time corporate customers there, they might just do a test order of one or two and you don’t know that they’ve got a 20 case order. waiting in the wings.
Alex Andrawes 9:41
Yeah. And you never know. And there are challenges with ordering alcohol online, obviously shipping.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 9:49
Yeah, and the starting days. How did you handle the fulfillment of that and how has that changed?
Alex Andrawes 9:54
Well, we’ve always done our own fulfillment. Always. We tried to outsource fulfillment actually. Sorry. Are we, we’ve always done our own fulfillment. But there was a time when we actually did fulfillment, where we had somebody there off site. And it was very difficult to control because it’s not just about the wine, putting a label on a bottle of wine, there’s all the there’s the environment, you know, like, if people are working around you, and you need a natural flow for your business. In our business, this is fairly, fairly large in terms of footprint, we have, we have it designed and engineered to flow in a very specific way so that you can go in and place an order, and then that order it hit, it’s designed to hit the most minimal amount of people, because the more people that it hits, the more mistakes can be made. And our goal is to we have a very specific formula for mistakes, mistakes is actually a KPI that we have internally that we measure that one person is responsible for. So we we want to make sure I mean, there are mistakes that we can’t control that are going to be FedEx UPS related. There’s obviously the weather, which is all which is a huge factor. Wine cooks in summer, no surprise. So we have to do things, we have to change our processes at least two or three times a year to account for that.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 11:26
No, yeah. No, I love it. I love the KPIs that I mean, it’s so many businesses don’t really go to that level, they have a gut instinct. So you’ve got everything dialed down to the exact point of the operations with tracking it how when someone places an order, how many different departments does it go through from entry to exit?
Alex Andrawes 11:45
At most, at most? Three, usually two.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 11:51
Yeah. And it’s from the, I mean, just kind of giving, giving our listeners an idea for your operations, because they’ve got a tremendous, it seems like a very tremendously streamlined machine going on here. They refined over the last 20 years.
Alex Andrawes 12:05
Yeah, it’s, it’s taken, especially because I didn’t really have experience in the business. I mean, you get out of college, you don’t really, you know, you didn’t go work at a factory like Motorola, sun, Martin, you know, or Continental Tire or any one of these companies where, you know, you take five things, you assemble them into one thing, and it’s like, in the have robots and machines like Tesla, you know, who just moved in to Austin, which is where we’re based out of. So a lot of it was learning, school of hard knocks, making very expensive mistakes, you know, even just making expensive mistakes on buying the wrong line, you know, so, and the goal of business is really just never to make the same mistake twice. You know, if you make the same mistake twice, it’s your fault. And you know, and you have to be very careful, because some of those mistakes can be very, very expensive. And our employees make mistakes every once in a while. And, you know, we track those mistakes, we don’t fire people for making mistakes. You know, we don’t, we don’t penalize people, as long as they’re as long as their, their heads on straight while they’re in the four walls. You know, we don’t want people on their cell phones all the time. You know, they can’t be on their cell phones doing work. Because if they’re doing that, then they’re losing focus of a customized product. And then that’s where mistakes happen. So we, you know, we basically give, you know, we make people take breaks, and, you know, we buy lunches, and we we we compensate people well, we provide benefits, you know, we don’t have we our turnover is very, very low. Our headcount is is low for the size of the business that we are, and just your headcount are roughly based less than 20.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 13:56
That’s a streamline operation. Yeah.
Alex Andrawes 13:58
I mean, it goes up, it goes up during the season, obviously, we bring in seasonal work, and then at the end of the season, you know, we’ll try to pick, you know, the top 10 15% 20% of the people that came in, and we’ll bring them in full time. Oh, sure. So, you know, it’s seasonal to full time. And then, but our turnover is pretty low. So you know, we and we have a process of bringing them in hiring them, how we hire them. very meticulous process of doing that. We have a very meticulous process of how we onboard products, you know, of how we buy them. How
Drew Thomas Hendricks 14:36
do you go about finding the different products to feature on your site?
Alex Andrawes 14:40
Well, some of them we have to hunt down and some of them we have to are presented to us. We’ve been, you know, we’ve been in business long enough now to where people know who we are and winemakers in Napa, Sonoma, etc. They’ll To refer us a new, you know, wine producer, because it’s a very small, it’s a it’s a multibillion, it’s a you know, it’s, it’s billions and billions is I think, 4040 to $60 billion industry.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 15:16
So that’s the personalization or give personalization or wine
Alex Andrawes 15:20
direct to consumer, direct to consumers alike, you know, call it five to 10 billion. And growing rapidly, obviously, because of COVID. Because, you know, for a while people couldn’t go to stores, people had everything delivered. So COVID was, you know, COVID just really put the afterburners on direct to consumer businesses. And, you know, wineries started to figure out that, you know, to engage their clients, what do you do, because they can’t come to your winery tasting room, you do zoom happy hours, and you know, wine clubs where people get together, and winemaker goes and talks to 50 people at a time, it goes to the next 50 people, and it’s a whole lot better than bringing five people in at a time,
Drew Thomas Hendricks 16:01
I’m sure. Some of these virtual virtual made it,
Alex Andrawes 16:05
I’ve done a few of them. It’s not necessarily our core specialty. But I have done them, they’re a whole lot of fun. It to me, it’s not the same thing as being in person, I like meeting new people shaking hands, you know, there’s just something very special about you know, being with another human being and learning about them and their family and, you know, what they do and what have you and finding commonality. But, you know, we do them as we did them as a point of necessity versus a point of love, you know, my my love is to travel around the country around the world, meet new clients, shake their hand, say thank you for your business and learn about them and you know, build rapport, but build friends, a lot of my clients turn into my friends. So
Drew Thomas Hendricks 16:57
how do you hit up sales? Or your most of the outreach is done by yourself? Or do you have a sales staff?
Alex Andrawes 17:03
Yeah, so a lot of this, the high high touch high end business to business, sales is done by me. So I still make phone calls. And it’s all mostly introductions. And that’s probably where statewide brokers which is our sister company comes into play because we have another company called a statewide brokers that does very high end wine brokerage. It’s, it’s a, it’s an auction alternative. So there are great auction houses out there like Christie’s Sotheby’s my favorite one, Hart, Davis Hart, and we have great relationships with with auction houses, there are some that you want to stay away from, there’s some that are fantastic, you know, but at the end of the day, you know, people who don’t want to wait to sell their wine collection, or they want anonymity or, you know, it could be a touchy subject, you know, death in a family estate sale, whatever. So we, you know, we basically buy and sell and trade wind collections, from ultra high net worth individuals. And then what we do is we offer them to our clients on the other side, and those clients are buyers of fine wine. So it’s very much like the art world where people are buying, selling and trading. And in particular, I got the idea in 2013, from a gentleman who’s a billionaire, and he, you know, I said, I got the opportunity to meet him a few times and sit down with them one on one, wonderful man. And he basically, he told me how he bought and sold and traded wine, and he had 10s of millions of dollars worth of wine. So this guy was a very serious wine collector. And, you know, I got to learn about the billionaire mentality. You know, there’s, there’s some of the most frugal individuals in the world, which is how they, they come to amass their fortunes. They’re obviously innovators, you know, and, and he taught me that, like, what his secret formula was, you know, bye, bye. 12 Sell nine, drink three, and you’re almost drinking for
Drew Thomas Hendricks 19:20
free. It was the old sales pitch at the wine store I worked at. Yeah,
Alex Andrawes 19:25
and, and it’s, you know, and it makes sense when you start thinking about it. And so that’s how that’s how he could pull a ball of protrudes out and drink it with a hammer, you know, that he would and that’s what he would do. And so I started to you know, I started to see that business and I thought, wow, that’s really interesting. Another another another reason why was, you know, in 2008, right before the the housing market crashed. I was just, you know, I would get closeout lists from distributors, where somebody just hand keyed the name of the raw the wine On and, and I built a filter that would look at the data coming in and I would tokenize key words and look for wines that had been on close out, that may have been misspelled. And I started to buy really high end wine for $20 $50 A bottle, do I had a whole room filled with wine? And it was kind of a, I mean, it was kind of a hoarding thing, right. And, and finally, you know, during the tooth out, this is where I learned my first big lesson is, you know, don’t I mean, always, you know, always proceed with caution in any market, especially extremely robust markets where anything can happen, right. COVID taught us a big lesson and supply chain issues. You know, it taught us a big lesson in on premise sales, it taught us many lessons. But the housing market taught us something really interesting, too, which is, you know, the super, super fine wine market is a relatively healthy market, because of the scarcity of that wine, when there is a no man’s land of wine that is over $25 and under $100, were in in substantial market recessions, those wines don’t move very well through on premise sales, because people don’t go to restaurants as much. And so you have to start thinking about that kind of stuff. And so that industry may produce substantial introductions to very high net worth individuals and business owners for personal wine. Oh, and but it also opened the doors to us to the we started, you know, seeing buying opportunities then as well. So we, so we had these wineries introduce us to other wineries, because, you know, they at that time, you were sending your wine to wine still sold out or wine, woot, or last bottle, any one of these core group on where your wind goes to die, right, because you’re basically cutting your price in half. And we would say, stop sending it to them, send it to us, you know, and we’ll sell it for, you know, your tasting room price or, you know, 20% more whatever the number is, because we’re going to engrave the bottle or custom label, and we’re going to put it into the hands of new clients. And so word got around, that we were this very interesting marketing product launch pad for these, you know, small boutique wineries that had that couldn’t necessarily get their, their wines into, you know, the distribution tier, because it’s, it’s expensive to do that. Unless you have marketing dollars that you’re allocating, or you know, or you’re, you’re willing to provide rebates, whatever it is that you can do. So these wineries started to tell people about us and that’s how we started sourcing wine was, you know, we started buying wine, and then they started coming to us. And you know, what, and then we started to do our private label wine on top of that, okay, by buying private, you know, by buying finished product, testing it, you know, chemically buying centers without the labels or buying shiners, not the labels, but also buying bulk wine getting it tested. Okay, yeah, have, you know, looking at the volatile acidity, so two levels, and making sure that chemically it was sound and then having it tested by, you know, in a blind format, truly blind format, or advanced and master somms, and then just Wine Enthusiast, you know, we would invite people over and say, you know, we would back them up, they wouldn’t know what they were and we would try them and then it’s a score of one to 10 and anything below eight, we just don’t even we just don’t bother and anything at 10 You know, we’ll pay more for and anything at nine will pay, you know, good money for and anything at eight will buy if the price is right. And so, we started to do you know, that’s that’s really how we choose our wine.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 24:07
You’re actually doing production and not just not just buying excess inventory. But what did you get into the production side?
Alex Andrawes 24:17
The first vintage was 2007, which Wow, wow. Yeah, it was and we started buying wine at Napa. Got involved in it. Like I remember going to there’s a master sommelier by the name of Sir Lucero. And this guy is the crew. He won the crew cup. So he literally passed his master song test. In the first go. This guy’s a savant. And so he can tell it He can smell the wine tell you where it’s from, what vintage what varietals with a fairly high degree of accuracy, and I’ve only met maybe three three people in my whole life that could do that. I could actually tell you what it’s from, I met one guy who would tell you what winery it was from. But that I mean, these are people like Coco Chanel, people who have just getting rid of olfactory sense. And I remember going into his house in Napa, and, you know, him teaching me how 1% or 2% of another variety will blended in will change the wine fundamentally. So, you know, I’ve got to understand that, you know, it’s just not it’s not easy to make wine, it’s easy to ruin wine. And so, you know, we try to find finished wine, or we’ll finish it with a vintner and immunologist, you know, somebody with advanced chemistry degree, somebody with, you know, some credentials, and a lot of times, we will sign NDA NDAs that prevent us from telling you where it’s from. So the private label wines that we carry, you know, a few of them are, they come from very high end wineries, you know, Cole wines, but we can never tell people where they come from, and we can’t piggyback off their scores. You know, but that’s okay.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 26:11
That’s good. I mean, just in the bottle, tells the story. I do have a lot of the higher end winners, they make a change just a little bit, you have to add 2% 3% from some other winery, just so the throws the songs off. Yeah,
Alex Andrawes 26:27
actually, it’s interesting when you say that is that happened to me in a 2016 vintage, from Hawaii to Napa. And they were and in the agreement said you have to blend 5% into this. And my response was, I am never going to tell anybody where this comes from. But I’m not going to take a perfect wine, this because this one is perfect. I will not take perfection, and take a chance on perfection to just why would we do that? Like, how about I just filter it differently? And change it from a texture perspective versus changing it from a nose and a taste perspective? I’d rather do that. So I would. So I made it slightly more feminine and style, versus rich and tannic. And it was just a beautiful and and and the winemaker agreed it was like, okay, that’s okay. You know, because they trust us because we just, we don’t tell people where we buy it from. Yeah, can’t because if you do that you’ll never don’t nobody in the valley will ever sell to you again.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 27:38
So much of this industry is built on trust.
Alex Andrawes 27:41
Yeah, and that to me is that’s such a beautiful thing to me. I mean, everything today is contracts and Docusign. And ye lawyers and you know, iron clad. And, I mean, there’s still so many people, I buy wine from where I shake their hand and have been shaking their hand for over 10 years, in some cases, 15 years. And, you know, and it’s just, that’s such a wonderful thing. It’s just like, that’s what my dad would say, that’s how we used to do it in the old days. And, yeah, kind of a shame. We can’t do that. Now. You know,
Drew Thomas Hendricks 28:18
in the industry, there’s still I mean, it’s one of the last, I don’t want to say accident and all the industries but it’s been what I’ve loved about the industry for so long, like, as soon as I get it, as soon as I have to send an NDA as soon as I have decided DocuSign I start wondering when it with my clients, what am I getting myself into, somebody’s going to try to someone’s already thinking about how they’re going to get out of this. Whereas if you trust somebody, and you shake their hand, there’s a lot more weight in that, where you’re actually going against yourself, if you
Alex Andrawes 28:47
and that’s why I like meeting people in person, because you can, you can tell a lot about a person by their behavioral, by the, you know, by their behavior, you can tell, you know, looking at them in the face, and, you know, how they get nervous in front of you, or how they act in front of you and what have you and so, you know, to me, it’s just, that’s that’s part of the, that’s part of the part I love the most is not necessarily like looking at people and analyze over analyzing them, but generally speaking, you know, everybody has a sense of whether somebody gives off a good vibe or a bad vibe and you know, vibe is vibes are a real thing.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 29:26
Oh, yeah, for sure. Now, some of these so they still are why it’s not wrong word. But so these awesome wines that you’re sourcing, that are going to be private labels. Now do you have this select group of like corporate clients like go find me the 99 point wine but don’t tell me what it is? Or do you do you find the wine and then find the client to personalize it?
Alex Andrawes 29:49
I have a few of them that are like that, but not many of them. You know most of them after they buy from you second because sometimes I’ll buy like, you know, 500 bottles of wine, because they’re giving it away as a gift with every thing they sell, right? And they want in there, they want to make sure that what’s in the bottle is representative of quality that they would want the other person to expect. But for the most part, you know, we’ve been around for such a long time that people just know, you know, who we are what we have just our repeat order rate, you know,
Drew Thomas Hendricks 30:30
the source and quality level, like they want to want this caliber,
Alex Andrawes 30:34
yeah, I just, you know, if you think about it in another way, like, you know, the easiest wine to source in, in less than, you know, from a, an average perspective, right? If you start buying just like, super, super cheap, crap wine, you know, does a lot of
Drew Thomas Hendricks 30:55
people think about that, when they get it when I get a gift, or from thinking, automatically assuming that it’s not going to be something I’m gonna really want to drink. And that’s a common myth. That’s a misconception that needs to be dispelled, because you’re not providing that,
Alex Andrawes 31:10
well, that’s our biggest hurdle. And after 22 years, it’s our biggest hurdle. And it will probably still be a hurdle for a while, you know, because we’ve become a very good company at telling the story. And creating user engagement, we’re supremely confident in our ability to create user engagement, especially with young people, the millennial wine drinkers, which are the fastest growing wine drinkers, you know, they’re less concerned about price, certainly, they’re concerned about price, but they will pay a little bit extra, if something has a story, you know, they want to hear the story. And it doesn’t need to be This winery is 300 years old, and these grades are pre phylloxera, you know, there’s a story of the people, there’s the story of the place, and the time. And so we become really, we’ve become really good at telling that story. But right from the very beginning, you know, and this is what so I did have I had, so I had another business partner, and that’s where we really just couldn’t work together. And it wasn’t anything bad, it was just one of those things where, you know, he did not want the phone number on the website, you know, if you had a problem, you submitted a ticket, and it was just like, This is so impersonal, that it completely goes against the core values, and the mission of our business, the mission of our business is to provide the most impeccable product, you know, to, you know, the most, you know, an impeccable product, and unbelievable experience to the most meticulous customer and meticulous customers, you know, they they require an impression. And the impression is not just outside of the model, it’s inside of the bottle. And if they’re going to give it as a gift, that person is going to drink the wine, they want that person to go, wow, that’s, that’s really amazing. And we want them to do that, because they turn it over on the back label that has, you know, personal wine.com on it, we want to go there and buy it for their people. So, you know, so from the very beginning, we were very concerned about not just speed and user, you know, user ability on our website, we were very concerned about the quality of the labels that we were the print the actual paper itself, the packaging itself, we were very concerned about the wine that was inside the bottle, very concerned about that, from the beginning,
Drew Thomas Hendricks 33:45
you would have success it out, to be honest, that’s that’s the biggest misconception that even even I think sometimes that way, so I’m glad dispelling that shifting, when did spirits come into the equation? Was that early on? Or is that?
Alex Andrawes 34:00
No, it’s very, it’s very recent. And it’s a work in progress. Spirits is very challenging because of the state regulations involved in shipping spirits. In fact, we do not ship any spirits in Texas today. We have a plan for that. That’s very, in the very near horizon in Texas, but some states, you can’t ship out of the county lines. Some states, you can ship inside your state, some states, you can ship out of states, some states, you can receive product from out of states. It’s not it’s it’s a complex web, of taking all of these regulations, and then building rules and relationships to accommodate that. So we serve as you know, a small market right now in terms of liquor. But liquor is different liquors decentralized and liquor involves partnerships with retailers that want to offer this as a service where We both get to share in the upside of that opportunity. And that’s another thing is we can’t label we don’t label liquor, we just engraved the bottles because the labeling guidelines with regards to liquor is much different. So you know, it’s it that is that is our that is our, our focus is to continue to build technology that allows for, you know, personal lines to become an adult beverage, not just wine, but adult beverage as a whole, in totality, a gifting platform product launch platform, mass customization platform for the adult beverage industry.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 35:44
Personalization is a service and talking about technology. So would you say your business is a wine and spirits company or a technology company?
Alex Andrawes 35:53
Our business is a technology company that’s focused in the alcohol and regulated market space?
Drew Thomas Hendricks 35:59
That’s, that’s a good way to say it.
Alex Andrawes 36:01
Because behind our technology is not just fulfillment. It’s rules, you know, and it’s automation of compliance systems. And those compliance systems have to follow rules that are ever changing. Yeah, so the rules change in counties, they change in states, they change, you know, not so much at the federal level a lot, but they do. So we have to stay above that.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 36:27
Ya know, it’s a compliance is a huge issue. They like that you being a technology company focused in this regulated industry, perfect description. Definitely. No, you’re definitely know your model. Now, here’s a question for the, for the your customers, what’s the biggest mistake you see businesses making in their personalization and what they’re trying to do?
Alex Andrawes 36:51
Well, in the customization site,
Drew Thomas Hendricks 36:56
misspelling the name of their client.
Alex Andrawes 37:00
That that, fortunately, is not a big one. But you know, just grammar. Your thank you for your business, your is it abbreviated? Is it apostrophe, blah, blah, blah? Is there a hyphen? And, you know, we do catch them? And we do send it to them and say, Hey, did you really mean this? Because, you know, we don’t want them to ship out 1000 packages or something that has something wrong in it from a grammar perspective, because that’s embarrassing. Oh, yeah. But really, is just the biggest misconception is going to be the rules associated with shipping. And, you know, shipped to versus non shipped to states. Adult signatures is a huge problem. Because
Drew Thomas Hendricks 37:52
a lot of education on to the client side when they went,
Alex Andrawes 37:56
and they don’t care about FedEx or UPS rules, they don’t care. They don’t care that there are rules behind it. So some people will say, I’m buying this for this event on this day, and we ship it and we get it there on time. And sometimes we get there early. But it gets there, and nobody’s there to sign for it. And they call us up and say, This is your fault. So no, it’s not we did exactly what you asked us to do. And we got it there exactly on the day that you got it there. And they’re like, Well, I want this thing to be delivered without a signature. And it’s like, that’s not going to happen ever. That’s against the law. And we’re not going to break the law for you. Yeah. But we can reroute it to a FedEx location where you can go pick it up at your convenience, you know, so, and it requires a conversation where we don’t make the customer feel bad about, you know, that happening. We have to kind of walk them through and support them as if we’re both in the same boat, because we really are. We want them to have that package. We do not want that wine to come back to us.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 39:14
Sure. Yeah. And for sure, shipping has been that is a challenge though, given gifts and alcohol. I was in preparation for our talk today. I was kind of thinking about this even back back in the day when I saw wine. And for me I I was wondering like for me hypothetic just thinking about it. The biggest problem with personalization is there might be a disconnect or there’s so often a disconnect between the person, the client, and that well the company buying the buying this gift to give out to their clients and the product they chose, like maybe a high end client and they chose just the wrong type of wine. It’s just not going to resonate with those people. It’s going to fall on deaf ears.
Alex Andrawes 39:53
We do have those conversations. Those are conversations that we have to have over the phone. They’re not conversations that we have over Email, we look, there’s a hint, a human being looks at every order that comes through on what’s so important. I mean, we have, we look at every order, you know. And if something does not look right, then we we will take that order, we will hit the pause button, and we will quickly take it to customer service, customer service, we’ll get on the phone with that client, and talk to them about that. An example would be like half bottles, you know, somebody orders a half bottle. We do have them available online, it’s not easy to find them, because many people will sometimes just buy the cheapest product, and it’s the cheapest product does app bottle, you confuse that that half bottle is not a full size bottle.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 40:49
It’s a it’s a full client appreciation. They’re only we’re
Alex Andrawes 40:52
gonna send somebody a half bottle of wine to say thank you. Because that’s like a half a thank you. Right? Yeah. So sometimes we have to call them and say, Are you sure you didn’t want to order a full sized bottle was a half bottle. And, you know, that’s probably the the greatest one that happens is like in terms of frequency,
Drew Thomas Hendricks 41:14
I was thinking that I was so good that you have a human that like kind of discusses their goals. What’s the goal for this gift? What’s the goal for this personalization, and make sure that what you’re doing is actually going to resonate, because at the end of the day, you’re like you said your, your websites on the back. If the gift doesn’t resonate, sometimes it comes back to you.
Alex Andrawes 41:33
The goal is the reorder, you have to get that right. The easiest client to sell to is the existing client. And if you lose a client, it’s it’s on you, you know, like nine times out of 10. Right? Absolutely. So we kill with kindness. Yeah, and everybody, I think everybody, especially this day and age where, you know, things are heated up. Everybody has a client that’s had pain. And, you know, I mean, especially when you’re talking about affluent, high end individuals who are like, I want to, and I want it now and they start you know, and you’re like, Listen, you know, we did everything, as your order has been specified. We and we are willing to do this to make it, you know, right to get it to you. But we want you to, you know, we have to find a really a delicate way of having them acknowledge that they own responsibility in the outcome, right. And that’s very delicate, because most people just don’t want to be responsible for a negative situation.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 42:43
No, there’s one out. Exactly. It’s someone else’s problem. It’s everybody
Alex Andrawes 42:47
would love to blame everything on everybody else. And we have a system of accountability in our own company where if something negative happens, you own the experience. And don’t be afraid to own the experience and vocalize that so that everybody learns how we can be on the watch how we can look after each other? Sure, you know, one of our KPIs is helping another person and another department. That’s one, everybody. Everybody has the same thing. Who did you help last week in another department? And you have to be specific about how you help them? Like that one,
Drew Thomas Hendricks 43:26
that’s a good one. In that so far, we will wrap up and I do want to ask this. So you’ve had such tremendous growth, you recently branched out into spirits over the last 20 years, if you could do anything, what would you have done differently?
Alex Andrawes 43:42
There’s a couple of things I would have done differently. I would well, first off, there’s I’m going to just give you three just because number one is don’t lose focus of what made you great in the first place. You know, everybody has just this desire to make tons of money. And, and then they start seeing shiny objects from a business perspective. Always remember, you know what your focus is, and where your strength is. And try to tap as much value there as you can before you start looking at other things. And number two is don’t be afraid to use data to make your business great, even if even that when it comes to hiring people. We use personality profile tests to try to build the best culture in our company. Because culture is a really important facet. It was important even before you know, all the things, all the cultural issues that exist today. It was always important. You know when you have a harmonious workforce of highly accountable individuals who are accountable to each other It’s a rising tide that lifts all ships. So don’t be afraid to use data to help support, you know, how you hire and how you build companies. And that sometimes requires you to ask for help, don’t be afraid to ask for help. And number three, is, there’s always going to be something that you don’t know, right. So anybody who is in a position of power inside a company, their whole goal should be to be the dumbest guy or girl in the room, and not get kicked out. And it will usually work out for them. Everybody’s trying to hold on to power and assert power and have control for many different reasons for ego, and what have you, if you let go of your ego, and you show the human side of yourself, you know, your weaknesses and your strengths, then you’re going to be more able to bring people into your team that can help complement the strengths and the weaknesses. So that what you build becomes better for everybody. Because everybody wants to make more money, and everybody wants to have a great job. And everybody wants to feel accomplished. Everybody wants that. And if you have a company where, you know, the smartest guy or girl in the room, and nobody else is right, then you know, it’s usually I haven’t seen those and very well, you know, it only lasts for so long, and then it just fizzles out.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 46:29
So that’s great advice. So how do you stay motivated? 20 years personal and swine? 20 plus years? Yeah,
Alex Andrawes 46:39
almost. I mean, 23, basically, right. How do I stay motivated? I pick, I pick, you know, anywhere between one and three challenges every quarter. And I go after them really hard. And I don’t let anybody you know, I don’t I don’t take distractions. And, you know, I’ve had many people tell me that’s not possible or no way. You know, I generally speaking, I’ll listen to the why they’re saying that but I still don’t believe that their doctor that they really know. Right? And, and so I really the why, how do I stay motivated? I stay motivated by taking the maybes and turning them into yeses. And the absolute big win is when you take a no and you turn it into a yes. That’s this. And people will tell you they’re like, you know, you’re you did a good job. You. You are really persistent, persistent. Just being persistent. being motivated by taking challenges and turning them from maybes into and nos into yeses is what motivates me.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 47:53
Oh, yeah. That is some great advice. Absolutely. Great advice. So Alex, where can people find out more about you personal wine wine brokers. And you also have a book that people should check out and wine investment book?
Alex Andrawes 48:04
Yes. So I wrote a book on investing in fine wine, we are writing another one, which is certainly going to have more actual factual data in it. The first one is more of a how-to guide. And of course, it markets us because, you know, that’s what books do. But it also markets, other brokers that we feel are good in the industry. And what we plan to do is just to continue with that, and speak less about us and more about processes, factual data historicals to give people, you know, more of a financial data set than an About Us side. So we’re going to be improving on the book and continuously improving on the book, investing in fine wine, which you could buy on Amazon, it’s 99 cents for the Kindle version. If you email us, then we’ll just send you one for free. So it’s not designed to make money. And and then we and then we have the statewide brokers where you can buy, sell and trade high end wine, you can get valuations. You know, there are some caveats to that. But we’re always interested in buying selling and trading fine wine on etestatewinebrokers.com. And then the big one is personalwine.com. That’s w i n e.com. So, p e r s o n a l w i n e.com personalwine.com.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 49:31
Sounds like a fantastic operation. Alex, thank you so much for joining us today.
Alex Andrawes 49:35
Thank you drew. I appreciate the time and look forward to another time.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 49:39
Anytime. Thank you.
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