Please introduce yourself: What does your start-up do?
I’m a founder, entrepreneurial thinker, professional product designer and a quality fundamentalist. With my first product [W] I want to disrupt the vodka market with creative destruction of a myth that a good vodka has to be filtered. If a vodka is produced in the right way, there is nothing inside, that has to be filtered! The real “ultra-premium” is a natural perfection full of flavours. Filtration would simply “kill” it.
How did you come up with an idea and concept? What inspired and motivated you to create this product?
A real innovation is based on quality. With this radical design (inside & outside) I wanted to deliver a sustainable message to the spirit industry: natural pureness is true ultra-premium.
What is unique about your business idea and operating model?
Our product design — vodka cans — is a promise to provide dangerously good spirits to the customer as well as the demonstration of quality. The unbreakable can is lighter than glass and can be safely used in bars, clubs and in public areas.
Other spirits like [M]esqal, [R]um, [L]iqueur, [B]randy etc. can potentially expand our product line.
What were the most significant difficulties you had to overcome while building your start-up?
Building our branding and communication strategy with zero marketing budget. In a highly competitive market, you have to promote your product over different channels which is pretty expensive.
The international market is really interesting for us (travel retail/ duty-free), therefore we need to work on different can sizes and labelling. So far we focused on one size of cans and specific “proof of concepts” in order to look more persuasive to venture capitalists.
Where do you see yourself and your company in 5 years?
In travel retail all over the world and in the fanciest beach and pool clubs as well as in the cool bars. Places where “explicit lifestyle” can be combined with our “explicit spirits”!
What are your expectations from the NX-FOOD Start-up Shelf programme?
Find investors for the master plan described above. Get into the travel retail shelves. Have a line extension of – first step – the [W] in different flavours and a consumable pricing (premium instead of ultra-premium).
Starting the next product: [M]esqal. The recipe is ready for the market. Developing different can sizes: 100ml / 1.000ml and a special edition with 3.000ml for the clubs.
What are your main milestones and achievements?
- Airport travel retail (DUS/Germany): sold 1000 litres of [W] in the four airport shops without any promotional budget.
- Sales in Canada: listing and first order (3.000 x 500 ml) in 2018.
- Sales on marine vessel MV Europe 2: taken into assortment because of the high-quality lightweight unbreakable can.
- Pre-validation in Norway: Norwegian market has also tasted, seen and proved the [W]. Unfortunately, we haven’t had a chance to produce an order of 100ml cans.
- Pre-validation in the USA: American market is enthusiastic about our product and design. We are looking for an importer for Florida, the first state where we have a deeply interested key account (one of the biggest clubs in the US). In California, we’re in negotiations with an interested professional.
- A gold medal at the World Spirits Awards 2014 (WSA) in the vodka category.
- A gold medal at the Internationaler Spirituosen Wettbewerb 2014 (IWS).
- A silver medal at International Wine & Spirit Competition 2014 (IWSC).
- iF Packaging Design Award for the design of canned spirits
- Red Dot Award in the product design category
Wodqa (Qonzern GmbH & Co. KG) Founder
Raimund Schmelzer (Founder, CEO, Designer)
Business Angels / Early Stage:
– Michaels Stemprock (photographer)
– Mathias Berkel (alcohol production for industrial usage, AHK)
– Ebach Holding (CH; production and distribution of alcohol)